Refrigerators and Power Headrests: In-Car Tech That’s Gone too Far

2011 Mercedes-Benz CL600

2011 Mercedes-Benz CL600

As an admitted car enthusiast (or addict, according to some people), I revel in new automobile technology.

Well, the cool and useful stuff, anyway.

Engines that churn out more horsepower using less fuel excite me. Advances in car audio get my heart pumping. Heated seats and power liftgates are direct descendants of heaven. But thermoelectric rear center-console refrigerators and power up/down headrests, as offered in the new Hyundai Equus? No, thanks.

These are signs that in-car technology has gone as far as it should. Not as far as it can, but as far as it should. Now that power headrests are an option, it won’t be long before things like thermoelectric power door handles and gasoline-powered cupholders become standard fare. And no one needs that.

Mercedes-Benz announced yesterday (scroll down for the press release) that two new advanced V8 engines will soon prowl U.S. streets. That’s right up my alley, and the kind of technology that makes a real difference in the world. The company tells us its new 4.6-liter V8 engine,

has 20 percent smaller displacement than its predecessor but generates 429 horsepower and 516 lb.-ft. of torque – 12 percent more horsepower and 32 percent more torque than the engine it replaces yet fuel economy improves by about 10%.

The second engine making its debut is the hand-assembled high-performance 5.5-liter AMG V8 engine, featuring the use of stop/start technology as well as twin turbochargers and direct injection. This new engine produces 536 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque while at the same time achieving an estimated 20 percent improvement in fuel economy.

The engines will debut in the 2011 CL-Class set to arrive at dealerships in November and begin at $114,025.

For that price, the new Benz will surely feature lots of other technology goodies too, but I hope nothing like the aforementioned Equus’ gimmicky refrigerator and headrests. Actually, the latest uber-Hyundai uses a host of technology that has no business in cars, including, prepare yourself for this one, a forward-view camera.

Call me an old-school purist if you must, but I think a much cheaper option, and one that has been around since the advent of motoring, is to simply look forward when driving. Crazy, I know.

I’m tempted to accuse Hyundai of adding random technology to the Equus simply to help justify its $58,000 starting price. The car does have a divine power trunk lid, though, so I’ll keep my mouth shut.

Do you adjust your headrest enough to justify putting a motor in it?


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Used Mercedes-Benz CL-Class


  1. My 1988 Bmw 735i has power headrests and its over 20 years old the technology has been around for a long time. It may sound silly but its somewhat of a safety feature because you can easily adjust while driving. Most upper echelon luxury cars have the feature already.

  2. No, I don’t ever adjust my headrest past the first time. One thing I’m not sure has been talked about yet is the possibility of a car’s computer system bebeing hacked. With many cars now accessing satellite, flash drives and other dynamic removeable media, this is a distinct possibility.

  3. I love motor trend and I really love hyundai because I like to stand up for the underdogs to respond to your question i think itsjust hyundai trying to be different because theirs some things that the mercs and bmw offer that make less sense
    Like the m5s i drive the whole thing doesnt make sense and for the merc stuff like heated steering wheel and night view not really usefull but something like power adjustable head rests are not a bad idea for a car made escort people. Another point is that you mentioned that its only something hyundais doing to back up the price for 58000$ wich is nothing its beans in the more than full size lux sedans and its not as bland as the s class or the 7series and especially the LS. Hyundai for the win i hope they become as good or better the merc bmw and everything else out their
    PS: im turning 16 any opinions on what are some good cars for me and i dont want to overright it in insurance every year. I live on canada montreal quebec

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