One of the great things about attending a road rally – aka an event that sends you from point A to point B driving several different vehicles – is the fact you get to experience some of the latest and greatest technology.
During the recent Rocky Mountain Redline Rally, we took seven vehicles from Denver to Durango, driving them all and getting a peek at some great features.
Here are my favorite features from each of the vehicles I drove.
Acura NSX hybrid powertrain
When Acura set out to create a hybrid supercar, it wasn’t with efficiency in mind.
The idea was to boost performance, and if you could reap efficiency benefits in stop-and-go traffic, more’s the better. The engine can, in fact, shut down completely for up to a mile in trafficked situations.
The unique thing about Acura’s system is that it has three electric motors, with two motors up front – one for each wheel – and the third motor in back working with the gasoline engine to power the rear wheels.
Mated to a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine, it has a combined power output of 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque. That’s more horsepower and torque than you’ll find in the Audi R8 or the McLaren 570S, which are equipped with a V-10 and V-8, respectively.
Plus, the NSX is an all-wheel-drive vehicle, whereas both the R8 and 570S are rear-wheel-drive.
Alfa Romeo Giulia DNA
Drive mode systems are de rigueur in most vehicles these days -- sport modes, eco modes, comfort modes, snow modes and everything in between. So, it should come as no surprise that the Alfa Romeo Giulia is equipped with such a system.
But the nice thing about the DNA (short for: Dynamic, Natural and Advanced Efficiency) system in the Giulia is that it is on a dial and has vibrant color graphics on the center stack to denote which mode you’re in – and that makes it easily togglable.
The “Dynamic” mode increases throttle response, tightens the steering and generally makes it more fun to drive. The “Natural” mode adds a little cruise comfort with a lighter suspension for highway treks. The “Advanced Efficiency” mode adds a little fuel efficiency and decreased throttle response for those lackluster highway drives.
Genesis G70 Around-View Monitor
While backup cameras are now standard on all new vehicles, there are no standards for size or location. I’ve even encountered some vehicles with the rear camera display in the rear-view mirror – and it’s virtually postage stamp sized!
But the G70 has a great example of an available around-view camera that not only shows what’s behind the vehicle but also what’s surrounding it with a 360-degree view.
Via cameras on the front, rear and side mirrors, the vehicle pieces together a clear picture of obstacles you might encounter in all directions.
This is especially helpful in tight city spaces where you’re trying not to curb your tires.
Honda Civic Type R Manual-Transmission Only
While people who don’t know how to drive a manual transmission might not find it cool, the true enthusiast set will fully appreciate that the Honda Civic Type-R is only available as a manual transmission.
This is in clear juxtaposition to other quasi-enthusiast vehicles who make an automatic transmission (with paddle shifters, of course) available to draw in more buyers.
We love that Honda makes no excuses with this 306-horsepower vehicle. If you can’t walk the walk, go buy a regular Civic.
Nissan Altima ProPilot Assist
Several automakers are testing the autonomous waters with level-2 driver-assist technology. But of all the systems I’ve tested – from Mercedes to Acura to Hyundai – one of the best systems I’ve encountered is ProPilot Assist from Nissan.
While some of the systems can be herky-jerky with the stop-start functionality in stop-and-go traffic, ProPilot Assist is smooth and more closely mimics a real driver’s reactions and spatial relations.
This system initially rolled out in the more expensive Nissan Rogue, but is now trickling down throughout the Nissan lineup. The fact that you can get both ProPilot Assist and all-wheel drive in a $30K vehicle is pretty impressive.
This feature is available starting at the SV trim.
Subaru Forester DriverFocus
Phones and computers have face recognition software to unlock your device, but the available DriverFocus system in the Subaru Forester is the first time I’ve encountered such technology in a vehicle.
On one hand, it will scan your face as you enter the vehicle and then adjust seat and HVAC settings to your profile. On the other hand, it monitors your face for distraction and drowsiness, sending alerts if it thinks you’re tired or fiddling with your phone.
The system can recognize up to five drivers.
We went through the set-up process, and it was a little clunky to work through. But once it was set up, it worked well – right down to saying hello and goodbye to me.
Toyota Supra Wireless Apple CarPlay
Toyota has just started putting CarPlay in its vehicles. Now the partnership with BMW on the all-new Supra has allowed it to become the second automaker that offers this feature wirelessly.
Supra also has an available wireless charging system, which means you can eliminate those pesky wires completely. No muss, no fuss.
But if you are familiar with BMW at all, you know that everything on its vehicles is an option. And BMW’s CarPlay system is the only one out there that currently charges an annual subscription fee. Since Toyota is borrowing this tech from BMW, that begs the question: Will Toyota also charge an annual subscription fee.
Toyota execs didn’t say yes. But they didn't say no, either. It’s “under discussion” was the official line.
CarPlay in Supra will come with a 4-year trial, which gives Toyota some time to make up its mind on a fee.
The Bottom Line:
It’s hard to imagine that the Apple iPhone didn’t exist prior to 2007. But now that “smart” technology has been introduced to the world, consumers are always looking for the next best thing – and automakers are clamoring to accommodate them.
As you are shopping for your next vehicle, the above features are just a few of the many cool things now available to buyers.