Not every feature offered by the automakers hits the mark (did Fiat really expect us to keep pumping premium fuel into their little 500s?) However, there are plenty of options – big and small – that can make a real difference. Here are three:
Jeep people have been waiting a long time for an option like the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel in the Wrangler. After all, the most off-road ready machine in the arsenal will get the most benefit from a powerhouse with a ton of low-end grunt.
This turbodiesel is one of the direct benefits of Jeep being in the Fiat family. The Europeans are quite good at efficient diesels, and this one can deliver over 500 miles per tank while also producing 50 percent more torque than the most powerful gas engine.
Upgrading to the new powerhouse doesn’t elevate the whole experience. The chassis seems to limit the towing capacity, so all of the three available motors have the same haul rating. Plus, the added cost of diesel and DEF fluid will mean spending a little more than gas Wrangler owners. But the core benefit of big rock-crawling torque right from the start is why the EcoDiesel is a terrific feature.
It’s a $4,000 option, so Jeep is not giving away this upgrade. Still, it’s also far from a big ask.
The diesel is available on multiple trim tiers, including the base model. There are plenty of other ways to quickly add $4k in more frivolous options. So it’s not hard to see even budget-minded buyers forgoing other upgrades just so he/she can get the diesel. After all, most Wrangler owners spend years customizing their 4x4s, and so whatever options weren’t bought when new might be added by the deep aftermarket.
Subaru’s big infotainment
Value-minded people are drawn to midsize sedans. If this group were more interested in exciting trends, then they would be opting for the more expensive and less fuel frugal crossovers. But what Subaru seems to have remembered is that value isn’t just about delivering a price, but also it’s what you get for that money.
The new Legacy is likely to get cross-shopped with other Japanese brand mainstays like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, and Subaru keeps its pricing tiers close to these competitors. Every trim except the base Legacy gets the large 11.5-inch central touchscreen. Nothing this large is available on any Accord or Camry. In fact, these iPad-size screens brought a whole new buzz around the Ram 1500 pickup. So it seems particularly nice to get it on a sedan/trim that starts at under $26k.
These larger displays are the future of the industry as Apple Car Pay and Android Auto (standard on the Legacy) offer an easy way to integrate what were once expensive options like navigation and premium music services. Offering a significantly larger touchscreen and making it standard early in the trim tiers delivers a tangible value. Sitting in a Subaru can now feel like an upgraded experience over the Toyota or Honda while costing the same. That’s the kind of comparison that will sell sedans.
Mercedes-Benz’s cool cup holder (literally)
The Subaru adds value within a budget, but there’s something more for the upper echelons. The Mercedes GLS-Class is a large three-row crossover/SUV. It starts at over $75k, and just upgrading to a bigger engine will make it a six-figure machine.
Capturing customers at this end of the spectrum takes more than a nice grain in the leather. Items like the heated/cooled cup holders deliver a needed wow factor.
It’s genuinely a handy feature for keeping coffee a little warmer or sodas a little cooler. This is the kind of added luxury used and appreciated in a GLS-sized vehicle that’s built for road trips. It also doesn’t hurt that it will impress parents and co-workers (and make BMW-driving neighbors jealous.)
There are two different selections for this in the GLS. The dual front cup holders have the heat/cool option for a reasonable $180, and the single rear one is a $2,400 upgrade. That may seem like a pretty big price swing, but the back one is only available as part of a larger Rear Seat Executive package. So the whole second row gets upgraded along with the nifty cup holder.