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5 cars that steered automotive tech in 2012

When you’re going to look for a new car, you might think, “Hey, it’s 2012, every car is going to have great tech.” You might be right. But some are far ahead of their competitors in the tech game. Here are the models that set the gold standard for in-car technology in 2012.

Tesla Model S

Tesla model S

The Model S is clearly the out-and-out winner in this category. And it’s winning awards left and right. This all-electric four-door sedan has all the critics raving.

No other production car can touch it, in terms of tech. Not only is the entire vehicle itself a technological wonder, the interior is awash with tech from the instrument cluster to the absolutely massive 17-inch infotainment screen that takes up the entire center stack.

model s interior

The touch screen allows users to browse navigation maps, find music, surf the net with resolution that would make any laptop envious, and control vehicle functions, including cabin temperature, lighting, door locks, panoramic roof operation, and more. What’s best about the infotainment system in the Model S, beyond its intuitive layout, is its massive size and speed. A full 17 inches allows for more than enough room to monitor your navigation map and control your music without having to switch screens.

Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL450

The Mercedes GL is the brand’s biggest SUV and was designed and built almost exclusively for the American market, that’s why it’s built in Alabama.

The new GL-Class, when optioned correctly, is absolutely bursting with tech.  Our favorite feature is the bird’s-eye reverse camera. With five cameras strategically placed around the exterior of the GL, the system seamlessly stitches the five images together around a virtual rendering of the vehicle as if there were a camera 15 or so feet above looking down.  You might have seen this on Infiniti products, but the Mercedes version is so much more precise and refined, comparing the two is like comparing an Etch A Sketch and a, well, Mercedes GL.

Mercedes GL birdseye

The GL also features the obligatory satellite navigation one would expect on a $90,000 full-size luxury SUV, as well as massaging seats.

Dodge Dart

Dodge Dart

The Dodge Dart might seem like a surprising choice, until you learn about all it has to offer by way of tech. Dodge calls it the most technically advanced vehicle in its class. And they’re right, it is.

Dodge recently went all-out – an uncharacteristic move – and designed a gorgeous 8.4-inch color touch screen infotainment system dubbed UConnect.

Dodge Dart UConnect

The Uconnect system isn’t groundbreaking like some of the tech features of other vehicles on this list. What is fantastic about it is that it’s cheap and it works right.

On the delightfully large screen, users can use Bluetooth to pair a smartphone and effortlessly stream their music through the car’s speakers. To some readers, this might seem pedestrian. Remember, however, the Dart starts at $16,000.

Uconnect incorporates satellite navigation as well as climate controls, weather alerts, and points of interest. Not to be out-done, Dodge included a rear-view camera on vehicles fitted with the Uconnect system.

Again, unlike some of the Dart’s competitors, Dodge didn’t end the bright, great looking tech there. Dodge also installed a 7-inch LCD screen in place of the instrument cluster. Fully customizable with features, colors, and the like, the Dodge Dart takes tech to the masses.

Chevrolet Spark

2013 Chevrolet Spark

There’s no denying it; the Spark is by far the cheapest vehicle on this list. But just because it’s little and cheap, doesn’t mean it’s not a heavy tech hitter. This car made the list for best tech car because Chevy did something daring with the Spark in terms of tech. It really did go its own way – and it worked. We have to respect that.

The Spark is the first mass-produced vehicle to be offered without a CD player option. Instead, the Spark relies on the smartphone of the user as the content source.

At the heart of the Spark’s tech is a 7-inch color touchscreen MyLink system. To keep the Spark cheap, Chevy chose not to install a hefty and expensive satellite navigation unit. Instead, Chevy daringly left navigation to the customer’s smartphone by way of an app. With the navigation app, users can pair their phone with the on-board Bluetooth system and use the smartphone data network to run navigation through the Spark’s MyLink system. Brilliant.

Spark MyLink Siri

The cleverness doesn’t end with smartphone app-based satnav; Chevy took it a step further by getting Apple’s Siri involved. You can leave your phone in your pocket and command Siri to place calls, dig up information or play music just by speaking.

With the Spark, Chevy proved you don’t have to spend $50,000 to get some of the best tech that the auto market has to offer. In fact, you needn’t spend more than $15,000.

Audi Allroad

Audi Allroad

Audi reintroduced one of America’s favorite wagons in 2012: the Allroad. Formerly based upon the A6 platform, the Allroad has shrunk for 2012. Now it’s based upon the A4.

With its triumphant return to the American market, the Allroad brings with it some seriously cool tech. First and foremost: 3D Google Earth and 4G hotspot technology.

The Google Earth is a first for the American market in the Allroad. Allowing users to zoom and coming from different angles allows for easier navigation, especially in unknown cities. Add to that the SiriusXM real-time traffic updates and the Allroad will help navigate you around all traffic jams in tech style.

Audi Allroad google earth

Another industry first is the Allroad’s on-board Wi-Fi, which allows tethering of up to eight devices simultaneously. Imagine, for a moment, driving through the Rocky Mountains just outside Denver. Not only can you view nature’s masterpiece from your windshield, you can gaze at  beautifully rendered versions through the Google Earth imagery coming from your navigation screen. All while your passenger, on her laptop, is tapped into the Allroad’s Wi-Fi searching for fun activities once you get back to town. Our hats are off to Audi for its tech-savvy industry firsts.