Does it come with navigation? Can I plug in my iPod? Is there a back-up camera?
Optional high-tech features once reserved for the few have become necessary luxuries -- no matter the price.
Consumers recently surveyed by J.D. Power & Associates named their top 10 technology favorites. (VOLKSWAGEN)
#1 - Run-flat tires Imagine driving along in L.A. traffic and, boom! You’ve got a flat tire. Now think of that same scenario with no boom -- that’s what expensive run-flat tires will buy you.
A simple red light is triggered on the dashboard, and the tire’s internal and external structure provides an additional 50 miles at 50 mph to get you to a gas station.
This scenario is what makes run-flat tires the most desired high-tech option of them all.
Average cost: $600 for four tires(BMW)
#2 - Dual-stage ‘smart’ airbags If you’ve ever felt the force of an airbag hitting you in the face after a fender-bender, you understand the appeal of dual-stage “smart” airbags. More important, an airbag can have fatal results for small children.
These smart systems vary in intelligence, but most offer a low-stage and high-stage deployment based on impact, and many take the weight of the human into consideration via an in-car computer.
Average cost: $400(SUBARU)
#3 - Navigation systems Many car makers are learning that buyers are willing to pay more than twice the cost of a portable navigation system for an in-dash navi.
More advanced systems, like the one from Acura pictured here, include live traffic reports for most major cities, including Los Angeles.
Average cost: $1,500(ACURA)
#4 - Premium surround-sound systems Luxury surround-sound systems like the $2,530 Mark Levinson system in the Lexus LS (shown here) and the $8,000 Bang & Olufsen audio in the Audi A8 are the most talked-about in car circles. Both younger and older car buyers say they’ll pay plenty for a premium system.
Average cost: $500(LEXUS)
#5 - Active cornering headlight system On a dark, winding road, these “smart” headlamps take in computerized data from speed and steering angles and swivel the main beams of your headlamps toward the road ahead.
This feature is available mostly on luxury cars, but it has high appeal with buyers and could become more affordable with time.
Average cost: $300(MERCEDES-BENZ)
#6 - Back-up assist The Lexus RX300 had it first, and many other brands -- especially SUVs -- have since adopted the rear-view camera to boost visibility when backing up.
Strangely, this device is classified not as a safety function but as an entertainment option, even though it helps with spotting objects like bicycles and young children in the driveway.
Average cost: $300(LEXUS)
#7 - Blind spot detection Especially useful in the new Infiniti EX models, this device emits a “beep” when you drive too close to the lane divider without using your turn signal. If you use the blinker, you can change lanes silently, but otherwise you’ll be hearing a lot of “beeps” in normal driving.
It’s probably a good thing this feature can usually be turned on or off at will.
Average cost: $500(AUDI)
#8 - Heated and cooled seats Heated seats have been around a while, but now the heated/cooled option is gaining in popularity.
These seats typically have small “pinholes” in the design, allowing cool air to flow from a fan and air conditioning unit embedded in the seats.
Average cost: $700(BMW)
#9 - Advanced keyless entry system These “smart” systems stay in your pocket or purse while you start your car remotely, unlock doors by being in proximity and push a button on your dash to start the “zoom zoom.”
What if you start the car from the house and leave the key there or what if someone takes off with your car? No worries, the car will travel only about 20 feet before the engine dies.
Average cost: $500(MAZDA)
#10 - Personal assistance safety services You’ve no doubt heard the testimonial commercials for GM’s OnStar system. Children locked in the car, accidents that rendered the driver immobile, someone who needed help finding a restaurant.
With the touch of a button, your personal 911 operator is there to save the day.