From Quirky to Cutting-Edge: Unique Car Features Over the Years

Jack Dreyer | Friday 26th January 2024 12:30pm

Graphic of a car made up by blue lights.

Since the invention of the very first car, innovators and designers have been looking for ways to upgrade features, improve driving experience, and, well, do something that other people aren’t.

This motivation has driven a whole host of interesting and unique car features over the years, from built-in handbags (did someone say feminism?) to virtual wing mirrors. Arguably, some of them are more useful than others - but whether you’re drawn in by usability or sheer quirkiness, you can’t deny that some of these forward-thinking innovators have made their mark on the automotive history books.

Let’s delve into the more unique options seen on cars through the past few decades, from some of the developments that we’re yet to see, to those that have been discontinued.

Energising Comfort Control

A black Mercedes S-Class.

Combining everything from climate control and lighting, to scent and seat massage, the Energising Comfort Control system from Mercedes brings a whole new level of comfort to drivers.

First seen on the S-Class, the system is designed to enhance the comfort of the driver and passengers by tailoring how the air-con, fragrance, seat functions, massage capabilities, audio and more interact with each other. There are six programmes to choose from: Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort and Training. And yes, Training as in, a personal trainer suggesting muscle-stretching techniques to activate or relax your body.

As Mercedes put it, “by utilising this feature, you can feel more relaxed, focused, or energised, which ultimately leads to a more comfortable and enjoyable ride.”

Built-in handbags

It’s always fun to look back at innovations over the years, and consider what the drivers were behind those improvements - or what was happening in the world at the time. Go back as far as 1955, and the Dodge La Femme, and you’ll find that, well, the epitome of driving tech for the classic 50’s housewife was, of course, a matching handbag.

Marketed as a “car for women”, the Dodge La Femme came with its own handbag and an array of additional accessories, as well as a compartment on the back of the driver’s seat for storing an umbrella and raincoat. We’re not sure how today’s female drivers would feel positively about such features, but it’s interesting to see how times change!

Virtual side mirrors

Rear-facing cameras on the Audi E-Tron.

Are physical side mirrors going to become a thing of the past? If some manufacturers are to be believed, then that could well be the case. While we’ve been promised cameras or screens in place of side mirrors for some time, it now seems that those promises may finally come to fruition. Audi’s E-Tron model, launched in 2020, was widely recognised as being the first mainstream passenger vehicle to make use of the tech as an upgrade option - with the brand saying: “With optional rear-facing cameras replacing glass mirrors, virtual mirrors offer more precision - and less wind drag.”

Did someone say ‘improved fuel efficiency’?

Heartbeat sensors

A brand that’s synonymous with safety, Volvo brought something unique to its S80 model before its launch in Geneva in 2005. Included within its Personal Car Communicator system, the S80 boasted a sensor within the alarm functionality that could detect a heartbeat - effectively making it able to notify the car’s owner if there’s a would-be attacker stowed away in their car as they approach.

The system was designed to work in conjunction with the car’s alarm, although queries around its effectiveness in locations with high levels of noise or vibration slightly marred its intended impressiveness.

Espresso machine

Takeaway coffee cup on top of a vehicle dashboard.

Why stop at a service station when you can have your very own espresso maker in the comfort of your car? If you’re the proud owner of an Audi or a Fiat, then this dream could be a reality - as both marques can come equipped with an on-the-go coffee machine.

Working either via a powered cup holder or via plugging into the 12V outlet, you can have piping hot, quality coffee in minutes - although both marques advise use only while the car is stationary.

What’s next in the car world?

What are your predictions for the next generation of cool car features? Saying bye-bye to the steering wheel? Cars that can drive on water? Whatever the developments, keep an eye on the Kwik Fit blog for all the best news, car guides, and tech roundups.

Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.

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