Non-essential boxes on the options list that are essentially fun
The idea to write about this topic came up, when I came across a game described as the Porsche configurator challenge. Almost all manufacturers offer online configurators these days, they do vary quite a bit in the options department, though. While you can only choose between a couple of versions and a handful of options on some cars, you can start out with a base model Porsche 718 Cayman at 55.500 € and easily more than double the base price (without changing the engine option of course) with even the rear windscreen wiper being a 345 € option. I tried it on the German website and I got very bored at 121.832 €. So if you want to try and beat it, go ahead! I bet, you can...
The essence of driving is a term that frequently appears in motoring journalism. But I believe this essence to be a very subjective topic. For some of us, four wheels and a wooden pallet may have been the ultimate driving experience growing up. But we cannot really argue that some things made available on cars these days are completely unnecessary. Let's find out which ones are not essential, but still fun to have!
Now I can of course only talk about the ones I have experienced myself on a day to day basis over a period of several months to evaluate their use on a daily driver. The previous owner of my M140i had ticked all the boxes on the options list BMW had on offer (except for the xDrive option - and I'm eternally grateful for RWD!) and as we all know, that's quite a lot.
Now despite the headline of the article being about unnecessary options, I believe that I should talk about performance options as well. To us car enthusiasts, a factory performance upgrade may even be a necessary option. But especially if the car is already kind of blowing your budget, you may be thinking twice about fitting it with upgraded brakes and suspension.
However, having driven both a regular 1-series BMW with standard brakes and a fixed suspension setup and now my M140i, I would go for the M-Sport-Brakes and the Adaptive M-Suspension again in a heartbeat. Not only may the much stronger brakes prevent an accident, the adaptive dampers have such a wide range that it can really turn the car from a relaxed cruiser into a rigid performance car at the push of a button. One of the main problems I had with my previous Mk. 3 Ford Focus ST was the harsh ride on long trips. With an adaptive suspension setup, it would have been close to perfect.
So yes, get adaptive dampers!
Infotainment is another category on which some manufacturers let you spend a huge chunk of money. But out of the countless options, there is one that can actually be a key ingredient and, if it's available as a separate option, can save you quite a bit of money. Nowadays we all spend way too much time on our smartphones and most of us are aware of it.
When you are behind the wheel, though, you have to keep your hands off your mobile devices for a bit. Please do so for the sake of all of us.
If you really cannot survive without being up to date on WhatsApp, there is a better solution, get Apple Carplay integration or Android Auto. I first came across the former in a Ford Focus with Ford's Sync 3 system and I have to say it's brilliant. Not only does Carplay allow you to make and receive calls and text messages (including WhatsApp for most models), it also allows you to access the music on your phone directly and has built in support for several other apps including Maps!
While Apple's navigation function may not be the best on the market, it's certainly way cheaper to get the Apple Carplay integration instead of a built-in satellite navigation system. And one of my favourite parts of Carplay in the Focus was: it allows you to bypass the otherwise mediocre infotainment software in the car by simply always using Carplay instead. Siri is a good listener... Unfortunately some manufacturers therefore only offer Carplay in combination with one of their higher level infotainment options.
Want to save money on SatNav? Get Apple Carplay!
Now depending on where you live in the world, these next two things may or may not be for you. First off: a heated steering wheel. In central European winters, it may not be a must-have-option, but it is one that I can certainly recommend. Especially if you have your car parked outside most of the time. After having successfully removed the frost from all of your windows, you can put your hands on the steering wheel and feel nice and cozy right away.
A heated steering wheel is awesome!
The next thing on this list goes hand in hand with the heated steering wheel in terms of being a seasonal feature: a heated windscreen. I used to have it in my Ford and it was brilliant! In less than a minute your windscreen was free of ice and all you had to do was push a button. The nice side-effect is that you are not unintentionally leaving scratches on the glass. And also: Even with a clear view on a cold winter morning you can switch on the heated windscreen to get the inside of your car up to a cozy temperature more quickly. (On top of that, if you have leather seats, for them to be heated as well is actually a necessary option!)
Heated windscreens rock!
The speed limit here is 80, right? Or did the sign say 50 due to construction work? If you like to explore in your car and visit new places, chances are, you've been there... A very neat feature to help you in these kind of situations is road sign detection. A little symbol in your gauge cluster or on your infotainment screen reminds you of the speed limit. To optimize system performance, it uses values from your navigation database in combination with road sign recognition through a camera. Now obviously you can't always rely on the system, since the view of the camera may be obstructed at times, but it's a nice way to confirm your assumptions.
It's nothing you need to have in your car, but it can help to prevent you from getting speeding tickets.
This next feature is usually a pretty expensive one, but I would choose it again: seats with memory function. Especially when you frequently have someone else driving your car, you can always go back to your perfect driving position.
The memory function usually includes the side mirrors as well. Speaking of side mirrors: quite a few manufacturers now have an auto-dip function for the passenger side mirror on offer. It makes parallel parking so much easier and you may just save your wheels some nasty curb impacts.
Even more unnecessary in the US, you guys have so much space for cars everywhere, it's great! (This makes me think of Trump's wild hand gestures. They're great. They're the greatest gestures in the world. - Sorry, couldn't help it!)
The last two features are actually indeed completely unnecessary, but I would choose them again anyway, because they are fun.
One is an actual display of your tire pressure and temperature. While it is meanwhile mandatory for new cars to incorporate a system, which warns you of a deflating tire, the display of the data is still optional. However I like looking at data.
It's a geeky feature, I admit, but I don't really care!
And finally, the most unnecessary of them all for everyone, who sort of knows what he's doing behind a steering wheel, but a very nice thing to play around with: the parking assistant. The only really useful situation I can think of are tight parallel parking spots in crowded cities. The car can tell you whether or not it thinks the spot is big enough. But what I actually like to do is see how well it does parking the little car. And yes, we are talking about the 1-series again - one of the last cars on the planet to need a self-parking feature.
So what it is, is a parking game for my amusement. Nothing more, nothing less.
Finally, let me emphasize this, though: Apart from the brakes and the suspension, none of these things actually matter to experience great driving pleasure. If I would actually configure a new car, especially one with a ridiculously German options list (not being racist, just my casual German self), I would certainly not tick all boxes, even if I had the money. However, some of them actually do increase resale value, such as a sunroof. That being said, I hope you enjoyed reading. At this point, you actually got through the whole thing, congrats and thank you!
Now, what other unnecessary things would you guys spec your new cars with (if money was not an issue)?