From augmented reality to phone-as-key, these vehicles have all the technology a buyer could ask for.
Power and capability were the key words in car commercials for most of the 20th century. But now transportation is just one of the many things a car does for the owner's lifestyle. Economy is still important too, but it's the tech that now sells these vehicles. And like we said about last year's tech finalists, the luxury stuff trickles down at an amazing rate.
Cadillac's Super Cruise and other assisted driving features get most of the press, but the other safety, self-parking and even towing and hauling features are just as important. The Mercedes-Benz GLE took the award in our inaugural year, and another Mercedes won it last year. The Germans know how to do impressive tech, though the Swedes aren't far behind.
Vehicles that missed the cut this year include the new Mercedes S-Class, the Volkswagen ID.4, the F-150 for its impressive suite that makes towing, hauling and backing up easier, the Acura MDX, the Lincoln Nautilus and the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, which was one of the first to include Amazon Fire TV in the cabin. All of the awards, including the Tech Lover's Dream, will be announced on November 30.
Here are the three finalists, in no particular order:
The Mercedes-Benz EQS starts with the stunning 56-inch Hyperscreen that stretches from door to door for both driver and passenger. That consists of a 12.3-inch driver display, 17.7-inch central display, and 12.3-inch passenger display. It works on the company's MBUX system and uses a "zero-layer" menu system to keep important info in front. It also will learn the driver's patterns and suggest destination and features.
The EQS gets a 15-speaker, 710-watt Burmester sound system, and "Navigation with Electric Intelligence," which plans the fastest route based on traffic, charging stations and driving style. It'll also estimate your charging costs per stop. And when you're in a mood, the EQS's Energizing Comfort program can select from three nature programs called Forest Glade, Sound of the Sea and Summer Rain. The programs combine sound and music and ambient lighting (and smells) to calm you down after a nasty battle with traffic.
On the safety side, the EQS has everything including adaptive cruise control, active steering and lane-keeping assist, traffic sign assist, attention assist, which looks for signs of drowsiness, and parking assist, which uses the rear-axle steering to perfectly maneuver into a spot, "making up to 12 moves."
The Polestar 2 tech was designed from the ground up to be used by the modern consumer. If you have your key in your pocket, or have connected your car to your phone to act like a key, you just have to get in and drive away. No start button, no ignition key, just get in, slide the shifter into drive and go. Like a lot of this stuff, it seems little and insignificant at first. But after a few weeks in the saddle, we quickly lost our inclination to fiddle with our keys or wait for a startup sequence.
That's a nice feature, but the kicker here is Polestar's Google-embedded infotainment system on an 11.15-inch portrait-style display. Android Automotive OS doesn't need a phone-mirroring function - though that's coming too - instead all the smartphone apps, music, phone functions, navigation, and voice recognition are embedded in the four-panel display. The system integrates Google Assistant for voice assistance, Google Maps for navigation, and Google Play for access to your favorite media apps. You'll still need your phone to make calls, though, but if you do sign into your Google account, it can make even better guesses about what you might need next.
The BMW iX sports the eighth generation of the company's iDrive software. This rotary-dial controlled system was maddening when first introduced but has now evolved into one of the best and easiest to use. The system now takes voice commands too and can be programmed to respond to different names and inputs.
The navigation system features augmented reality directions when a destination is selected. On the video screen, you can see street names and floating arrows marking the turns. The iX also has an interior camera to take photos for the 'Gram while on a trip. Soon the same camera will be used as a Remote Theft Recorder, relaying photos to the owner if the alarm is set off.
The system has 5G support for fast up and downloads, along with Wi-Fi, a head-up display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All of which can be updated over the air when necessary. A massive suite of cameras and radars take care of the blind spot, lane-keeping and assisted driving functions.