2017 Best Auto Tech Awards
Where driving dynamics, comfort and safety are concerned, modern vehicles are steadily marching down a path toward parity. As such, technology has blossomed into one of the last great differentiators amongst competing models, and we at Kelley Blue Book have constructed an awards program around the cars that continue to push the digital envelope.
Winners are divided into two distinct categories: a mainstream set emphasizing the highest degree of tech-for-dollar, and another honoring the luxury car with the most innovative-yet-useful tech currently available. Though many cars today offer loads of cutting-edge technology at increasingly attainable prices, one critically important measure helped catapult the Honda Civic and Mercedes-Benz E-Class into their respective winner’s circles: execution. The systems featured in both models delivered on their promise of enhancing the driving experience and safety quotient without adding complexity. And when distilled down to its essence, that’s what in-vehicle tech is all about.
Value Award Winner
2017 Honda Civic EX with Honda Sensing
Our perennial Best Buy winner also happens to be a technological powerhouse. Wrapped in a value-intensive, fun-to-drive package is a compact car laden with cutting-edge features once reserved for vehicles costing three times as much. Aside from more conventional equipment like a moonroof, automatic transmission, capless fuel filler and automatic climate control – all for just under $23,000 including destination fees – the Honda Civic EX fitted with Honda Sensing includes intelligent gadgetry like passive entry with push-button start, automatic headlight control, an electronic parking brake with an auto hold feature that holds the brakes for you at stoplights, a fully digital driver information display, a multi-angle backup camera, and an 8-speaker audio system tied to a quick-witted 7-inch capacitive touchscreen infotainment center with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.
Active safety comes in the form of Honda’s exclusive Lane Watch system, which employs a small camera mounted in the passenger-side mirror to display a view down the right side of the vehicle onto the infotainment screen, as well as full-range adaptive cruise control that maintains a user-defined distance behind the vehicle ahead, automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist, which gently and seamlessly nudges you back to the center of the lane if the car begins to drift.
It’s hard to imagine that one of the most recommendable cars in the industry also happens to offer the latest infotainment, convenience and safety technology at a remarkably affordable price. But Honda made it so with the 2017 Civic, thus earning it a Best Auto Tech award in the area of value.
Luxury Award Winner
2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class with Premium 3 Package
State-of-the-art features are typically reserved for large luxury flagships, but the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class proves you don’t need a bloated luxury barge to enjoy the latest and greatest automotive technology. Better yet, all the features outlined below can be had for under $73,000, undercutting similarly equipped full-size luxury sedans by tens of thousands of dollars. Plus, the E-Class includes some content not available in any other car on the road today, such as car-to-x communication, touch and swipe steering-wheel controls, seat side bolsters that quickly inflate in the event of a side impact to move you further away from the intrusion, and Active Emergency Stop Assist that brings the car to a stop in its lane and switches on the emergency flashers if you become unresponsive behind the wheel. Also included is Pre-Safe Sound, a handy piece of software designed to emit a specific sound frequency through the audio speakers when a collision is imminent to trigger a protective reflex in your inner ear so as to minimize hearing damage caused by an accident.
The technological centerpiece is undoubtedly the floating instrument cluster housing, which contains two high-resolution 12.3-inch widescreen displays mounted beneath a single pane of glass. The information on the screens is well organized and neatly arrayed, and there are three different design themes to choose from. Operating the system is a choose-your-own-adventure affair; you can swipe, click, turn, or push your way through the menus as well as summon the home screen via three conveniently located buttons. Finishing it off are embedded 4G WiFi, web-browsing capability, handwriting recognition, navigation linked to a full-color head-up display, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.
On the driver assistance front you’ll find the usual suspects like a high-def 360-degree camera system, full-speed adaptive cruise control, and adaptive headlights with active curve and high beam control. But what really sets apart the E-Class from the competition is how it takes existing safety systems just one step further. For instance, the lane-keeping assist system not only works at virtually every speed, but can also change lanes for you automatically on the highway. The autonomous parking feature, unlike some rival systems, can automatically switch from reverse to drive and back again along with the added benefit of pulling you out of a parking space. The Pre-safe system ups the ante with cross-traffic intersection awareness, evasive steering in conjunction with automatic emergency braking, and active blind-spot detection that will guide the car back if you attempt to change lanes with a vehicle in your blind spot. Lastly, the road sign scanner displays the current speed limit on the instrument cluster but can also automatically adjust your speed accordingly – if you so choose.
As a world-class luxury car it’s no surprise the E-Class is also brimming with comfort and convenience technology, the highlights of which consist of rapid heating elements for the seats, steering wheel and armrests, along with massaging front seats, ionic air purification, adaptive air suspension, a Burmester audio system driving some 1,500 watts through 23 speakers, and a hands-free trunk that opens with the wave of your foot.
The sheer amount of this technology could be overwhelming in itself, but the E-Class incorporates it in such a way that even the most technophobic drivers will find themselves using – and in time relying on – these well-thought-out systems on a daily basis.