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Our Favorite Family Car Features

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Automakers are always bringing new features to the family car to keep competitive, and you get all the benefit. It’s a great time to be in a family car.

2021 Honda Odyssey - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Odyssey - hondanews.com

Over the last two decades, becoming a parent meant you finally purchased something like a Honda Odyssey. Although the minivan platform is still a primo house on wheels, you now have more choices for the family car. SUVs have come along and brought those deep center consoles, safety features, and entertainment systems available to calm even the most demanding of passengers and the stuff they carry with them. You know who I’m talking about – those passengers called kids. You’ll happily accept anything that’s family-friendly and makes your life easier.

We’re going to discuss our favorite family car features that will make your life a living garden of beauty. The entire family will appreciate you and sing your praises if you have a family car with any of these great features.

Safety Suites

2021 Kia Sedona - kia.com
2021 Kia Sedona - kia.com

You always want to keep the family safe everywhere you go. It’s the same idea behind why you have a baby monitor. We’re in a golden age of automotive safety. Cars will stop your distracted driving before hitting something, whether you’re going forward or backing up. That SUV will gently steer you back into your lane while you’re looking over your shoulder at your two-year-old, and lights will flash if you turn left without looking. We love the new safety suites offered on today’s models because we’re distracted when we drive. Our cars end up saving us from ourselves, and that’s okay.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

2020 Acura RDX Android Auto - acuranews.com
2020 Acura RDX Android Auto - acuranews.com

In 2019, BMW was charging owners a one-time fee of $300 to install Apple CarPlay on their newly purchased car and $80 a year for keeping it. Thankfully, they gave that purchase model up, but you might happily pay for the ability to see Waze on your screen. Plus, the ability to answer texts and phone calls while giving you the freedom to keep your eyes on the road. And now, with USB connections all over the car, your family can charge their devices and, if you let them, play their music through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems in the family car.

Automatic Doors and Liftgates

2020 Ford Escape - ford.com
2020 Ford Escape - ford.com

Which one of us hasn’t come out of Trader Joe’s or any other grocery store with more sacks than arms. Unlocking the door and lifting the rear hatch or door isn’t possible in that situation, but thankfully, OEM’s are now installing hands-free power liftgate and door systems. With a movement of the foot, your rear hatch opens, and in goes the groceries. With a push of a button, the rear doors slide open, and in jump the kids. Those little touches make a day go much smoother.

Storage Cubbies

2021 Toyota Highlander - pressroom.toyota.com
2021 Toyota Highlander - pressroom.toyota.com

We recently reviewed the Toyota Highlander and were amazed at the amount of space to place items, cups, and luggage. The center console armrest opened up to expose a deep cavern large enough for a purse with a handle to disappear from view. Long gone are the days when bags and toys would roll around on the floor, spilling their contents for all to see. And let’s not forget beverage holders. The new Hyundai Palisade has three cupholders in each rear door and an astounding 14 total cup holders in the entire vehicle. Everything has a home in these modern family cars.

Digital Rearview Mirrors

2021 Nissan Armada - usa.nissannews.com
2021 Nissan Armada - usa.nissannews.com

When you have all seats packed out and just left the hardware store, it’s often difficult to see out the back. Yes, you have rear cross-traffic alert systems, but having an unblocked view of what’s behind you would be great. That’s when you push a button on your digital rearview mirror for an unobstructed view. A camera that’s mounted up high on the inside the rear window gives you a super-wide viewpoint to see all that’s behind you. Hyundai even has a version that pops up on the instrument panel in front of the driver. Isn’t technology great?

Rear Window Shades

2020 Acura RLX - acura.com
2020 Acura RLX - acura.com

More SUVs and minivans are now coming standard with rear window shades, a feature once reserved for luxury cars. Now, when the sun is coming into the window of your family car and on your toddler, you can pull up the shade and block out the sun or even possible nosy people who want to look in.

Interior Cameras

2021 Honda Odyssey CabinWatch - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Odyssey CabinWatch - hondanews.com

Honda calls it CabinWatch, an overhead interior camera that shows a view of the second and third rows behind you. Parents call it having eyes in the back of their head. You’ll appreciate being able to check on your baby in the rear-facing car seat, but it comes in handy in keeping track of the “they did it first” arguments in the back seats.

360-degree Surround-View Cameras

2020 Chevrolet Equinox - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Equinox - chevrolet.com

We can’t all have a car that parks itself, but you can get the next best thing on many SUVs. On Nissan, Toyota, and many other SUVs, you can see above and around your car to help in any parking situation. The Toyotas system in the Highlander gives you a complete 360 fly around when you start and shut off the car. These systems make parking a breeze and give you a safety measure to see if anyone is hiding near the vehicle.

Geo-Fencing

Teen receiving car keys
Teen receiving car keys

While you would’ve never wanted it on the car your parents let you drive in high school, you can now set up parameters for your newly minted driver in the family. Some manufacturers use a key and others allow you to use an app, but they all allow you to set speed, location, maximum stereo volume, and other usage restrictions of the family car. Some would call it the perfect thing for when your teen driver gets behind the wheel. However, your teen might disagree with you.

And There’s Still More

With the renewed focus on consumer satisfaction, we see quick adoption of heated and ventilated seats, panoramic roofs, and onboard phone charging systems with wireless CarPlay. For each new year, automakers are becoming more competitive in being customer-centric and you receive the benefit. It’s a great time to be in a family car.

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Steve Mitchell

Steve's first car had pedals, and he's been filled with passion for four wheels ever since. He lives and breathes the car life as a technologist, futurist, and writer while keeping up with the whys, hows, and plans of the automotive industry. His automotive journey began with a fully restored Triumph TR3b that he sadly never appreciated until decades later. Ownerships of X-1/9's, BMW's, an SVT and a Dodge Ram Hemi have given way to the house of Audi Sport. You'll also find him as an endurance athlete on the bike in SoCal, but you'll know he's thinking about cars.

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