Northern Exposure: Most Futuristic Cabins automotive technology auto articles auto consumer info auto tech
Northern Exposure: Most Futuristic Cabins automotive technology auto articles auto consumer info auto tech
The Tesla Model S is likely everything Sean wants, but the price range puts it out of his budget. Click image to enlarge

Article by Justin Pritchard, photos by Autos.ca staff

Owning an actual spaceship is a stupid idea because spaceships are difficult to park, conspicuous, and very pricey to fuel and insure. Plus, full-throttle operation vaporizes anything within a half-mile radius, and all of your fellow motorists would know you’re a great big geek – just like my friend Sean.

Sean is many things – including a medical doctor straight out of school, a card-carrying Star Trek fanatic, and a definite non car-buff. Sean can tell you how many warp speeds the USS Enterprise can do when being chased by evil Borg space cubes, but he doesn’t know how many cylinders a V8 engine has. You get the idea.

The other night we were talking cars. Sean wanted something more upscale to replace his second Honda Civic, a 2009, which he bought primarily because it’ll probably never break, starts at 30 below, and gets good gas mileage.

I asked Sean the usual questions to help form an answer: his price range, his priorities for fuel mileage, space, comfort, looks, and what he wanted his car to do for him. I also asked for his wish-list of features and technologies.

Sean’s answer was interesting. He wanted something “reasonably” priced, (we decided on keeping to about $50,000 or less), not too hoity but upscale nonetheless, and something that “looked like a spaceship” inside.

Huh? A Spaceship?

“You know. Like a spaceship. High tech and futuristic and all that. Like the Enterprise.”

Sean’s propensity towards touchscreens and voice command and smart interfaces and digital displays and other forms of high-tech knick-knackery meant his number-one selling feature in a new ride would be a cabin that put him at the helm, or in the captain’s chair – not the driver’s seat.

He’s after a car that has a clean, bright, animated and responsive man-to-machine interface like you’d see in a sci-fi movie, and some gadgetry and feature content to match. Something that sets a trend, a little, in cabin design, and isn’t old school. In all, a place to relax while tapping away at touchscreens, manipulating gadgets, voice-commanding the hailing system to open frequencies to nearby friends and family on the sub-space communication (cellular) network or avoiding pesky sneak attacks from Klingon warships (Corollas driven by the elderly).

So, anyhow, here’s the list of rides I gave Sean to try, and a list of the spaceshippy bits that go with each to help Sean and other future-loving fans to further embrace his his or her inner geek.

Northern Exposure: Most Futuristic Cabins automotive technology auto articles auto consumer info auto tech Northern Exposure: Most Futuristic Cabins automotive technology auto articles auto consumer info auto tech
2013 Lincoln MKZ, 2014 Ford Fusion gauges. Click image to enlarge

Lincoln MKZ / Ford Fusion: I put these two corporate cousins together on Sean’s list since they’re similar in many ways – including in the interface, communications and high-tech departments that Sean was after. He’s also a fan of the idea of owning a Hybrid, since Hybrids are even more high-tech and complicated than regular cars, and he could get either of these with a hybrid powertrain (even a plug-in!), if he wanted.

Spaceshippy Bits: The Fusion and MKZ have instrument clusters with an analog speedometer flanked by two fully-digital, full-colour display screens that can be customized to show almost anything you’d like. These are animated nicely, and operate from the button pads on the steering wheel. Further, with the Sync infotainment system, both machines provide intuitive voice-commanded access to contacts, navigation coordinates, media and information and lots more, with a simple button press and spoken command(s).

The touch-slider controls in the Lincoln allow drivers to manipulate entertainment volume and HVAC fan speed by sliding their finger along a surface, with the movement traced by LED lighting. This is straight out of the Star Trek transporter room.

Northern Exposure: Most Futuristic Cabins automotive technology auto articles auto consumer info auto tech Northern Exposure: Most Futuristic Cabins automotive technology auto articles auto consumer info auto tech Northern Exposure: Most Futuristic Cabins automotive technology auto articles auto consumer info auto tech
Lincoln MKZ. Click image to enlarge

Both machines have numerous clickless controls on the console that operate with a simple tap on the appropriate area.

In the Lincoln, these are back-lit through the console surface and disappear when the vehicle is shut off. The centre console here is big and futuristic too, partly since there’s no gear lever on it. Oh, and there’s colour-selectable ambient mood-lighting that can be set to Red Alert. I think he’s sold.

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