Like your wardrobe, your ride tells the world a lot about you, whether it’s a tricked-out low-rider or a sensible family van. But everyone knows it’s what inside that really counts. You need to let your tech flag fly by investing in a car that reflects your inner geek. Here, you’ll find cars that feature mobile hotspots, four doors of theatrical sound, two-way TV screens, and smarter-than-you safety innovations, among other electronically-enhanced attributes. Here’s our top 10 teched-out cars for 2012.
In the 2012 model, the latest generation of Audi’s MMI Navigation system boasts a 40GB hard drive and an Nvidia GPU that brings in-car graphics to another level. Google Earth shows topography and buildings on the 8-inch LCD screen, which slides into view upon ignition. The MMI technology continues to make use of Audi's touchpad, recognizing handwritten input by the driver. But that's not all. The A8 is also a mobile hotspot. You can also search and import address into the navigation system via voice input.
Starting at $78,750; models.audiusa.com/a8
With a high-tech, heads-up display, you'll always be in the know when you're behind the wheel of the BMW X3. Current speed, navigation directions, and important warnings are projected onto the front windshield and are always visible. You can even send your results from Google Maps to your car so that your directions are ready when you are. The vehicle's Mobile Office application can display e-mails and text messages from your smartphone. If you're driving, the X3 will read them to you, and if you're parked, it'll display the text.
Starting at $36,850; bmwusa.com
When it debuts next spring, Cadillac’s extra-large luxury vehicle (concept pictured) will be the first with the new Cadillac User Experience (CUE), which has 3.5 times more processing power than current auto industry systems, according to the company. An 8-inch capacitive touchscreen with multitouch capability enables the driver to navigate the Linux operating system running on an ARM 11 3-core processor, each operating at 400 million of instructions per second (mips). Thanks to Proximity Sensing, the screen will know when your hand is approaching and display the icons of your apps (including Pandora). Add in natural voice recognition and text-to-speech text messaging and you have one seriously geeky ride.
Price TBA; cadillac.com/cadillac_cue.html
Any electric car that tells you critical information, such as charging status, deserves a spot on this list. Paired with the OnStar RemoteLink app, the myChevrolet app (downloadable for iOS and Android) enables you to do things like schedule a future charging time or check your electric or gas levels. With GM's new partnership with RelayRides, the Volt will soon be able to be remotely locked and unlocked via the owner's smartphone. This hybrid allows you to switch between an electric battery (up to 35 miles) and a gas generator (up to 375 miles on a full tank).
Starting at $39,245 (with federal tax savings up to $7,500); chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car
America's most recognizable truck is all brawn and all brains. In fact, it's so smart it can find your crew when they've run off. With Telogis' Crew Chief Telematics technology, you can pinpoint the locations of the rest of your team on a program that's accessible from any Wi-fi hotspot on your personal computer to find out who's closest to each job. Not only will it give location, but it will tell you the driving habits of that particular vehicle, tire pressure, and even if the seat belt is buckled or the car's being used outside business hours. Ford says that the monitoring of maintenance and efficient driving habits with Crew Chief is reducing fuel consumption by 15-20% in equipped trucks. Who said trucks weren't going green?
Starting at $23,415; ford.com/trucks/f150
For a 70.5-inch wide car, a 7-inch LCD screen may seem a little big. And that's the idea with The Veloster, which comes equipped with an array of multimedia options on the dashboard, including Hyundai's Blue Link technology. This wireless connectivity system includes an Eco-Coach feature that keeps track of, and rates, your car's fuel economy. The system will follow your driving habits and post your results to the Blue Link Owner’s website, where you can see how you stack up to other Veloster owners. The system will also make suggestions to help you improve your fuel efficiency.
Starting at $17,300; hyundaiusa.com/veloster/
Audiophiles, music aficionados, groupies, and rock stars rejoice! The Jaguar XJ - if you can afford it - is here to save the day. When equipped with the Bowers & Wilkins 1200W surround-sound audio system, the experience is taken to another level: there's Audyssey MultEQ audio tuning and state-of-the-art digital sound processing. There are 20 speakers powered through 15 channels, and features Dolby Pro-LogicTM IIx and DTS Neo 6 encoders, along with three extra audio channels. If you just understood that, you're probably excited. If you didn't, just know that it's going to sound great. Get your tunes on through the 10 CD-changer, USB, auxiliary jack, or Bluetooth.
Starting at $76,000; jaguar.com/us/en/new_xj/
Lexus' GS series is known for its class and accessible electronic rigging. Current models employ the Enform telematics technology, which connects you to an agent to provide direction and search data, as well as emergency information. In the upcoming 2013 model, however, things get a serious boost. The new GS will features a massive 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen display that rivals smaller size TVs. There will also be a system similar to Toyota's Entune, which enables the integration of smartphone apps such as OpenTable, Pandora, and Bing.
Starting at $46,900; lexus.com/models/GS
an industry first, the Mercedes S-class features an 8-inch LCD screen that simultaneously displays different images to the driver and front-seat passenger. While dad is navigating the road, junior can watch cartoons without distracting the driver. With state-of-the-art safety technology as well, the S350 will keep its 'eyes' on you to make sure you don't get drowsy and sleepy. If, after processing 70 different signals, the car determines you're dozing off, it will wake you up with a noise and a signal. Plus, Mercedes' mbrace app on your phone allows you to access nearly 20 security, destination planning, and convenience services, such as nearby bathrooms and banks.
Starting at $92,550; mbusa.com
The Nissan Juke packs a lot into a pint-sized body, and does it a pretty small price. The Juke is wired with Bluetooth technology, USB input, and a voice-activated address book. An on-screen torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system allows you to change up how you're moving. The Integrated Control (I-CON) system shows the all-wheel torque, as the Juke makes thousands of readings on the ground so you get the optimal amount of tracking on each wheel. That's a lot for a little ride.
Starting at $19,570; nissanusa.com/juke