Hooniverse Asks- What's the Most Appreciated Convenience Option?

Yesterday we investigated what was the dumbest automotive convenience feature, and you all certainly vented on a number of them that you felt aptly deserved the title. Today we’re doing a 180 and, speaking of venting, I’d like to offer my vote for what I think is the best convenience feature and that’s the ’70s/’80s GM dashboard crotch cooler.
Now you might have a differing opinion about that long-gone feature’s usefulness, but then we don’t have to agree. In fact, today I want to know – whether cool crotches or remote starters – what you think is the most appreciated of automotive conveniences. As we noted yesterday, cars are increasingly differentiating themselves by such features, and it might even prove a public service to auto makers to let them know which ones really float your boat.
Image: barrettjackson.com

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  1. quattrovalvole Avatar

    Heated seats & steering wheel

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      Check your privilege, Mr. Look-At-Me-I-Have-Four-Valves!
      Seriously, though — if you have leather and live in a climate with a real winter, heated seats are amazing.
      Air-conditioned seats kick it up another notch.

      1. Felis_Concolor Avatar

        Indeed; no more butt-sweat on scorching days!
        I'm jealous of my love's new car; her seat heaters are quicker to heat at level 1 than mine are at level 3 – and they feel much warmer. When I recently strained my back, we swapped cars and I engaged in some rolling deep heating therapy by cranking her car's seat heaters up to 5 and basking in the deep muscle warmth.
        Damn, now I'm wishing for active lumbar massage seat functions for future models.

      2. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
        C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        You're not kidding about cooled seats!!!!
        I had mine on just yesterday. 'Twas 72F, windows down, sunroof open, no leather sweat. Yay!!!!!
        Today, though, I may have to hit the heat. It's all of 45F out there.
        I thought heated steering wheels were absurd…until I had one.
        It's not working, now…a GM feature…but should we relocate to where it's truly cold, trust me, I'll fix it.

        1. 1977chevytruck Avatar

          Us in Canada, and the northern states, and other norther countries, hate you so much right about now.

    2. buzzboy7 Avatar

      I had heated cloth seats in the old Subi. Sooooo nice

    3. Drzhivago138 Avatar

      My Mazda Tribute ES has every option available in 2002–except heated seats. Just an empty rocker switch that taunts me on cold days.

  2. dukeisduke Avatar

    Air conditioning.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Yes. Just so very yes.

  3. tiberiusẅisë Avatar

    Synchromesh transmission.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      Difficulty: most folks under 40 or so may never have had the pleasure of driving a manual without a synchro. If they had, they might better understand why automatics are so popular these days.
      I have driven exactly one non-synchronized box (unsure whether by design, or if worn out), and it was on an ancient dump truck my dad had borrowed from a friend who owned a junkyard. We were using it to get a few yards of gravel for our driveway, which would haven taken many many trips and lots of back-breaking shoveling if we had used my dad's '80 F-150. I was 17 at the time, and I thought it was hilarious that my dad couldn't shift this thing without grinding the gears. The look he gave me was that of a man suffering a fool.
      When we got the gravel loaded and were ready for the return trip, he tossed me the keys and said "your turn." His look was now of amusement. I had been driving my 5spd 1988 Ram 50 for a year, so naturally I knew all there was to know about manuals, and I was going to rock this beast.
      Wrong. So very, very, wrong. Every gear change rattled me to the bones, and I swore I was breaking something. To my dad's credit, he didn't actually laugh at me, but you could have spread his smugness on toast and it'd last you all day. He told me to "feather" the throttle when pushing it into gear, and it'll only grind for a second before engaging. That worked. It took a lot of conscious thought, and I didn't exactly get the hang of it over the 10-mile trip, but I did get the truck to move and successfully changed gears. Every time I managed to slip one in with only a split second of grinding, the feeling of accomplishment was huge.
      I have made it a habit to rev-match every manual car I've owned, because I never want those lovely synchros to disappear. I taught myself to heel-toe before I even knew it was a thing, though I did it wonky with my heel on the brake and my toe on the throttle. When I learned this was not something clever I had invented, and normal people use their toe on the brake and heel on the gas, I felt simultaneously smug and stupid.

      1. tiberiusẅisë Avatar

        I grew up around Model-A Fords. Never actually drove one until later. How hard could it be? Pretty hard actually. Well, if you wanted to accelerate that is. Also explains why a 3 speed is better than a 4 speed. One less shift.

      2. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
        C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        Having had not one, but four different vehicles with either partially non-synchro transmissions (usually 1st gear), worn out gearboxes, or a combo of the two, you are SO correct.
        Driving a crash box is very definitely a skill.
        To this day, even though 1st gear, and even reverse, synchros are de-riguer, I 'clear the box' by habit. As vehicles age, I usually have to change my 'clearing gear' from 2nd to 3rd. That's when you know it's getting to be time for a rebuild.

      3. Felis_Concolor Avatar

        I learned how to shift a manual transmission using a Kubota 16 horsepower tractor; spur cut gears and double clutching a 3 cylinder diesel FTW! Even the turtle/rabbit range selector was unsynchronized.
        It's been at least 25 years since I touched any sort of unsynchronized transmission, but I think it would only take a couple days' practice to get my groove back on if I really needed to operate a vintage crunchbox.
        Y'know, that would be a theft prevention measure close to key locked Unimog hubs in effectiveness. In countries where transportation itself is a luxury, many 'Mogs have been altered to use standard keys or disc locking systems to detach all 4 wheels from the drive shafts. Sure, you can hotwire them, but now you're in a very loud truck that's not going anywhere, and you've just alerted the entire village to your nefarious deed.

      4. ptschett Avatar

        Some heavy truck transmissions are indeed completely unsynchronized by design. While the transmission manufacturers and some CDL authorities prefer double-clutching, a lot of experienced drivers "float" the gears i.e. rev-matched up- and downshifts performed without clutching.

      5. Rover_1 Avatar

        No-one teaches double de-clutching any more?
        That's putting it in neutral, then letting out the clutch before shifting into gear, involving two presses of the clutch pedal as well as rev-matching.

    2. Lokki Avatar

      What is this 'synchromesh' of which you speak? Is it some kind of fancy weaving in the upholstery?
      Edit – Okay, I looked it up, and apparently is is actually some sort of an analog method for selecting gears in an automobile transmission. You push a lever in different directions to change the speed of the car while keeping the engine rpm within a given range, apparently. Another machine age thing made obsolete by the invention of electronics….like when the electric starter replaced the hand crank, or the electric washing machine replacing hand scrubbing.

      1. Lokki Avatar

        Am I banned yet?

        1. Van_Sarockin Avatar

          Getting warmer!

    3. FЯeeMan Avatar

      This is likely the only place on the entirety of the intarwebz that "Synchromesh Transmission" would be considered an option. To say nothing of a convenience option.
      I like it here.

      1. tiberiusẅisë Avatar

        I wonder how many cars actually came with a choice between synchromesh or non-synchromesh transmissions.

        1. Tiller188 Avatar

          Sounds like an Encyclopedia Hoonatica entry to me, assuming any such cars actually existed…

      2. r_toaster Avatar

        Yay Hooniverse!
        I wish the bus we use for Chump weekends had a set of synchros, but then they would weight 45lbs each. Crunching when trying to get up a big grade is just distracting.

    4. Drzhivago138 Avatar

      I learned to drive on a mid-'60s JD 2510, but no car I've ever driven has had an unsync. So I kinda appreciate it…?

  4. Vavon Avatar

    Central locking from a distance.
    <img src="http://www.forum-auto.com/uploads/200411/lorent2_1100811336_clef.jpg"&gt;

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I have displaced mine. Funny Honda has just one (1!) key hole. Arg.

  5. Stu_Rock Avatar

    The horn switch on the left stalk, like on old Fords, MGs, and Peugeots.
    With the horn switch located there, you can shift with your right hand, steer with your left hand, and honk with your left pinky finger. It's brilliant!

    1. Lokki Avatar

      Sigh, some people! (smacks forehead on center of steering wheel in exasperation and is startled by sudden loud noise).

    2. Vavon Avatar

      Totally agree with that! Also featured on many Citroëns and Renaults.

  6. 7FIAT's Later Avatar
    7FIAT's Later

    I'm perfectly capable of parking and driving without one, but I like having a back-up camera.

    1. windbüchse Avatar

      As I've aged and my neck no longer swivels as it used to, the backup camera has been welcomed. Also in many of the modern cars, the greenhouse has been reduced and the C (and D) pillars block so much of the rearward view.

      1. craymor Avatar

        and those damm headrests. I took out the rear headrest from my mazda 3 as they were such a pain to see through. and it's not like anyone tall enough to use them could fit in the back anyway….

    2. salguod Avatar

      I scoffed at the backup camera that came on our Saturn Outlook until I was able to hook up the trailer with out assistance and typically in one try.
      The Prius we replaced the Outlook with after selling the trailer has one, but I rarely remember to look at it. The Outlook's LCD was in the rear view mirror, the Prius' is in the dash.

  7. Devin Avatar

    The little USB in for the stereo, so I can have a flash drive of music files and not listen to the terrible local radio station.

    1. Felis_Concolor Avatar

      Per my own dual sample experiment, Ford's USB interface plugs can power USB hard drives for those interested in carrying every single record ever recorded in their vehicle.
      I've formatted a WD Passport 2TB drive to FAT32 and am now in the lengthy process of filling it up with as much uncompressed music as my library contains (my music library is now over 80 linear feet of CDs at this point); eventually I'll plug it into my car just to see if Ford's Sync system can digest the enormous playlist, or if it simply freaks out and shuts down.

      1. Devin Avatar

        An advantage of flash over a hard drive is that there are no moving parts, which can be useful in a cold climate. I remember back in the cassette era a -30C morning would result in your music becoming chopped and screwed.

        1. Charlie Avatar

          An SSD solves that problem

  8. Devin Avatar

    Also, folding rear seats, great if you have to carry a large bulky object, also great if you manage to lock your keys in the trunk.

    1. r_toaster Avatar

      I've heard tales of folks kicking out their perforated ski pass block plate in the back seat partition to get keys they locked in the trunk. This might be why central locking is either good or bad too.

  9. Maymar Avatar

    Skipping the legitimate answer I would have used (A/C), I like having an aux/USB/IPod input in my car. I have to keep my work-issued iPhone plugged in and charging while I'm driving anyhow, so I can take advantage of that, and listen to the Hoonicast (and also skipping that little bit of sucking up, other podcasts and such). I'm sure it'd be nice for more devices to be better supported, but I lucked into this little thing working out.

  10. craymor Avatar

    Not qute the crotch vent, but on older Volvo 240's the have a side vent that was great in the summer.
    and what the hell happened to vent windows?

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Ditto Volvo 140! Water traps and, thus, rust spots, but fantastic features!

    2. r_toaster Avatar

      Everyone needs vent windows! Especially on days when my '76 2002 decides to not have a working fan. Strangely, those days always seem to coincide with rain, hmm…

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        These were the days my '71 145 had radio…the rain giveth, the rain taketh.

  11. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
    PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

    Overall, non-specific, Automatic/Emergency Locking Retractor Seatbelts. They've saved more lives than any device since and all you have to do is stick the little end into the big end and drive.
    Very vehicle specific, the combination of small vent windows and a rear-slider in a Regular cab pickup. Who needs A/C?

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      I think just having the shoulder and lap belt integrated is a huge boon, although not really considered a "convenience" anymore. Like lots of older cars, my '71 Malibu had a separate shoulder belt that had to be stored in little chrome clips on the headliner. WHAT A PAIN.

  12. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    HID headlamps.
    You can't really appreciate how good modern headlamps are until you own/drive a vehicle with tungsten sealed-beam lamps from say, 1975.
    Those things are a serious hazard.

    1. r_toaster Avatar

      Any sort of projector light is a fairly major upgrade. In E30s, going from sealed beams, to 9005/9006 or an H1/H4 setup seems to be de rigueur. Incremental improvements perhaps, but welcome changes in output/beam clarity.

    2. salguod Avatar

      Agreed. Driving my T'bird at night on a country road is an adventure.

  13. ptschett Avatar

    The automatic transmission. My mom can drive a car that doesn't have A/C, but she doesn't have the mechanical inclination or intuition to manage a stickshift.
    For performance purposes, DCTs and conventional torque-converter units can change gears faster than a human can. A torque converter offers torque multiplication for easier starts uphill, or with a heavy payload or trailer, or for drag racing.
    (I like a manual transmission in a sporty car, nailing a perfect 1-2-3-4-etc. series is fun… but if you really want to feel like you're participating in everything that's happening with your vehicle, a motorcycle does about 10x more connectedness for me than what a manual in a car does.)

  14. Batshitbox Avatar

    Fuel Injection! Goodbye, sticky automatic chokes (bad idea), goodbye, vapor lock, hard starting, gassy smells, etc. Hello fuel mapping instead of changing out your camshaft! (Remember the 'towing' grind for cams? Now you just chip it.)
    Cabin-wise, dimmable dash lights and the tilt-telescoping steering wheel.
    Also, I don't have kids, but I was one once, in the back seat on long drives. I imagine the back seat DVD player is a godsend! I was watching cartoons through the back window of a Caprice in a traffic jam last weekend!

    1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
      PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

      DVD systems are awesome. And if you regulate their usage properly, your kids don't miss out on seeing the countryside on long trips. Our rule is one hour during daylight and one full-length movie after dinner before they start to sleep.
      They know the rules, and they know that it's not for trips under a certain length, so they still think it's a treat for them being good during the car trip.
      Worked like a gem for our 2800+ mile meandering trip to Memphis for Thanksgiving.

      1. Drzhivago138 Avatar

        That's a good idea. Don't let the TV become the babysitter, but at the same time, it's nice to have some time "away."

    2. racer139 Avatar

      Yes I miss having telescoping wheel. My pos g5 is very hard to get a decent driving position in. So much so that I hate HATE HATE the thing. Yes its still going. And nope the oil hasn't been changed.

  15. Piston Slap Yo Mama Avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    My 1st gen RX7 had a great feature that no other car I've owned ever had: the corner dash vents had levers on them that would bring in outside air. This is awesome because when it's cold I always have miserably cold feet, but I can't stand a stuffy and hot car. In the RX7 I could blast hot air on my toes and simultaneously cold air on my face.
    My 1st gen Insight despite its lack of luxury has a climate control unit where you set a digital temperature, and it keeps that temperature. My Ford Ranger has a stupid knob that goes red to blue, but somehow never provides the desired temperature.
    The biggest gripe I have with the vent controls in most American cars is the complete inability to choose a recirculate (RECIRC) setting when the guy ahead of me is spewing toxic gas from his tailpipe. The Ranger will only recirc when the AC is set to maximum. Totally stupid, especially on a cold day when a skunk has died nearby.
    No new car again will ever have vent windows, like you remember on your dad's Biscayne or that beater VW bug you drove in college. I miss them. The opposite of this useful feature existed in my girlfriend's Barracuda which had external vent flaps that would pop out when a lever was pulled, blowing air inside onto the floor. We were going 70 when I curiously pulled the lever: a huge blast of wind blew all the dirt on the floor mats into my eyes. We had to pull over while I recovered from my sudden blindness. Total ventilation fail.
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cd/1965_AMC_Ambassador_detail_of_vent_window.jpg/1024px-1965_AMC_Ambassador_detail_of_vent_window.jpg&quot; width="400">

    1. wunno sev Avatar
      wunno sev

      my car has this on the center stack vents! it's super nice, for the reasons you've mentioned.

  16. EriktheAwful Avatar

    A spring-tensioned serpentine belt instead of three carefully adjusted individual belts. That's convenience.

  17. windbüchse Avatar

    Memory seat adjustments. I'm 6'5", my wife 5"9", before memory (and power) seats, I'd have to squat down and move the seat back and usually the steering wheel before entering. Now, push the unlock on the remote – MAGIC – everything is as it should be!

    1. salguod Avatar

      I'm looking forward to the day when we have our first memory seat equipped car. I'm 6'1", she's 4'10". I cannot physically get in the car until I move the seat back.

  18. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Rear windscreen wipers which automatically sweep when reverse gear is engaged if the front wipers are on.
    Also steering column stalks which are illuminated by fibre optics. Haven't seen that since the Sterling.

    1. Perc Avatar

      The automatic rear wiper is especially awesome in winter when it's frozen to the glass.
      Seriously, things on the outside of the car shouldn't move automatically. This also includes frameless side windows that drop down a bit when you open the door and mirrors that food automatically when you lock the car.

      1. wunno sev Avatar
        wunno sev

        an automatic lunch dispenser would save me a lot of time, actually. what car is this again?

        1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

          Jaguar Vending Plas?

        2. Devin Avatar

          Saturn Ion Red Robin or possibly the Pontiac Montana's Cookhouse.

      2. E34Less Avatar

        THIS. That's how the $80 (!) plastic wiper arm broke on my XC70 last winter. Thankfully functionality was restored with a judicious application of zip-ties and questionable language.

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      +1 on the reverse viper. My current machine is the first one to do so. Simple and smart function.

      1. Batshitbox Avatar

        Ahhh! The Reverse Viper! Where's my whacking stick?!?

        1. AndyL Avatar

          The Reverse Viper? That's my signature move!

          1. Sjalabais Avatar

            Haha, reading and writing skill improvement necessary. But I meant what I didn't write, you know? Anyway, this is my first Google result on "reverse viper", and it doesn't seem to hurt:
            <img src="http://www.extreme-scooters.com/store/images/trikes/viper-two-seater/viper-250MD-views.jpg&quot; width="600">

  19. marmer01 Avatar

    A center armrest in the proper location. Also intermittent wipers. Bonus for variable intermittency. One touch down and up windows are nice too.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Excellent choice. The only thing I miss about a Nissan I had a couple of years back is the variable intermittency wipers. My current Honda doesn't have a middle arm rest because of a 20cm wide "walk through"-solution – fixing something from the yard is disencouraged because of seat mounted airbags.

    2. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
      C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

      Oooh, yeah. One-touch up AND windows…ALL of them.
      Love that feature. Trying to figure out how to retrofit the '98 ZJ with them, as only the driver's window does it, OEM.

  20. Slow_Joe_Crow Avatar

    Intermittent wipers and heated rear windows, my cars have always been pretty basic. Also I live in the PNW so a lot of our precipitation is mist or drizzle that is not enough for continuous wiping.
    When we had the car with power mirrors I liked it because it made handling the 11" height difference between drivers easier.

  21. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    My current car has none…well…maybe at that time heaters were still optional on the Falcon.
    I think the features I'm most likely to want and appreciate would be power steering and brakes. Neither is strictly mandatory nor increases the performance envelope of the vehicle, but they sure to reduce fatigue while driving.
    In a more modern sense, it's definitely the ubiquitous AUX-in port. Great future-proofing.
    In a modern luxury sense, cooled seats all the way.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Yours has the optional hood ornament, so I assume it's got the rest of the Convenience Package, including such luxuries as a cigarette lighter and rear arm rests. I think these also could be individually specified, though.

  22. r_toaster Avatar

    Auto dimming side mirrors, or just side mirrors in general that can be flipped to a night setting.
    Wish I had some in any of my cars as it's just annoying to get blinded by every single other car that's higher up, running their fog lights when there is no fog, has brighter lights (often cheap scattered light), or those that just need to be taken to task for poorly aimed lights.

  23. stigshift Avatar

    I'd have to add cornering lamps, which started with the '62 Cadillac. http://www.leftcoastclassics.com/1962-cadillac-co

  24. Tomsk Avatar

    Electric engine starters, hands down…unless you broke your arm trying to crank-start a Model T or something, in which case your hand is already down.

  25. El_Martillo Avatar

    For anyone that spends serious time behind the wheel the answer is satellite radio. Down side is no traffic reports.

  26. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    You weak, coddled invertebrates, with your headlights that turn on without your standing in front with a match! You'll never build any character like that.

  27. Rover_1 Avatar

    The electric starter.
    No more hand cranking, (or broken wrists)

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      Hand cranks? Luxury.
      When I was a lad, we had to unscrew all four plugs, spin the crank by hand until #1 was 15degrees past TDC, then replace only the #2 and #4 spark plugs, turn a butterfly valve to shut off fuel and air to #1 and #3, then pour exactly 80 grains of black powder into each cylinder. The next bit required two of us: We'd stand on the front wheels (no fenders, you see) and each point a specially-designed curved-barrel handgun loaded with exactly 52 grains of black powder into each spark plug well. Then, we'd have to get Ma to come out and set the ignition and timing precisely based on a calculation she'd been doing based the current temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure, then hold the throttle wide open while each of us fired our guns exactly 0.075s apart, #3 then #1. If we didn't do it just right, the old '88 Rickenbacker Special (that's 1888 to you whippersnappers) wouldn't even cough, it'd just sit there, mocking our lack of precision while we started all over again. If we did it right, it would buck and heave idling only on #2 and #4, so Ma would have to bring the revs up to exactly 552 rpm and hold it there, cause it would smooth out enough for us to screw the #1 and #3 plugs back in and open the butterfly valves, which had to be done in perfect synchronization because she'd shake herself to pieces only running on 3 cylinders.
      And that was just to get her started. Putting her in gear and driving her are stories for another time.

      1. Rover_1 Avatar

        ….And try telling them that nowadays and they won't believe you!
        Cue: Monty Python sketch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo

        1. Kiefmo Avatar

          Oh, you had it easy! What did that take you, 5 minutes? We had to do all that, except we had to rebuild the engine from clay parts we'd made in Ma's kiln the night before, 'cause mud was the best material we could afford! Even then, it'd blow itself to bits after just a mile, so we'd have to walk the 5 miles home carryin' Ma on our backs (cause she wasn't in good health in those days) to make new parts while Pa lashed at our backs with his cat-o-nine and yelled obscenities at us. When we got our new parts made 3 days later, we'd walk the 10 miles back to the car, put the engine back together while Pa continued to flog us. And if we didn't start it right on the first go it'd blow itself right back up, and we'd have to walk the 20 miles back home to start over.

          1. Kiefmo Avatar

            That's nothing! Our PA would make us hike out over a bed tacks and put a full engine's worth of parts at every mile, carrying Ma on our shoulders (poor Ma weighed 'alf a long ton by that time, bless 'er), lashing at us unceasingly, then shooting us in the head at every stop. Then he made us dance about on the parts to thoroughly destroy them and he'd laugh, laugh, laugh…

  28. alexis Avatar

    Front side mounted reverse lights. I had them in my 1982 BMW e23 and never since. There are so many times they would have been helpful since but never seen them (In my admittedly low brow cars)

  29. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Thought of another one which, on the surface, seems like a bit of overkill.
    Steering wheel radio controls.
    Pontiac went a little crazy with them in the 80's, but I've gotten quite used to them in the STS and oddly enough, the '98 Jeep ZJ 5.9L. I'll keep the OEM stereo just to retain the volume/tuning buttons on the back of the wheel.
    This is identical to the wheel I had in an '88 Bonneville LE:
    <img src="http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y180/carlos64030/IMAG2084.jpg&quot; width="400">
    Seemed kinda ridiculous at the time, but it's really nice to have.

  30. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
    C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Y'know, there was a time when seats didn't have memory settings, and it was a COMPLETE PITA to get them back to where you thought they should be.
    Even if you managed to get it back to exactly where it was, previously, it never felt 'right'.