By Mark G. McLaughlin
Technological breakthroughs seem to happen every day, and the auto industry is on the cutting edge. Many new cars not only include advanced communication and information systems, but also use video game-like technology to make driving easier. The engines that power cars, of course, is where automakers are competing most heavily on the technology front, with hybrids, plug-ins and even hydrogen cars now available and affordable to the mass market. Here are just five of the most technologically advanced cars that will be on display this February at the Chicago Auto Show.
2018 Chicago Auto Show
2301 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60616
Date: February 10 – 19
Time: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. every day except the last (8 p.m. on Feb. 19)
Kia Optima Hybrid Plug-In
The Kia Optima Hybrid Plug-In boasts 103 mpg and delivers that in a sedan that starts as low as $35,000. Kia believes that for technology to be truly advanced, it also has to be available to as many consumers as possible. The plug-in can run purely on electric for 29 miles between charges, but for short hops around town to the store or school, that could be enough for many buyers. The Optima has a lot of other very advanced technologies on board, both for safety and infotainment, and provides it all at a far more reasonable price than many other hybrids.
The hydrogen-fueled Toyota Mirai boasts a truly impressive and revolutionary technology suite. It can go 300 miles on a full tank and its twin hydrogen tanks take less than five minutes to fill, even if dry. The Mirai manages a very respectable 150 plus HP, and its regenerative braking system even replenishes the storage battery. The car handles well, is very comfortable and comes with a host of electronic options. Although so far only available in California, the Toyota Mirai is quite literally tomorrow’s technology today.
Acura MDX Sport Hybrid
The Acura MDX Sport Hybrid is a seven-seater, all-wheel-drive SUV with an interior that would make a luxury car envious. Its 3.0 liter V6 is paired with three electric motors (two 72 HP and one 47 HP) capable of putting out over 320 horses, which is a lot for a hybrid. The seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission makes for a very smooth ride, and throttle response, steering mode and suspension feel can all be adjusted quite literally with just the push of a button.
The Chevrolet Sonic “is proof that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get the latest in tech features,” or so observes U.S. News and World Report. Standard hi-tech features include a seven-touch infotainment system, a rearview camera, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. It handles very well and, despite its low price (under $16K), adds U.S. News, “it doesn’t skimp on features.” Despite being a subcompact it has been engineered by Chevy to provide more leg room and more cargo space than other cars in its class – and that alone is something of a tech breakthrough.
The Audi A4 is a “technological powerhouse” says U.S. News and World Report. Its unique-to-Audi “Virtual Cockpit” incorporates video game technology to replace the typical instrument panel. The standard Audi Multimedia Interface infotainment package is impressive as it is, but can be boosted with an upgrade that will blow away even the most tech-savvy drivers. Best of all, Audi has managed to make all of this unique advanced technology available at around $35,000.