Not All New Car News Is Bad News!

Some of the news is good news. It’s not all shrapnel-spewing air bags, annoying buckle-up buzzers and engines that shut themselves (and the AC) off at stoplights to “save gas.” Here are some new features you’ll find in new cars that won’t make your teeth ache:

* In-car WiFi –

Did you know you no longer need to find a Starbucks to find WiFi when you’re on the road? Several new cars offer (or even come standard with) in-car “hot spots.” Wireless Internet – to go. Or, when you’ve stopped. GM’s system – which is standard in the new Chevy Impala and several other models – works within a radius of about 50 feet of the source (the car), so you can get online while outside the car. Surf the Net at the park, while tailgating – whatever.

Expect most cars to include WiFi access within two or three years – much as most cars already come standard with or at least offer GPS navigation.

The catch is that while the system is free, the subscription isn’t. GM gives you the first three months as part of the deal when you buy the car – but after that, it’s pay to play.

Well, pay to Google.

* Capless fuel filler –

Look, ma – no cap!

And no “check engine” light, either.

There are several problems with old-style twist-’em on gas caps. One being they’re easy to forget about – and leave at the gas station. Two, they’re easy to not install quite right – as in, too loose. Which – in a modern car – can cause a problem with the evaporative emissions control system. Which will trigger the yellow “check engine” light in the dashboard to come on.

The latter reason is the main reason why many new cars – probably soon all cars – have (or soon will have) capless fuel-fill systems. It keeps the Feds happy – and it keeps car owners happy (by keeping the “check engine” blues at bay).   

You insert the nozzle, fill up – and that’s it. A one-way valve lets gas in – keeps gas from sloshing out (and gas fumes from venting out).

Most new Fords and some new Chryslers currently have capless fuel fillers.

* Launch control –

A high-performance car’s potential acceleration is only as good as its actual traction. Spinning the tires – and sliding sideways – is lots of fun but not what you want if what you want is the best (quickest) ET.  Anyone can smoke the cars (assuming the car is powerful enough to do that). But it takes skill to leave the line just right – knowing just how much to bring the revs up before you sidestep the clutch (or take your foot off the brake), how deep to get into the throttle until the car “hooks up.”

Well, it used to,

Modern high-performance cars take care of that for you – or can, if you want them to. It’s called launch control and does what it sounds like it does. Launches the car in a controlled manner. When engaged, all the driver typically has to do is point the car in the direction intended and stand on the gas. The car – and the computers – will do the rest. Given the extreme power now available (as in the 707 hp Dodge Hellcat I recently reviewed; see here) launch control is probably a really good idea. And not just for the best-case quarter-mile times, either.

But to keep the potential mayhem of 700-plus hp cars like the Hellcat in check – which may keep Uncle off our backs.

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