Being car enthusiasts, we here at Autoblog have lots of automotive-related stuff to be happy about – writing about cars is a pretty sweet gig, and we're thankful every day for the daily opportunity to share our experiences with motorized machines with all of you. And while we all share a common love for the automotive industry, each of us at Autoblog are thankful for different aspects about the industry as a whole.
Thus, in the spirit of the holiday, we've compiled a list of the automotive stuff we're most thankful for. Give it a read, and tell us about the car-related things that cause you to give thanks, in comments.
From all of us here at Autoblog, have a safe, happy and healthy Thanksgiving.
Scroll down to read about the automotive things we're thankful for this year.
The Democratization of Premium
My wife and I have been shopping for a new car, and the process has made me realize how spoiled I've become reviewing automobiles for a living. Almost every vehicle I review for Autoblog is a loaded version of a model's most expensive trim, so premium features like navigation, push-button start, heated seats and the like have become common to me. The reality is that premium features like these have traditionally been far from common in the small car segment, but that's changing quickly thanks to companies like Ford, which offers impressively full-featured Titanium versions of both its Focus and Fiesta, and Kia, which will sell you a Rio with nav, push-button start and heated starts for under $20k. The Buick Verano and Encore also prove there's demand for smaller, less expensive luxury vehicles, and more and more premium features are trickling down every model year; the 2014 Mazda3 can be ordered with radar cruise control and adaptive front headlights, and Nissan's excellent Around View Monitor is available in the Versa Note. As the hangover of an economic crises continues to subside, I'm thankful that those who've come to value fiscal responsibility a little more can still get their backsides warmed in a reasonably priced car.
Photo: Copyright 2013 Seyth Miersma / AOL
With temperatures dropping and the clouds threatening to shortly blanket the Northeast in a carpet of frozen dander, I am thankful for modern snow tires. All-wheel drive is great, and so are newer technological developments like traction control and winter drive modes that adjust things like throttle mapping, shift schedule and stability control. But at the end of the day, if the rubber doesn't shake hands with the road surface, well, it doesn't matter which wheels are driven or how much power you have under hood. These days, even the worst snow tires are superior to the best all-weather all-seasons in wintry conditions (don't even get me started on summer rubber).
The first automaker that's smart enough to offer a coast-to-coast snow tire swap program in cold-weather states will be truly on to something. It'll probably have to be a luxury marque to handle the cost and service burden, but if one of the OEMs offers to swap and store winter tires at their dealers and roll the cost into a lease or into the warranty period of a new car purchase, more people would cotton on to the value of having the right tires for the right weather.
Photo: Copyright 2013 Steven J. Ewing / AOL
Noticing a pattern here? It's true, I'm copping out and giving thanks to hot hatches yet again, but when I look back at my most memorable driving experiences of 2013, they all involve cute little turbo cars. I got to bomb around the French Alps in a Euro-spec Ford Fiesta ST, and it was nothing short of exceptional. I hustled a Mini John Cooper Works GP around the winding roads of Puerto Rico, and I giggled the entire time. I spent a week with the new Fiat 500c Abarth and enjoyed its exquisitely flawed and hilarious dynamics. And, while I never told you guys about it, I was given the keys to a brand new, seventh-generation Volkswagen GTI on an open runway at a small airport in Germany. Guess how much fun I had.
Most recently, I spent a day playing a hilariously fun game of lead-follow in the California canyons behind the wheel of a US-spec Fiesta ST, swapping back and forth with West Coast Editor Michael Harley in our long-term Hyundai Veloster Turbo. We enjoyed the hell out of these cars (spoiler alert: the Ford is way better), and they just kept wanting to go-go-go all day long.
Point is, in all of these scenarios, I wouldn't have wanted to drive anything else – and I mean that. I love light, tossable steering. I dig the silly antics of front-wheel-drive setups. I'm a big fan of "turbo moments" and boosted power, especially when there's a manual gearbox to let me click through the cogs at my own discretion. Bundle all of that in a pint-sized, functional package, and it's a winner winner chicken dinner – a tasty recipe that I simply cannot get enough of.
More hot hatches are on the horizon, and I'm stoked to drive every last one of 'em. And until some other class of car rolls around that speaks to me with such a perfect balance of performance and everyday usability, I'll be thankful for these little guys for years to come.
Photo: Copyright 2013 Steven J. Ewing / AOL
Next-Gen Racing Games
I know, I know, I know... I've just gotten done reviewing Forza Motorsport 5, and I'm still a little star-struck with the power of the Xbox One. But the truth is that it is simply one of the best driving video games I've ever played, and it makes me really thankful to know that developers are just scratching the surface of what the new Xbox and the Playstation 4 will ultimately be capable of.
Even on the old hardware, an all-new Gran Turismo 6 should make for a happy holiday season in just a couple of days, too. And upcoming titles like DriveClub and The Club will (eventually) slake my PS4-racer thirst.
This is the right time of year, around these snowy parts, to get some of my kicks out in virtual cars as opposed to the real deal. I know my wife, at least, appreciates it when I keep my enthusiasm for high-g cornering confined to the digital landscape, as opposed to unleashing it on the drive to Grandma's house. Those simulated g-forces are easier to handle with a bellyful of pie, too. Gobble gobble.
Driver-Adjustible Performance Settings
Despite being an old-school automotive enthusiast who genuinely prefers to adjust vehicle settings with greasy hand tools, I am thankful for the automakers who put fancy buttons inside the cockpit that allow me to alter suspension damping, change steering weight, improve throttle response, quicken transmission shift speed, relax stability control thresholds and increase the volume of the exhaust note without getting my typing fingers dirty.
Thankfully, we are seeing more and more of these electronic-based systems each year, but not all automakers are equally as adept in execution. I don't enjoy stand-alone, all-inclusive sport buttons, like the one on the center stack of the Mercedes-Benz C250, as I prefer to have control over each system individually to adjust to my liking (suspension 'soft,' throttle response 'fast' and exhaust note 'loud,' if you were wondering). And while some automakers offer plenty of choices – the sea of buttons spilling down the center console of the Porsche Panamera Turbo S comes to mind – most cherished are those that retain their settings long after the vehicle has been shut down. Additional applause to the automakers that effortlessly accommodate my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde mood changes and allow me to jump between soft and sport settings at a moment's notice, such as when a modified Bugeye WRX challenges me at a light.
My current favorite is by BMW – more specifically, its M Drive switch as found on the M5 and M6 – which allows all of my peculiar sport settings to be instantly recalled at the touch of a steering wheel-mounted button. The Bavarians deserve more than just seasonal thanks for their stroke of brilliance - they deserve a big hug.
West Coast Editor
Photo: Copyright 2013 AOL
Design and Style
On a personal level, I'm thankful for the team. Autoblog truly has one of the best groups in the business, and while I may be one of the "new guys," having been with the company for not even six months, it's hard to imagine being anywhere else. The teamwork and camaraderie that I see on a daily basis makes a job at Autoblog fun and, despite the amount of work, something I look forward to every day.
As for the business side of things, the increased emphasis on design and style is truly exciting. If you'd told me 10 years ago that midsize Ford or Kia sedans would look as good as the current Fusion and Optima, I'd have laughed at you and recommended medication. On the higher end, we have beautiful work from Land Rover and Jaguar, not to mention cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLA and BMW i8. It's possible to find a car in nearly any segment that will carry stares from other drivers and passers-by, while expressing its own unique personality. It is truly an exciting time to be an observer of the industry.
Photo: Copyright 2013 Michael Harley / AOL
Child Seat Convenience
As a new dad, I am thankful for modern vehicles that make it easy to accommodate – and install – child seats. I've spent the last 16 months learning how difficult it can be to put a child seat in many new cars, from banging my head on the door opening to spending an eternity trying to access to the lower latch attachments.
Sure there have been challenges (like getting the seat to fit in the back of an Infiniti Q60 Convertible), but the worst offender that I can recall was the 2014 Lexus IS. Granted, most IS owners aren't worried about a car seat, but its cramped rear seat and nearly-impossible-to-access LATCH brackets made it extremely frustrating to get things situated. Conversely, there are plenty of vehicles (especially large SUVs, crossovers and minivans) that make it easy to install a child seat, but my favorite thus far has been 2014 Kia Sorento. The large door openings and abundant space in the second row makes it simple to get the seat in and out, and even better, it has lower brackets for the front seats with incorporated loops that make attaching the rear-facing child seat tether a quick and easy task.
I also learned early that just because the LATCH straps reach far enough to allow a car seat to be placed in the center-seat position, only seats with their own brackets should be used for a child seat. Thus, I am also thankful, when applicable, for vehicles that have LATCH brackets for all three second-row seats. For those interested, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards have been updated recently, and you can find a quick guide to these changes on the Car Seats for the Littles website.
Photo: Copyright 2013 Jeffrey N. Ross / AOL
I am thankful for classic cars. Without them, there would be nothing to remind us what cars were like before computers took over almost everything, from their design to how they drive. Classic cars hark back to simpler times, when a spreadsheet wasn't required to keep track of a company's models and their many variations.
Furthermore, these old cars offer experiences that drivers can enjoy, with a more visceral connection between the seat of your pants and the road that newer cars struggle to achieve - and style that people notice. Almost any pre-1974 vehicle is sure to put a smile on the most jaded commuter's face. Have a go in an air-cooled Porsche, a BMW 2002, or one of the many other great cars from 35-plus years ago and you'll see what I mean.
On another note, I am thankful for my parents, because I wouldn't be the person I am today (or a person at all) without them.
Photo: Copyright 2013 Damon Lowney / AOL
It's Easy Being Green
As another year gets ready to wrap itself into a nice tiny package and drift off into history, it's a good time to pause and think about the good things. I'm feeling generous this year, and the time is right to be thankful for a wide variety of accomplishments on the green vehicle front.
We can quibble ( and have) about the best way to save fuel, but the reality is that I'm thankful this year for the many options when it comes to alternative powertrains. I always have people asking me which car they should buy or if an electric vehicle makes sense for them. And I tell them that there is no obvious choice, that there are different benefits and challenges to getting off of gas depending on what your driving life is like. The beautiful answer in 2013 is that we're getting ever closer to the time when a powertrain is just one more option, like color and body style, as you pick out a car. Okay, we're still somewhat limited, but two years ago there were two mass-market plug-in vehicles on the US market. By the end of next year, we should have something like two dozen. The number of diesel vehicles has increased and the Honda Civic Natural Gas is now available in over 30 states. Add all these options up and we've saved a lot of fuel thanks to cleaner technology. Throw in car-sharing and other forms of collaborative consumption and people driving less, and we can see that, somehow, hopefully, there may be a way to transition into a better future while keeping a lot of what's great about the present.
Who wouldn't be thankful for that?
It's Easy NOT Being Green
I'm grateful for hybrids, electric cars and just about anything environmentally friendly. Not because I'm obsessed with saving the world from impending ecological collapse, as much as the gung-ho recycling campaigner I was as a child might object. I am in favor of saving our planet's resources, but more so that there's gasoline and rubber for those of us who really enjoy burning it can still do so for generations to come. So drive your Prius, young tree-hugger, and plug in that Tesla. I'll be the one waving as I drive by in (or ride by on) something politically incorrect and a big smile on my face.
Photo: Copyright 2013 Drew Phillips / AOL
I remember, many years ago, pushing a 1:64 scale General Lee around my parents' orange shag carpet, a black-and-white struggling to keep up. The Duke boys would certainly escape the clutches of Rosco P. Coltrane, but I was hooked on cars.
As cars get more expensive and as today's youth seemingly become more disinterested in automobiles, I'm thankful that Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Johny Lightning, Maisto, etc., still make it affordable to own a Ferrari F40 or a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, even if the only hairpins these cars ever see are on a bathroom cabinet. Anyone can throw down a couple of dollars and spark a lifetime infatuation of the automobile.
Social Media Manager
Photo: Copyright 2013 Chris Tutor / AOL