It’s a fact that cars are getting more intelligent by the day and with the addition of clever software they can communicate with each other on the move and so we get the most up-to-date information about ongoing traffic reports and the likes.
But with the introduction of artificial intelligence through the numerous personal assistant systems such as Alexa, Hey Mercedes or Hey BMW, there is often a price to pay and it’s not always a financial one.
I clock up a lot of miles alone test driving, so experimenting with the voice-activated systems within cars can be highly entertaining. And there’s no denying that by asking for a destination to be automatically programmed in whilst driving, and being able to keep both hands on the wheel, is a big advantage.
But, they are not without their pitfalls.
For example, I had a Vauxhall that was determined to programme in Bournemouth as a final destination despite constantly repeating that I wanted to go to Brecon. I had a Volvo that insisted my vehicle was permanently positioned in the Irish Sea and as for the Hey Mercedes function that calls up the car’s personal assistant, it can be a tad frustrating that she pipes up every time you mention the word ‘Mercedes’ like it or not. And it cannot be deactivated.
On the upside, the Mercedes-Benz system is brilliantly efficient and great for functions such as adjusting the temperature, changing radio stations, getting tips on recommended restaurants in an area, finding parking spaces and lots, lots more. So, definitely a case of highs and lows.
Another area where cars have developed at a pace over recent years is the interior layout and design. It would seem we all want a minimalist cabin with smart touchscreens and fewer buttons. This may look amazing, but it can be frustrating to navigate a touchscreen menu system if you simply want to turn on the air conditioning.
With that in mind when you sit inside your potential new car, think hard about what functions you use the most and explore how easy they are to operate. Clutter-free is nice, but you don’t want too many touchscreen distractions while driving. Finding the right balance is essential – Mercedes excels at this with one of the most attractive yet user-friendly systems around.
Then there is the cost to consider. On premium brands, such as Audi and BMW, you can often upgrade all manner of features such as the sound system. But do you really need an extra eight speakers when the standard system is generally pitch-perfect anyway? Is a head-up display essential and are the camera stalks instead of mirrors on the Audi e-tron really that practical in real life? I suggest you try before you buy.
And also be careful about taking the final cost of the car over the £40,000 mark because the taxman will hit you in the pocket with an extra £325 supplement for the first five years of ownership.
So, you really need to think hard about what benefit you will get from the multitude of onboard features and whether or not it’s worth the extra cash. Do your homework before you visit a showroom. Have a checklist of what you really want and maybe want to explore. But be careful not to be drawn into getting every bell and whistle imaginable.