After the family home, an automobile is the second largest purchase most parents make. Many buy their first vehicle hoping it will be around for years to come, but not all models are designed with the present and future in mind. If you want a ride that will be there from the day you bring baby home until long after you’ve handed the keys to your new teen driver, make sure the one you choose adapts to all of family life’s ages and stages.
Baby to tot
Bringing home baby for the first time is an unforgettable moment in a parent’s life. If you haven’t considered buying a family-friendly vehicle before this momentous day, chances are you will soon after the first time you try to get that giant infant seat through a narrow vehicle door while occupied with your most precious cargo. The need for extra space may be the catalyst for embarking on an automobile-buying adventure, but with an infant in tow, there are additional features to keep an eye out for.
Maneuvering your baby into the car just got easier with the 2017 Mazda CX-5. Its rear doors open a whopping 80 degrees instead of the standard 74 degrees, which minimizes the daily heaving, tilting, and cussing. Additionally, the Mazda CX-5 comes with a hands-free liftgate that activates via a keyless fob button.
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica does its part with hands-free sliding doors – a big bonus for minivan owners. Drivers simply make a kicking motion under the door and, like magic, it swooshes open. The Pacifica’s hands-free liftgates use this same technology, which is also found in the 2018 VW Atlas and the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir (due to go on sale this fall).
Being a new parent can be exhausting and GMC gets it. Their 2017 Acadia Denali comes equipped with a rear seat reminder, which creates an audible and visible notification that encourages drivers to check the second row before exiting the vehicle. This simple but crucial alert is a weary parent’s best friend and a safety feature that shouldn’t go without consideration.
Keyless technology is built into the majority of 2017/2018 vehicles and comes in handy for new and well-seasoned parents when their hands are full with kids or groceries. It lets drivers lock, unlock, and open doors, and in some models, a push of the button can start the car from a distance. It’s certainly something worth asking about before taking an automobile for a test drive.
Tot to teen
Kids grow up fast and parents’ needs change just as quickly. Bassinets give way to toddler beds and back seats get full. While hands-free and pushbutton technologies are great, things like storage, seating, and features that help with the distractions of driving a carload of kids to extracurricular activities take priority.
The Chrysler Pacifica, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, and VW Atlas all seat seven passengers, and both the Atlas and the Pacifica come with panoramic sunroofs making for a more spacious-feeling ride. If you're driving carpool for school, then the Atlas’s second row of seating that accommodates three car seats will come in handy, along with its 17-cup holders designed for everything from bottles and sippy cups to big gulps and travel mugs.
Cruise control with the stop-and-go function, like the one found in the Mazda CX-5, is handy for soccer parents. Nothing is more dangerous than distraction while on the road, and with a carload of kids, there are plenty of distractions. This feature keeps your vehicle at a safe following distance from other vehicles. It alerts you if it senses your vehicle approaching another too quickly and will even bring you to a stop if necessary.
Other safety features worth asking automobile sales reps about are blind spot and cross traffic alerts as well as collision and lane departure alerts. They'll help keep you and your passengers safe and offer extra peace of mind when it’s time to hand the keys off to your teen.
Handing over the keys and beyond
When your baby is brand new, it’s hard to imagine that the day will come when you hand the family ride over to them to take for a spin on their own. Knowing that they're in a car designed to parent them while they are away offers some relief – and there’s plenty of new automobile technology that will do just that.
The Pacifica’s KeySense programmable key fob allows parents to put limits on speed and audio volume, mutes the audio when front seatbelts aren’t buckled, and prevents important safety features like collision warning and brake-and-park assist from being disabled.
Similarly, the configurable Teen Driver Mode comes standard in the GMC Acadia Denali and helps parents coach their new driver. They can set speed alerts and volume and distance limits, and parents receive a report showing the driver’s performance. On a slightly different note, the Mazda CX-5 comes with traffic sign recognition which recognizes stop, do not enter, and speed limit signs, and projects alerts onto the active driving display located at the driver’s eye level so her focus stays on the road.
New automobiles are always hitting the road, but not every one of them has what it takes to stay with and protect your family as it grows up. Before you invest in your first or next family vehicle, decide which features are most important to you and choose the one that has them all.