Carmakers offering gimmicks and high-tech extras for convertibles
By Thomas Geiger Feb 29, 2012, 3:06 GMT
Berlin - Carmakers are offering an increasing number of new high-tech extras for convertibles including anything from a warm blast of air down your neck to heat-resisting leather seats.
If you don't know whether to start your drive with a jersey or a warm jacket, BMW offers the solution. A few clicks on the on-board Connected Drive computer gives the driver an up-to-date weather report for any region required.
'Almost all the carmakers are now offering convertibles and want to influence the buyer by offering as many extras as possible,' says Nick Margetts, a market analyst from Jato Dynamics based in Limburg, Germany.
Porsche has given its new 911 convertible a silhouette that is virtually identical to the coupe version by inserting magnesium panels instead of metal bows into the fold-down roof, giving it a special sturdy form.
Mercedes engineers have shown similar innovation with the new SL. The sound system provides clear acoustics even when driving with the top down. According to the man responsible for the model, Juergen Weissinger, the hollows in the bodywork were used as bass reflectors, providing a special sound.
In addition the Mercedes engineers have developed a new wiper blade system called Magic Vision Control. Computer-controlled wiper jets are integrated into the blades and can be programmed in such a way that they only operate when the wipers move downward, preventing an involuntary shower for the occupants when the roof is down.
The SL also features a glass roof called Magic Sky Control that has for some time also been available in the smaller SLK. Special particles are integrated into the glass enabling the driver to darken the roof with the press of a switch. 'When it is really hot outside it remains comfortably cool inside,' says engineer Uwe Renz.
Another trick to prevent the heat from getting uncomfortable are special leather layers. In the Audi A5 special pigmentation integrated in the leather colour reflects the sunlight and prevents the seats from heating up as in conventional leather, according to spokesman Josef Schlossmacher.
'If the car is parked out in the sun the temperature difference can be up to 20 degrees Celsius,' says Schlossmacher.
In the hot summer months the engineers are trying to keep the car as cool as possible while enabling a comfortable warmth in the early spring or autumn. One such gadget is the neck warmer that is integrated into the headrests of cars such as the Mercedes SLK and SL or the Peugeot 308 CC.
'While it is starting to get nippy outside you can still be nicely warm in the car,' says Peugeot spokesman Bernhard Voss.
An Always-Open-Timer in the Mini Convertible is a fun gimmick which allows the driver to keep track of how long they can drive with the top down.
The reason why many carmakers are offering such extras is to increase the price through the back door. 'Not everything the industry is offering is really useful,' says Margetts. 'Customers should look carefully at what they really need. It is nice to have a neck warmer but sometimes it might be better just to wear a scarf,' he adds.
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