Truly Remote Start Impresses in 2014 Chevrolet Impala

Impala_LongRangeRemote

Regular readers are probably just as tired of us talking about Chicago's polar vortex winter as we are tired of persistent cold temperatures. If there's one car feature we can point to that made one of the area's coldest and snowiest winters on record more bearable, it's the remote engine starting system on our 2014 Chevrolet Impala long-term tester.

More on Our Long-Term Fleet

The Impala's remote start is a factory-installed feature included in the $1,095 navigation and stereo package or $940 Convenience Package. Time and time again, the Impala's remote start would fire up the engine at surprisingly long distances or from well inside a house, which beat having to crack the front door and hold the key fob outside like other systems we've tested.

By Joe Bruzek | April 15, 2014 | Comments (3)

Nissan's Smart Rearview Mirror Improves Rear Visibility

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Come 2016 or 2017, Nissan could have a better rearview mirror in some of its cars. After an initial rollout to its racecars and Japan-market vehicles, the automaker plans to introduce its new Smart Rearview Mirror to global markets over the next few years. The SRM uses a high-res rearview camera to overlay what's behind you — in real time — in the conventional rearview mirror. Drivers can alternate between the mirror and the monitor with a switch on the bottom of the mirror frame.

Which Small SUV Has the Best Rear Visibility?

If it works, the technology could free drivers from the compromised sightlines that short rear windows, large rear head restraints or bulky C- and D-pillars create. It also means big Uncle Eddy could sit in back without blocking three interstate lanes.

But execution matters in a huge way.

By Kelsey Mays | April 14, 2014 | Comments (1)

Texting-While-Driving Consequences Vary by State

TextingWhileDriving

Generally speaking, a moving violation is when a driver breaks the law while their vehicle is in motion. Examples of patently dangerous actions include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding and running a stop sign. But what about texting while driving?

Cars.com Undercover: Texting While Driving Rampant

That indisputably risky variety of distracted driving that puts drivers' eyes on their smartphone screens and their thumbs on the digital keys — and only a portion of their attention on the road — has been shown to directly correlate with accidents. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to crash, a major contributor to the thousands of distracted-driving deaths that occur each year.

By Matt Schmitz | April 11, 2014 | Comments (3)

Distracted Driving Campaign Targets 'Big Fat Myth' of Hands-Free Safety

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Safety advocates want motorists to pay attention to the dangers of distracted driving. As April is designated Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the century-old Itasca, Ill.-based National Safety Council has released a new poll showing that 80 percent of drivers across the U.S. believe hands-free devices are safer than using a handheld phone while behind the wheel. The group believes this not to be the case. Meanwhile, among motorists reporting using hands-free devices while driving, 70 percent said they do so for safety reasons.

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"While many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device, it's just not true," said David Teater, the NSC's senior director of transportation initiatives. "The problem is the brain does not truly multitask. Just like you can't read a book and talk on the phone, you can't safely operate a vehicle and talk on the phone."

By Matt Schmitz | April 10, 2014 | Comments (5)

Fiat Updates 500 Lineup for 2015

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Visitors to the 2014 New York International Auto Show this month will find a 2015 Fiat 500 lineup with updated offerings inside, outside and under the hood. Perhaps the most significant among these is a newfangled gauge cluster with a 7-inch high-definition display, which will be standard on the 2015 Fiat 500 Sport, Lounge, Turbo and Abarth models, and optional on the Pop. Meanwhile, the performance-focused Abarth, Abarth Cabrio and Turbo models will offer a new six-speed automatic transmission.

More 2014 New York Auto Show News

Fiat says the new Thin Film Transistor, or TFT, instrument cluster allows drivers to more easily monitor data including speed, fuel level, Eco index and trip info. On the main screen, an image of the vehicle is surrounded by info such as distance traveled, gas mileage and range; other display options include audio and phone screens showing station and call info, respectively. For models equipped with rear parking assist, a screen shows drivers their backup camera view.

By Matt Schmitz | April 7, 2014 | Comments (3)

App Helps Urban Drivers Avoid Street-Sweeping Tickets

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You thought to yourself, "This is too good to be true," last night when you pulled into that parking space right in front of your building. After all, you live on a crowded street in a crowded neighborhood in a crowded city and normally have to circle the block at least three times. Yet there was a curbside space so big you maneuvered into it nose first. And why not? Everyone lucks out and snags a sweet spot once in a while, right? Actually, maybe not. See, what you did was park on the side scheduled for overnight street sweeping, and then you were greeted by a nice fat ticket when you left for work the next day.

More Car Gadgets News on Cars.com

And so goes the plight of the urban-dwelling car owner. If you are one, you've likely experienced any number of similar scenarios, from snow tow zones to construction parking bans to parade routes; street-sweeping-related parking tickets rank among the most common. According to pay-per-mile car-insurance provider MetroMile, it was the most frequently issued of all tickets in San Francisco in 2011, at $60 a pop costing the city's drivers $29 million. But the story should be relatable to motorists in other congested metropolises like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago where parking is tight and warning signs confusing.

To help drivers avoid getting cleaned out by street-sweeping tickets, MetroMile has developed a smartphone app that warns parking motorists. Working in tandem with the company's connected-car device, the Metronome, which plugs into a vehicle's OBD-II port, the app uses onboard GPS to note the location of the parked vehicle. If it's in a street-sweeping zone, the app will send a push notification 12 hours ahead of the sweeping schedule and a reminder an hour before.

By Matt Schmitz | April 4, 2014 | Comments (3)

Honda's New Touch Display Multimedia System Put To the Test

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The automotive world is in a battle over touch-sensitive controls versus old-fashioned buttons and knobs. Some automakers pull off the new-wave systems well, others not so much. As a group, the editors at Cars.com generally favor some sort of physical buttons to complement the latest in-car technology.

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Honda doesn't seem to agree. Its latest Touch Display Radio is devoid of any physical controls and is featured in one of its most popular cars, the Civic. It also will be rolled out in the redesigned 2015 Fit that goes on sale later this year. How well does it work?

By David Thomas | March 24, 2014 | Comments (0)

Lexus' Pre-Programmed Texts Are More Than 'Yes' and 'No'

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Automakers integrating text message functionality into new cars is a trend cropping up in everything from Cars.com's former 2013 Honda Civic long-term tester to the 2014 Lexus ES 350 we recently tested. Even though the level of distracted driving while using such systems is still being debated, the connectivity is proliferating quickly.

AAA Study: Hands-Free Isn't Risk-Free

You probably know the basics: Drivers can listen and respond to incoming text messages through the car's multimedia and Bluetooth system via voice commands or preprogrammed reply messages. We're used to seeing "Yes," "No" and "I'm driving" responses. The ES 350's SMS Text-to-Speech With Reply feature takes preprogrammed responses to another level with 15 available replies.

By Joe Bruzek | March 19, 2014 | Comments (0)

Beats Music Service Coming to 2015 Chevrolets

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Chevrolet announced today that it will offer the Beats Music streaming audio service later this year as part of its new AppShop feature. The app will be available on select 2015 models in the brand's lineup. General Motors is upgrading to high-speed 4G LTE broadband connections for its OnStar service starting with select 2015 models, and this is leading to a host of new features that will come on new vehicles later this year.

More Car Gadget News 

Beats Music, launched earlier this year and spearheaded by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, is the latest streaming audio player that allows paying customers to access music via the internet and play it on various devices. It uses broadband wireless connection in the car for the Chevrolet integration.

By Aaron Bragman | March 7, 2014 | Comments (1)

How Did Lexus Mess Up a Heated Steering Wheel?

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A heated steering wheel is one of those comfort features that once experienced you wonder how you ever managed to live without it.

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That's been especially true this winter around Cars.com's Chicago headquarters, where the temperature has dipped below zero degrees on 22 days and more subzero weather is on the way.

That also is why some Cars.com editors were mildly frosted — though none suffered frostbite — when they recently test-drove Lexus models with steering wheels that were only partially heated.

The indignity.

By Rick Popely | March 6, 2014 | Comments (17)

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