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The Best Driver-Assist Cars | PCMag.com

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What Cars Have the Best Driver Assist Features?

While no one likes a backseat driver, it can be a real lifesaver to have an extra set of eyes on the road. Driver-assist systems use cameras and sensors to watch out for hazards like a car in your blind spot or suddenly stopped ahead. That’s even better than having an actual human onboard, since these systems never get tired, can see better in bad weather and low light, and you can usually turn them off if they start to become annoying.

Driver-assist systems provide audible or visual (and sometimes physical) alerts if they sense a potentially dangerous situation, and some can even take action such as applying the brakes to avoid a collision or steering a car back into its lane. Others add conveniences like active cruise control to take some of the monotony and hassle out of driving.

While driver-assist systems used to be found primarily on high-end cars, they’re now available across all vehicle segments. Here are five common assists to look for when shopping for a new car:

Blind Spot Detection/Assist

Nextcar Bug artWhile all cars have side mirrors that can reduce blind spots when properly adjusted, sometimes they’re simply not enough to keep other vehicles from entering an area which you just can’t see. But cameras or sensors installed in a side view mirror can tell when a vehicle pulls alongside you, and can trigger a warning light or sound an alert—sometimes both—to let you know it’s not safe to change lanes. Some cars also have an active form of blind spot detection called that steers you back into your lane if a vehicle is detected next to you when changing lanes.

You can also add a camera to your car in the form of a dash cam, some of which have safety alerts.

Lane Departure Warning/Prevention

Drifting out of your lane when looking away from the road for a moment to, say, change radio stations, is common—and a common cause of accidents. Most lane departure warning systems use cameras mounted on the side mirrors or near the rearview mirror to watch for lane markings and warn you when a tire is about to unintentionally drift over them. Lane departure assists work similarly, but can steer you back into your lane using braking or steering inputs in addition to issuing an alert.

Driver Assists

Driver assists on the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

Forward Collision Warning/Prevention

Collisions are one of the most widespread types of accidents. They’re a frequent cause of fender benders in stop-and-go traffic, and can be deadly at highway speeds. A forward collision warning system uses a radar sensor and/or a camera to detect a vehicle ahead and the distance to it, and alert the driver with an audible and visual warning if it determines that an accident is imminent. Forward collision prevention systems go a step further and actively apply the car’s brakes to prevent or mitigate an accident. Some systems can also detect pedestrians and even cyclists, and apply the brakes to avoid hitting them.

Active Cruise Control

Cruise control is convenient for long drives, but having to constantly turn it off and on when encountering slower cars can be a hassle—and make you want to switch it off for good. Using a radar sensor, active cruise control (ACC) can tell when a car ahead is moving slower than your car and reduce your speed accordingly. ACC systems usually have a setting that allows varying the gap between your car and the vehicle in front, depending on how comfortable you are with the distance in between. Some systems can also take the car to a full stop and allow it to creep slowly ahead, so that you never have to touch the brake or accelerator in stop-and-go highway traffic.

Automated Parking

While some people are parking pros, others dread the thought of squeezing into a spot, even one with plenty of room. Automated parking systems can help by completely taking over the task. Onboard cameras can even detect a suitable spot as you drive by, and then take control of steering and even braking to ease the car into place. While most offer parallel parking, some systems can also maneuver a car into a perpendicular spot.

So, with these helpful assists in mind, here’s a list of 10 vehicles we tested that come with a range of the best driver-assist features on the market. For more, read Buying a New Car? Know Your Connectivity Options. And to add safety options to your existing vehicle, see the best ways to soup up your current car with tech.

  • Tesla Model S P85D

    Pros: Incredible performance. Zero emissions. Intuitive infotainment interface. Large touch screen. Seamless over-the-air software updates.

    Cons: Expensive. No hands-free texting. Navigation can cut out without network coverage.

    Bottom Line: The 2015 Tesla Model S leads the way for electric vehicles with its cutting-edge technology, and the P85D model leaves many luxury and performance competitors behind.

    Read Review

  • Tesla Model X 75D

    Pros: Distinctive style. Seat-pinning performance. Intuitive 17-inch touch-screen interface.

    Cons: Falcon wing doors preclude carrying anything on the roof. Panoramic windshield creates a solarium on sunny days.

    Bottom Line: The Tesla Model X has seductive cachet and provides a visceral thrill of instant torque and a delight in tech done right.

    Read Review

  • 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

    Pros: Great fuel economy. Luxurious interior on top trim. New infotainment system.

    Cons: Noisy CVT under heavy acceleration.

    Bottom Line: The 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid makes a compelling case for the ride, roominess, and fuel economy of a sedan.

    Read Review

  • 2017 Chevy Volt Premier

    Pros: Excellent all-electric range. Intuitive infotainment interface. Impressive performance.

    Cons: Backseat can’t comfortably accommodate three adult passengers. Only one streaming app.

    Bottom Line: Improvements to the 2017 Chevy Volt make it more efficient, safer, and more fun to drive, while further distancing it from the increasing plug-in hybrid competition.

    Read Review

  • 2018 BMW 740e xDrive iPerformance

    Pros: Impressive fuel economy and performance. Flexible trunk space. Cutting-edge driver assists.

    Cons: Short electric-only range. Extra cost for Apple CarPlay and no Android Auto.

    Bottom Line: If you’re a green-leaning driver who wants a large luxury sedan with all tech, comfort, and performance that the BMW 7 Series has to offer, the 2018 740e PHEV is a prime choice.

    Read Review

  • 2017 Ford Escape SE 4WD

    Pros: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. New remote app. Standard stop/start technology.

    Cons: Options add significantly to the price. Ride is a bit noisy.

    Bottom Line: The Escape has always been a popular small crossover, and Ford improves the all-new 2017 model with upgraded technology.

    Read Review

  • 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400

    Pros: Great bang for the buck. Powerful twin-turbo V6 engine. Versatile driver assists.

    Cons: Embedded-only connectivity. Space-challenged rear seat. Stiff ride quality for everyday driving.

    Bottom Line: If you’re in the market for a high-end sports coupe, the 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400 combines performance, luxury, and tech in an attractive package.

    Read Review

  • 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

    Pros: Good acceleration and handling. Intuitive and flexible infotainment system. Several standard driver assists.

    Cons: Unimpressive plastic interior. No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Noisy at high speed.

    Bottom Line: If you want a compact crossover hybrid, the Toyota RAV4 is your only option, and despite a few drawbacks, a good one.

    Read Review

  • 2017 Volvo S90 T6 AWD

    Pros: Powerful and fuel-efficient engine. Stylish, comfortable interior. Top-notch infotainment interface.

    Cons: Subscription-only connectivity. Semi-autonomous driver assists require a leap of faith.

    Bottom Line: The all-new 2017 Volvo S90 offers sleek but understated Scandinavian style and comfort, the latest driver assists, and one of the best infotainment interfaces in the midsize luxury sedan segment.

    Read Review

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