Facing extinction: A dozen new car features not long for this world
There's a good chance your car has a few of these features - but the 2020 model probably won't. Here they are and here's why.
Once upon a time, new cars came with whizz-bang features like high-fidelity eight-track players, chrome bumpers ready to impale innocent children, elegantly etched non-safety glass and splinter-prone wooden wheels wrapped in solid rubber.
Times have changed, of course, and most modern drivers have probably forgotten that these features ever existed. How about hinged A-pillar windows ready to bring in a draft of fresh air? And plaid rubber trunk floor covers? Long gone.
Leftlane's editors came up with a list of a dozen features you'll find on some, but not many, new cars in the United States. These features are falling out of favor, replaced out of consumer disinterest, victims of indifference, subjected to federal mandates, the result of cost cutting and traded out for technological innovation.
This list is by no means comprehensive. Share with us your favorite features still found on some brand new cars that the next generation of drivers will probably never know.
12. Spare tires Advanced tires are less likely to be punctured, while runflat technology and simple cost and weight cutting have spelled the end of the line for spare tires. They're optional on some less expensive cars, like the Chevrolet Cruze, while sportier cars can rely on stiffer-riding runflats without irking buyers too much.
11. Accessory gauges Attacking both the upper and lower end of the new car spectrum, electronics are eating away at traditional needle-style fuel, oil pressure, voltage and coolant temperature gauges. Cheap cars come with limited information lights to save money, while pricier models feature multi-function screens akin to iPads.
10. Cigarette lighters You can still light up a smoke in some new cars, but lighters are mostly relegated to high-end European imports and a smattering of domestic and Japanese offerings. We recently sampled a 2011 Ford F-150 that still came with a lighter, but no ashtray was in sight, for example.
9. Hubcaps Once a staple of mid-level trim - one step above steel wheels and one step below lightweight alloys - hubcaps are fading quickly. You'll still find them as standard on most cars listing below $20,000, but you'd better act fast. Some automakers - namely domestic brands - have started using chromed plastic hubcaps placed over alloy wheels for an inexpensive and durable cosmetic upgrade.
8. Separate CD Changers We'll argue that even single CD players are on their way out as Bluetooth streaming audio becomes more popular, but until just a few years ago, five, six and ten-disc changers were ready to dispense tunes. Mounted seemingly everywhere - in consoles, glove boxes, trunks and under seats - CD changers are a rare sight today. We recently found one in the center console of a 2011 Honda CR-V, but their presence is increasingly rare.
7. Keys and remote fobs Nearly every new model introduced in the last couple of years has offered keyless access and push-button start, both of which allow the driver to keep a plastic key fob in his or her pocket or purse. Ignition keys - especially those with separate remote fobs - your days are numbered.
6. Roll-up windows and manual locks We used to roll windows up slowly in order to do a poor job of convincing other motorists that we had "fancy" power windows. Virtually every car today has standard power windows aside from the cheapest cars on the market. The base trim level of the 2012 Ford Focus offers a a return to an interesting compromise: Power rear windows are an option. Still fairly common in Europe, only a handful of cars - the Dodge Neon, for instance - have been equipped like this in the U.S.
5. Headlights you have to turn on yourself It still amazes us that drivers can't remember to turn their lights on, but we know they do. Go for a drive tonight and you'll see what we mean, even if that moron in the Accord coming your way doesn't. Almost every new car today features automatic headlamps triggered by a darkness sensor and the most advanced automatically dim or engage high beams.
4. Cassette players It looks like this longstanding favorite of '80s and '90s youths (mix tapes anyone?) finally bit the dust for 2011. Appropriately, the Mercury Grand Marquis and the Lexus SC430 helped extinguish the flame by riding out 2010 as the last new cars with available cassette players.
3. Day/night mirrors Pioneered by luxury cars in the late 1980s, automatic dimming mirrors are becoming standard or at least optional equipment in almost every new car today. Gone soon will be the practice of flipping a toggle switch at the bottom of the rearview mirror. Years ago, simply having the toggle was a luxury!
2. Dipsticks Much to the chagrin of BMW drivers everywhere, the German automaker started removing dipsticks from its North American-specification models several years ago. The explanation was that oil level sensors are smarter than Americans. Well, that wasn't quite it, but it was close. Other automakers quickly followed suit.
1. Gasoline engines With the mass-market Nissan Leaf hitting streets nationwide next year, we can finally add gasoline internal combustion engines to the list. We're not exactly sure what will be the propulsion of choice in 50 years, but we wouldn't put your long-term investment plans in gasoline stations.
Leftlane's bottom line
We won't miss most of these features since they're giving up the ghost in the name of progress. But we sure can't wait to show our grandkids a "vintage" Pontiac G8 GT at the 2040 Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti, Michigan (check out the 2011 next fall if you're in the neighborhood).
"Look, Timmy, that's what we used to call a gasoline engine!"