There are no new ideas anymore. At least Mark Twain didn’t think so, but automakers beg to differ.
Each year, millions of new cars roll on dealers’ lots vying for buyers’ attention. Beyond price, size, fuel economy, and space, those cars elbow past each other with (sometimes) innovative features that either blow our minds or take the wind out of our sails.
Here are some of our favorite new features for 2020, in no particular order.
2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
Trick tailgates on trucks have taken a while, but now that they’re here we’re unsure how we ever loaded a bed without them. Last year and this year, truckmakers such as Ram and GMC have offered bed steps, swinging gates, and split tailgates that help us load and unload easier. Ram’s barn-door swinging tailgate costs $995 on all trims and won our compare with the GMC multifunction tailgate thanks to its ease of use and it works better with a trailer hitch attached. GMC’s tailgate within a tailgate makes for a handy step and a grab handle makes climbing into the bed easier. What’s best? Both make for handy tailgating, which is 83% of the fun of owning a pickup to begin with.
2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo first drive
Two-speed automatic transmission
Who needs 10 speeds when two will do just fine? Well, some cars do better with two speeds anyway. The 2-speed automatic in the 2020 Porsche Taycan is exceptional and helpful. Unlike most other electric vehicles, the Taycan’s 2-speed transmission applies to the rear motor only and can help to slingshot the car to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds. A short first gear provides thrilling takeoff and a taller second gear gives the Taycan respectable cruising range. (Even though the Taycan is fairly inefficient among electric cars, but that’s another story.)
2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
Innovative camera views
Today’s trucks and SUVs have more camera angles than Cecil B. DeMille. At the top of the list (for now) are Chevrolet and GMC’s heavy-duty trucks that offer up to 15 different camera views from eight cameras placed outside the truck. Among those views: a clear rearview even with a trailer attached, side views that can see in blind spots while turning, and a front view that makes parking the tall truck easier. Ford and Ram offer similar setups with many different camera angles, all of them helpful when driving their battleship-size heavy-duty pickups.
Audi Matrix LED headlight technology
Matrix headlights aren’t really yet here, but they’re already on our list for what they can do once regulators push enough paper around. Matrix headlights are used by automakers such as Audi and Hyundai to project light in different areas of the road for better vision or to reduce glare on oncoming traffic. Rules for the roads right now prohibit headlights to project anything other than high or low beams (two lighting signatures), but automakers are pressing to show how safe matrix headlights can be. For example, matrix headlights can project high beams on specific areas of the road for better vision but can dim around the car directly ahead.
2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Exterior accent lights
Beyond headlights, automakers such as Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW, are doubling down on accent lighting outside the cars. Light-up badges, puddle lights, and accents with lights are spreading beyond luxury models into mainstream cars and beyond. The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is a mainstream example of elegant lighting with thin LED and OLED strips that automakers can use to make even pedestrian vehicles look like superstars.
Cadillac Super Cruise
Bonus: Advanced driver-assistance systems
Most automakers have available driver-assistance features that can help keep the car centered in its lane or cut driver fatigue on long slogs. (No automakers have self-driving features, despite what they or their fans may say.) BMW, Volvo, Cadillac, and Audi have systems that can assist drivers, which makes those cars not only safer but also better buys.