Article and photos by Justin Pritchard
For countless Canadians, there’s nothing like an hours-long trip on the open road. Whether you’re taking in the scenery on the way to the cottage, working across the province or hauling the fam-jam off to a weekend destination, an hours-long ride can be just the ticket for unwinding and relaxation en route to or from your destination.
Weekly, your writer spends 10 hours on the highway in his assigned test car covering some 800 km on top of his usual week of in-town driving. The other night, I had a conversation with myself about the math behind this ongoing venture. Over the current span of my career as a car-reviewer, that’s added up to over a million kilometres driven, perhaps 110,000 litres of fuel combusted, and no less than seven months behind the wheel.
Favourite Features for Long-Distance Driving. Click image to enlarge
Good thing I like driving.
While I take in all of this driving to report back to readers on the latest and greatest offerings in the auto industry, I’ve come to form a list of favourite features that help pass the endless hours and klicks more confidently, comfortably and easily.
So, my fellow long-haul driving buffs, I present a list of must-have features in new cars that make for fantastic long-haul travels. Note that several deal with driving at night, which is a big part of my weekly drive.
You’ll have your own list of favourite features for long-haul comfort and confidence, but these are some to consider on your next purchase if you log a lot of highway driving time.
Feature: Ford Sync / Kia UVO / Nissan Connect etc.
Why: Because systems like these make it easy and intuitive to access important stuff like your cell phone contacts, navigation system, and things like traffic conditions, weather and movie listings on the go. Once you learn the system’s voice interface, you can manipulate virtually any function related to entertainment, climate control, navigation or information with the press of a button and spoken command. If you like staying connected, informed and on-course on the move, systems like Sync, Nissan Connect and UVO make it simple and stress-free.
Notable: Check Sync out in the Ford of your choice, and the rebranded Kia equivalent, UVO, in a variety of Kia models.
Feature: Xenon headlamps
Why: Because xenon lights offer powerful, saturating illumination that closely mimics the colour of sunlight – meaning your eyes need to work less to sort out the road ahead after dark. Where a low-performance lighting system may require straining and squinting to see details up the road, xenon lights make spotting things like wildlife, signs and potential hazards easy. Even a middle-of-the-line xenon lighting system can leave your eyes fresher and more alert after several hours of nighttime driving. The benefits are even more apparent in winter, where reduced daylight and the abundance of gleaming white snow wear at the eyes of drivers during the day.
Notable: Acura TL, Cadillac CTS, Audi A4, Chrysler 300, Mercedes ML
Feature: Head-Up Display (HUD)
Why: Because with a HUD, your eyes can spend more time on the road ahead, and less time looking down at the instrument cluster. Though this rare feature is sort of a novelty, I’ve noted that dimming the instrument cluster and relying solely on the HUD for vital running data helps create a relaxing driving experience. Many new HUD systems even display navigation directions – eliminating the need to glance down and sideways at the nav screen. A HUD is an easy-to-appreciate system, a great way to reduce eye fatigue, and a bit of a conversation starter, too.
Notable: Chevrolet Camaro, BMW M6, Mazda3