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Top Features We're Excited For in 2012

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author photo by Jeffrey Archer February 2012

For most car shoppers, buying a new vehicle isn't as simple as choosing the one with the best styling and the lowest price tag. As consumers spend more time in their vehicles, they increasingly want attractive, comfortable interiors, great fuel economy, impressive acceleration, and - at the top of many buyers' lists - today's latest gadgets. If you're a gadget seeker, you've come to the right place: this list details some of the cutting edge features we're most excited to see in 2012.

BMW Full-Color Heads-Up Display

Although many automakers offer heads-up displays that project vital vehicle information on to the windshield, BMW is taking its system a step further for 2012. The automaker's newest heads-up display makes its debut in the all-new 2012 3 Series and displays a navigation screen, speed and cruise control settings and a host of warnings in full color on the windshield directly ahead of the driver. While the standard system already benefits drivers by reducing the need to remove their eyes from the road, the new full-color readout further improves safety due to a more intuitive display that allows motorists to recognize crucial alerts faster. BMW says the feature is a $1,300 option.

Ford Hands-Free Liftgate

For buyers of Ford's fully redesigned 2013 Escape SUV, the days of approaching a vehicle with your hands full and fumbling for a key are over. That's because the compact sport-utility features the automaker's new Hands-Free Liftgate system, which opens the rear hatch when drivers swing their foot under the rear bumper. Of course, the Escape doesn't open for just anyone - you have to have the key in your pocket - but you'll never have to take it out. That makes life a lot easier for athletes with bags, people moving into a new home or just about anyone who gets groceries. Although Ford hasn't announced pricing for the 2013 Escape, the automaker did confirm the convenient Hands-Free Liftgate feature will be optional.

Ford 3-Cylinder EcoBoost

Ford's tiny three-cylinder "EcoBoost" engine won't arrive in the US until the 2013 Fiesta debuts later this year, but we're already excited about the diminutive new motor. That's because the small engine produces up to 120 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque despite three cylinders and just 1 liter of displacement. For buyers, that translates into the grunt of a four-cylinder with the fuel economy of a three - and the implications for a whole new generation of engines is astounding. Indeed, Ford may have finally found the replacement for displacement with its EcoBoost engine range - and the automaker is slowly making smaller engines an object of pride rather than a source of shame.

GMC Center Front Airbag

Although the 2013 GMC Acadia featured mainly superficial revisions when it debuted at the Chicago Auto Show, the SUV did include one new item that raised eyebrows: a front center airbag. The safety feature, which will debut on the Acadia and updated versions of its Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave siblings, deploys from the right side of the driver's seat and protects front seat occupants in crashes where the impact is on the opposite side of the vehicle. That's different from traditional side airbags, which deploy from either seat or the vehicle's headliner to shield occupants from injury on the same side as the collision. General Motors says the new feature will be standard in each of its midsize crossover triplets beginning with the 2013 model year.

Infiniti Backup Collision Intervention

Infiniti's recently released JX crossover will debut an all-new safety system designed to cut down on collisions that occur while reversing. Officially dubbed Backup Collision Intervention, the system helps drivers detect oncoming traffic that can be difficult to spot when backing out of a parking space. According to Infiniti, the system can even automatically engage the brakes in the event of an impending collision. Backup Collision Intervention, which will be available as an option on the JX, complements similar systems offered by many automakers that can automatically apply the brakes in the event of an impending frontal collision.

Mercedes Active Seat Belt Buckles

Although Mercedes' new active seat belt buckles don't make it any safer for rear passengers who are buckled up, the automaker says its newest technology will make them more likely to put on their seat belts in the first place. That's because the new active belt buckles are illuminated, which makes them easier to spot in low light - and because the buckles automatically extend up to three inches from their resting place when the rear door is opened, making them easier to find in cramped conditions. While that may not sell all rear seat passengers on the virtues of buckling up, Mercedes says the active buckles will also be integrated with its PRE-SAFE system, which tightens seat belts in the event of an impending collision. Mercedes has not yet announced which vehicle will feature the active seat belts, but promises the system will be available by the end of the year.

What it means to you: Today's cars feature more exciting features than ever - and for gadget lovers, that's a very good thing.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Top Features We're Excited For in 2012 - Autotrader