New technology, whether it’s driving assists or infotainment, is at the forefront in the evolution of the automobile. As such, there are many different approaches and features that make driving safer and more enjoyable. Navigations cannot only tell you where to go, it also is being used to communicate directly with components like transmissions and suspensions to anticipate the hills and curves ahead. Vehicles have become such technological showcases that Kelley Blue Book has conceived this awards program to recognize the best models in making practical application of this wizardry.
The awards have two categories, the first recognizes mainstream models that offer the best technology at an affordable price, while the second honors the luxury vehicle featuring innovative and useful cutting-edge technology.
As an adjunct to the awards, this year Kelley Blue Book offers two top-10 lists geared toward technology. This first is Top 10 Automotive Technologies, these are the must-have features widely available today on the market. The second, Top 10 Best Future Tech are those leading edge systems that are just starting to appear on cars and trucks that will pave the way for mass market acceptance.
Our two winners this year of the Kelley Blue Book Tech Awards, the 2020 Hyundai HYMTF, -2.39% Sonata and 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE offer a blend of both. The Sonata and GLE are equipped with safety, intelligent cruise control and driver assists that you’ve come to expect from class leaders. In the case of the Sonata, it breaks ground with features like a digital key and remote parking, while the Mercedes GLE incorporates augmented reality in its navigation system.
Both models demonstrate the commitment of their manufacturers in using technology to make driving safer and more convenient while enhancing the overall ownership experience.
Winner: Mainstream brand
2020 Hyundai Sonata
The year 2020 was once imagined to bring feats like lunar vacations, the rise of robots, and flying cars. While such predictions missed their marks, one car arriving this year feels ahead of its time: the 2020 Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan.
All-new this year and marking its eighth generation, the 2020 Sonata has been reborn with new mojo and the goods to make those who say sedans are dead think twice. As with the Sonata that came two generations prior, Hyundai decided to get risky with this latest version’s design. Many folks love it and a few loathe it, but all can agree it stands out from the pack. Also undisputed is that underneath its slinky skin, the Sonata is brimming with tech.
Of course it has a touchscreen display and Apple AAPL, -0.46% CarPlay/Android Auto integration. That’s found even on the value-oriented base model that starts at $23,400. That SE trim also includes active safety tech and driving aids like forward-collision alert with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and a system that monitors for driver attentiveness. But where this kind of technology in other cars would be highlights, the Sonata is just getting started.
All models except that base version include the Hyundai Digital key. Basically it turns your phone into a key, allowing you to access and start the car without even thinking about a fob (it’s also a relief if the physical key ever gets lost). Furthermore, friends and family can be granted access to the 2020 Sonata via their phones when granted permission. The caveat is that for now the Digital Key is Android only, but a consolation for iPhone users is a hotel-like keycard with near-field communication (NFC) that also is your ticket in.
Another class-exclusive tech feature is the Sonata’s Blind-Spot View Monitor. Far more advanced than simply a warning light on a mirror housing, this technology uses cameras that give a live video feed of both sides of the Sonata. When the turn signal is engaged, video from the respective side is displayed directly in front of the driver on the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Oh, did we mention that the Sonata also boasts a 12.3-inch all-digital IC, in addition to a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment display?
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Perhaps the Sonata’s most impressive technology is Remote Smart Parking Assist. Standard in the Limited trim, this feature enables you to stand outside the car and make it drive in forward or reverse, allowing you pull into or extract the vehicle from a tight space. To do so, you use dedicated buttons on the key fob, essentially transforming the Sonata into a life-size RC car. While similar systems are available in the likes of Teslas TSLA, -3.08% and BMWs BMWYY, -2.07% , this is groundbreaking stuff for a mainstream family sedan that costs far, far less.
And that’s the real brilliance of the new 2020 Hyundai Sonata: It has oodles of technology, but it’s not tech for tech’s sake. For all its innovation, the Sonata is first and foremost an approachable, comfortable, practical and efficient car. Its class-leading technology enables the Sonata to be better at everything it was already designed to do, earning it the 2020 Best Auto Tech Award.
Winner: Luxury brand
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE
Historically at Mercedes-Benz, innovations first got showcased on the S-class and then worked their way down the line. These days, however, the turnover speed for high-tech innovation in cars is blindingly quick, so no one has the time to wait around. The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV represents the latest technology that the German car maker has to offer, and that’s why it’s our Best Auto Tech Luxury car for 2020.
The Mercedes-Benz GLE
The new GLE is densely packed with fascinating tech features, but the highlights come from three specific areas: Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) innovations, driver-assistance systems, and E-Active Body Control.
Mercedes-Benz User Experience innovations
Already a noteworthy infotainment interface, MBUX ups its game in the GLE for 2020 with several new features and an optional MBUX Technology Package that really sets it apart from competitors. MBUX is not brand new. It’s already doing a better job than most of understanding and responding to voice commands ala Siri and Alexa, and it’s machine-learning capability give it the smarts to learn your phone-calling and radio-tuning habits, which it can use to remind you to make regular weekly phone calls or tune to a radio program you regularly enjoy.
The GLE arrangement features two 12.3-inch hi-res screens, one for the instrument cluster, the other as a touch-screen multimedia display. A raft of new features have been added for 2020 including extra off-road info — like how much you’re leaning and suspension levels — that can be displayed, and the ability to recommend a driving position or a massage mode for you.
A $1,600 bargain, the GLE’s MBUX Technology Package features an eyes-friendly, full-color head-up display and an incredible augmented-reality navigation system that gives you a video display of street addresses and superimposes an arrow over the video that tells you exactly where to turn. Also included is MBUX Interior Assistant which allows you to control things like map lights and seat controls with hand gestures, or program your own response to a gesture.
Driver assistance systems
Easily the smartest $2,250 you can spend on a piece of tech to bolster your peace of mind, the optional Driver Assistance Package PLUS takes full advantage of the sensors and cameras that surround the GLE to deliver you home safely.
This package bundles the greatest hits of Mercedes-Benz safety technology. Included in the package are Active Blind Spot Assist (which includes Exit Warning Assist to prevent GLE occupants from opening a door into oncoming traffic or bicyclists), all of the Pre-Safe protections including Pre-Safe Impulse Side (which can move the front occupants 2.75 inches away danger if a side impact is detected), Evasive Steering Assist (to help you steer around a pedestrian in your path without losing control of the vehicle), and Active Steering Assist (to help you stay in your lane while making turns).
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In addition to all this (and a lot more), two all-new safety features are included with the GLE’s Driver Assistance Package PLUS package. Active Stop-and Go Assist uses long-range radar, stereo-camera video, and radar sensors at the front of the vehicle (along with road-category data and vehicle speed) to anticipate traffic jams. In addition to sensing (and stopping) when it senses cross traffic at an intersection or a pedestrian in your path, the Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function can now automatically brake if it senses oncoming traffic while you’re making a left-hand turn across traffic.
E-Active Body Control
Available on the GLE 450 4Matic (as well as the upcoming GLE 580 4Matic), E-Active Body Control is an all-new system that can significantly enhance the already appealing Mercedes-Benz Airmatic air suspension.
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Generations ahead of most suspension control system that adjust to compensate for road conditions, E-Active Body Control works at each individual wheel to make the GLE’s body roll, ride, pitch and squat disappear, and camera-scans the road ahead to “repair” any imperfections in the road ahead.
To make the GLE a better SUV, E-Active also lets you individually adjust the level of each wheel from the touch-screen display inside the cabin — a boon if you’re rock scrambling. And if you get stuck in sand, E-Active “free-driving mode” essentially rocks the GLE with up-and-down motions on the suspension to regain traction and free it.
Obviously, the new Mercedes-Benz GLE is a technological standout. Pay attention to the tech that earned the GLE our Best Tech award — you’ll be seeing it soon in other Mercedes models. In fact, you already are.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.