When packing your car to head out on a family road trip, do you have everything that is needed, or are you missing some key new items to make it even better. You’ve got your phone with its battery at 100 percent. You’ve got great playlists to get you down the road. You’ve even got a proper emergency kit full of essential tools in case of trouble on the road. Now all you need is something that will make it easy to sift through your music, mount your phone at eye level, and keep you from getting that speeding ticket.
iBolt Command Remote ($35)
Call it the magic button for your car. This Bluetooth button adheres to your dashboard using an adhesive strip, then syncs over Bluetooth to your phone. You use it to issue voice commands to your phone, such as skipping a music track or asking Siri for directions, so that you don’t have to take your eyes or hands off the wheel while you drive.
Cobra DSP 9200 BT Radar Detector ($400)
The price tag on this small windshield-mounted adapter might seem high if your only goal is to avoid speed traps; other radar detectors come a lot cheaper. But Cobra has packed in handy extra features here. Once it’s installed and synced to the Cobra iRadar app on your phone, the detector scans for lasers, radars, and cameras, and notifies you by voice prompts as you drive. Other users can flag caution areas. The app also lets you control your music, get directions, and locate your car.
Whether you’re making a trip to visit relatives across the country or enjoying a road trip with friends, long car rides can become uncomfortable. Simple attributes of your car will make the journey more enjoyable for all.
When I was 13, Cox and I had a heated discussion about the features and engineering that optimize a car for long-distance travel. Cox, a friend of my dad’s who had logged about a million highway miles, argued that the best machine for a long road trip was a silent, smooth-riding car like his Buick.
I scoffed. Buicks were bourgeois luxury barges that no real driver would be caught dead in. Although I had yet to drive a single highway mile, I declared that the ultimate car for a long trip was the Ford GT, a machine that had won the 24 Hours of Lemans. Never mind that the GT’s engine wailed away just millimeters from the driver’s skull, or that the interior was the size of a Guantanamo confinement box – this was a true driver’s machine that would be ideal for a major trip.
Or so I believed.
In the decades that have passed since that argument, I have learned a lot about what makes a great highway car – and I have also learned that the Colonel was smarter than I realized.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I did a 3,000-kilometre road trip to Georgia and back. We’ve done this trip in many different cars. In some, the trip was effortless. In others, it felt like a four-wheeled version of the Bataan Death March.
This got me thinking about the essence of the long-distance machine. What are the automotive qualities that make distance disappear?