From Kansas City Star
DETROIT — Torque? Struts? Rack-and-pinion steering?
Maybe they are important. But what we really want to know is if the console is big enough to store a purse. Or if there’s a way to secure the grocery bags. Or if there’s a place to stow the kids’ DVDs.
These are the automotive accessories that consumers adore. They’re clever. And most of all, they’re practical.
Like the flip-top storage bin atop the Ford 500’s instrument panel. Or the illuminated shelf in the center of the Scion XA dashboard. Perfect for CDs or iPods or, as one of the company’s oh-so-hip reps said, “the wrappers for the Power Bars we consumed driving this thing 15,000 miles.”
Sometimes the idea isn’t new. It’s just an improvement. Several cars have climate-controlled glove compartments. But only the VW Touareg has one with a sculpted bottom to cradle a chilling bottle of wine.
Here are some of the itty-bitty conveniences that appeared at the 2004 North American International Auto Show.
Lexus RX and LS: In the idea-whose-time-has-finally-come category, these models have headlights that rotate as you turn your wheel. Auto historians will note this idea was mocked when Preston Tucker introduced it in his Tucker Auto in 1948.
Aston Martin V12 Vanquish: The Bridge of Weir leather made from Scandinavian hides is divine. But much cooler are the retractable, in-dash business card holder-trinket tray and the gas cap with a pin to hold it in place so you don’t scrape the paint job of your $220,000 car while you’re gassing up.
Maybach 62: At $358,000, you expect some glitz. And this has it: rear seats with La-Z-Boy-style foot rests and buttons to close the trunk and rear doors. The best is the rear-seat cup holder. Flip it over and it holds two champagne flutes and a bottle. Note: The silver Robbe & Berking flutes are optional and priced at $550 apiece.
Chrysler Town and Country: Many of us have suspected that what minivan owners really want is an enclosed truck. The T&C has it. The back two rows both fold flat into the floor, turning the rear into a 167.9-cubic-foot playroom on wheels.
Saab Aero 9-3: A collapsible spoiler. Want to take the bike along? Just fold open the spoiler and hook up the attachment and it’s a bike rack. Or a ski rack. Or a surf board carrier.
Oldsmobile: Oldsmobile has a new color — dark cherry metallic — to commemorate the final 500 of each of its five models. There’s also the distinctive Oldsmobile Heritage logo. It’s not a convenience, really, but it’s an occasion to say good-bye to an old friend.
Hummer H2: Electronically folding mirrors. Want your behemoth to belly up to the pick-up window without whacking off the enormous side mirror? Just push the button and the mirrors fold flat.
Dodge Durango: A wonderfully low-tech improvement: Venetian blind-style louvers on the vents. They not only look slicker than their predecessors, but they close completely flush with the surface and are capable of completely sealing off the vents.
Toyota Prius: Smart entry and smart start. No key. No remote. Just tuck the tiny fob of the Auto Show’s 2004 Car of the Year into your pocket or purse and when you’re within a few feet, the doors automatically unlock. Same thing with starting the car.
Copyright 2004 Kansas City Star. All Rights Reserved.
Click here to view the rest of today’s headlines.