9 Must-Have Options for Summertime Cruising
Warm-weather accessories you'll appreciate during the dog days of summer.
Anyone can plan a great summer drive by donning polarized shades and stuffing the trunk full of outdoor gear. But not everyone can cool their lemonades without ice or camp comfortably in their car — and very few drivers avoid being scorched by their leather seats. To really cruise in style and comfort, you'll need a car that sports the latest warm-weather features. We've chosen nine such features, most of which are available only as factory options or dealer accessories. Even if you don't live in a perpetually sun-drenched dreamland state such as California, you'll appreciate them when vacation comes due.
Download the new MSN Autos mobile app.
The tailgate party, whether in a stadium parking lot or on a beach, is an automotive ritual best experienced with a car that can place the tunes where the gang can hear them. Certain SUVs perform better than others at this task. Press the Party Mode button at the back of a Toyota 4Runner Limited and the optional JBL audio system ($1,155, bundled with navigation) will instantly send more volume to the rear speakers. For $1,150, the Dodge Caliber can be equipped with a fold-out Boston Acoustics boombox built right into the tailgate. The Jeep Wrangler has a pair of speakers built into the roll cage, which makes the music easy to hear even when the roof is attached. Bass lovers will like how Mitsubishi packs a 10-inch Rockford Fosgate subwoofer at the very rear of the Mitsubishi SE (equipped with the $1,800 premium package).
When you're craving liquids and the gas station is out of cold ones, a cooled cupholder is your quickest route to a slightly cool Gatorade. Just flip two switches and these front cupholders start to chill in a matter of minutes. (Be careful; they also can heat.) They're available on just three cars and only on certain trim levels: the Dodge Charger SXT Plus ($30,495), the Chrysler 300C ($39,595) and the Cadillac Escalade Platinum ($80,940). So long as you're not expecting a freezing-cold miracle, it's a welcome touch on a stifling day.
Even better than cooled cupholders are hidden cooler boxes, a luxury no longer limited to Maybach passengers sipping chilled champagne. The workaday Dodge Caliber, for instance, offers as standard equipment a glove-compartment cooler that can hold four 20-ounce bottles. The top-level Honda Odyssey EX-L does the same thing, but has its own dedicated pull-out bin at the bottom of the center console. On Ford Flex Limited and Lincoln MKT models, a deep cooler box fits right between the second-row seats. Land Rover offers a standard cooler box under the front armrest on LR4 and Range Rover Sport models. One thing to remember: The engine must be running to keep your stash cold, so don't let that half-eaten roast beef-and-mayo sandwich linger.
Ventilated, air-conditioned seats are now common in luxury cars. But no matter how good those seat fans are, the upholstery — especially leather — can reach skin-searing temperatures after a few minutes in direct sunlight. The fix? Most Audi and BMW convertibles treat their leather seats with heat-reflecting pigments that keep the rays at bay. On the R8 Spyder, Audi says the pigments lower surface temperatures as much as 68 degrees versus a standard seat. We can't vouch for exact numbers, but we've never gotten burned in a new German drop-top.
For the ultimate sky vision without a convertible, no fewer than two moonroofs will do — or if you're lucky, you'll have an extra-long "panoramic" glass roof. The Nissan Murano and Kia Optima are available with front and rear moonroofs, while the Land Rover LR4 packs a third. The two biggest panoramic moonroofs come on the Volkswagen Touareg — also shared on the Audi Q5 — and the Range Rover Evoque, which has no cross brace to separate the view. Even the Ford Mustang comes with a sleek, unobstructed glass roof. However, many of these extra-large moonroofs can't open far or don't open at all, and others come with thin sunshades that won't fully block the sun. Your only fix: a $109,000 Mercedes SL with Magic Sky Control, which tints the hardtop's glass from clear to dark in seconds.
Stickier tires can make any car more fun. On sports cars and other performance sedans and SUVs, fresh summer-rated tires can turn a good drive into nirvana. They're standard on models such as the Mazdaspeed3, and when they're warm they deliver the kind of bite, response and braking prowess that regular all-season tires can't match. You'll spend either a little or a lot, depending on what size tires your car requires. A set of Goodyear Eagle F1s fitted to a base BMW Z4 costs about $600, while the staggered Pirelli P Zeros on a Jaguar XKR-S will run you three times that amount. When winter nears, either take them off or stop driving — no exceptions. Summer tires get too stiff and lose much of their traction when temperatures fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many people have slept in a car. But how about sleeping with your car? For less than $400, you can attach a camping tent to the open hatch of your Jeep, Honda or Nissan SUV. Consider it either a very cheap recreational vehicle or an overnight bonding experience with your Wrangler. Either way, climbing into your vehicle from any of these 10-by-10-foot tents, especially when attached to the low-riding Nissan Quest or Honda Odyssey minivans, is an easy way to access your gear while staying dry. And you'll look like a hero if it rains at the tailgating party.
Sometimes, the glaring sun beats down too hard. For that, a wide variety of new cars offer both manual and powered sunshades that cover the back and side rear windows. Manual side window sunshades like those on the Chrysler Town & Country and Hyundai Azera slide up via a center console. On more expensive cars such as the Mercedes S-Class, the driver and passengers can use the window switches to operate the side sunshades. They're still perforated to keep the driver's vision clear, but when combined with tinted glass, the dimming effect is more than sufficient.
It's easy to find factory and aftermarket roof-rack systems for almost any car, whether you're carrying luggage, bikes or kayaks. A few cars pack some worthy surprises, such as Porsche's roof racks for its 911 and Cayman sports cars ($400). For bikers, the MINI Cooper's rack can be fitted with a clever pivoting arm that can lift a bike from the ground to the roof in one clean motion ($550). Dodge and Chrysler minivans have racks with detachable crossbars that stow into the side rails, which cuts down on wind noise when they're not needed (standard on Chrysler Town & Country SXT models). Fasten everything down, double-check your straps, and you're good to go.
Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving and riding in cars he doesn't own. He writes regularly for MSN Autos and The Boston Globe and also contributes to Car and Driver, among other websites and magazines. He lives in Boston and is a member of the New England Motor Press Association.
Find new and used cars with our mobile app.
See what's trending and why in real time on msnNOW.
- Visit MSN Autos' "Exhaust Notes" blog to keep up on all things automotive.
- In the market for a new car? MSN Autos is pleased to provide you with information and services designed to save you time, money and hassle. Click to research prices and specifications on any new car on the market or get a free price quote through MSN Autos' New-Car Buying Service.
Must-See on MSN
Back in the 90s a buddy got a tool box for his truck that was half refrigerator. I though that would really take off, but it didn't.
I like the cooler boxes. The cooled cup holders are pretty ''cool'' too.
cars with tents attached is pretty stupid. the upside would be what?I camp all the time and a tent attached to my vehicle is the last thing I would want. Rarely are my tents close to my vehicle. My vehicle may be being used for a border at Talledaga and a power plug anywhere. My vehicle rarely is that close to my tents and anyone that buys one does not know much about camping