While still an emerging market, car tech has evolved to the point where upscale automakers now incorporate a standardized trifecta of cornerstone features, comprising GPS navigation, Bluetooth hands-free calling and the ability to play digital audio. But there's still plenty of room for innovation, underlined by the fact that automotive design wizards are constantly churning out the weird and wonderful.
Whether these applications are comfort based, such as Toyota's Plasmacluster air-cleaning ionizer; performance oriented, such as BMW's magic M button, which conjures up an extra 100 horsepower; safety conscious, such as Infiniti's Lane Departure warning and Audi's Blind Spot Detection system; or just for visual effect, such as integration of Macromedia Flash in Jaguar's navigation system, these systems are evidence that manufacturers are still pushing the boundaries of in-car gadgetry.
1. 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Editors' rating: 9.0
The good: The 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid is a comfortable, well-appointed sedan, equipped with a bevy of technology, from the economical hybrid propulsion system to a raft of standard in-car devices, including a Bluetooth interface and a premium audio system.
The bad: The Camry's optional GPS navigation unit struggles with voice commands and can lose its bearings when out of town. Alternating between power sources can lead to a jerky ride.
The bottom line: Easy on the eyes and the pocketbook, user- as well as ecofriendly, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is a fitting front-runner in the new generation of hybrid sedans.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.