Technology shows up in the strangest places. Say, at the mall when you go to the checkout lane or on vacation to a national park when you use an app to register your campsite. With the latest crop of 2015 vehicles, there are also a few surprises. Some show up in the touchscreen display, but these recent vehicles go a step further. They seem to borrow a bit of the magic from Apple and Google to make your ride safer and smoother.
1. 2015 Chevy Silverado 1500
When you climb into this pick-up, you might not notice the most techie feature right away. The 2015 model, which comes in a 4-door version with a V6 engine that gets 24MPG, sports a wireless hotspot like the one you might use at work. Every passenger can connect up at OnStar’s 4G LTE connection using Wi-Fi. Speeds run as high as 12Mbps, or fast enough to download an entire movie before you even get to the construction site.
2. 2015 Ford Mustang
The redesigned muscle car also has a redesigned safety system called Sync 911 Assist. If you get into a fender-bender or worse, the car automatically notifies authorities with a recorded message about the crash. New for the Mustang in the 2015 model: the car also reports whether the crash involved an airbag deployment, if the seat belts were fastened, and even the speed of the impact at the time of the accident. It’s all opt-in, though.
3. 2015 Toyota Camry
Toyota is well-known as an innovator in automotive tech, especially with their apps for streaming music over the car radio. But the Camry has an even more techie feature. There’s a tray located in an alcove between the seats that uses the Qi wireless charging spec. If you use a phone like the Google Nexus 6, you can just set the phone on the tray to charge up. Other phones like the Samsung Galaxy line will work if you add a Vu-Mate charging card insert from TYLT.
4. 2015 Audi A3
Like the Silverado, this smaller (and sporty) sedan packs a Wi-Fi hotspot running at 4G LTE speeds. Passengers can tap in to the Internet, but there’s another hidden perk. You can navigate directly to the geolocation in a photo someone sends to you. When you get the photo, you first upload it to the MyAudi site. The car reads the geolocation data and shows you the photo -- you can set the geotag as your current destination.
5. 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT and Hellcat
Dodge brought out all of the bells and whistles on this high-performance muscle car. One of the whistles is a new 707-horsepower engine, and it really zings. Another is that there’s a small intake opening near the grill to feed air into the supercharger. The new Performances Pages may also capture your attention. You can measure 0-60 time, G-force, and how far you skid when you brake. The interface looks like a colorful bar chart and saves your best times. There is also a second testing display just above the steering wheel so you can focus on driving.
6. 2015 Mazda Mazda3
A pop-up HUD, or head-up display, is a common feature on sports cars and high-end luxury sedans. But, what about the Mazda3? For just over $16K, this compact car uses a thin plastic shield that rises up from the dashboard. It shows your current speed, turn-by-turn navigation, any safety settings line lane departure warnings, and your current cruise control setting. Just turn the car off, and the Active Driving Display folds back down into the dash.
7. 2015 Kia Sedona SX-L
Cars that open the rear liftgate when you kick your foot are so old-school these days. The 2015 Kia Sedona SX-L minivan knows when you are approaching if you have the key fob in your pocket -- and your arms full of groceries -- and rises up automatically. Known as the Smart Power Liftgate, it works like the Ford Escape but without any pretend soccer moves. Now, if only they can figure out how to get the car to buy those groceries instead...