Road warriors need plenty of high-tech gadgetry, but deciding which products will transform a car into a mobile resource center is based on whether you want to purchase a new “fully loaded” high-end model or refit your current vehicle. Factory-installed products have the advantage of being integrated with your car but are pricey and “tend to become obsolete quickly,” says Mark BÃ¼nger, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. The good news is that key essentials, such as communication, navigation, and power sources, can be added to your vehicle post-purchase.
When working the phones on the road, anything that promotes ease and safety, such as hands-free operation, is recommended. Bluetooth technology will enable a cell phone to sync with a car’s in-dash stereo speaker, allowing for hands-free voice activation. Portable Bluetooth kits include the Easydrive Bluetooth Car Kit from Parrot ($99; www.parrot.biz), which plugs into the cigarette lighter/power port and features voice recognition dialing.
You’ll never have to worry about getting lost on the way to your next appointment with global positioning system navigation, which plans routes and provides on-screen maps and voice directions. Many GPS units include real-time news and traffic reports, alerting you to construction and accidents.
Portable “plug and play” GPS devices, such as the TomTom GO 700 ($899; www.tomtom.com), do not require installation. The GO 700 can interface with your Bluetooth-enabled phone, allowing you to take calls through the device as well as plan routes. The Magellan RoadMate 760 ($1,099; www.magellangps.com) offers a directory of 7 million business addresses. Pioneer’s high-end AVIC-N2 ($2,200; www.pioneerelectronics.com) requires in-dash installation but offers a 6.5-inch GPS display. The system includes a car media center that allows you to control rear seat DVD screens, XM satellite radio, and other devices.
Need access to an important file on your laptop at the next rest stop? No problem. Power ports can
be used to connect a laptop or printer. An inverter, which plugs into a power port, will turn 12V DC power into 110V or 120V AC power, meaning any device you plug into a regular wall outlet will work in your car. The
Tripp Lite PV600 inverter ($120; www.tripplite.com) offers three AC outlets that continuously supply up to 600 watts of 120V AC power, and the APC Travel Power 75W ($60; www.apc.com) can be used in a car or airplane.
The top-rated Acura RL ($50,000; www.acura.com) is “probably one of the most high-tech cars ever built,” says Dan Kahn, automotive expert at Edmunds.com, an online automotive consumer resource. The RL features hands-free wireless telephone interface capability and Bluetooth connectivity, GPS navigation with voice recognition and real-time traffic and weather data via satellite, plus multiple power ports. The Infiniti M class ($40,000 and up; www.infiniti.com) offers a GPS navigation system with voice direction, Bluetooth connectivity, and a power port.
As the demand for more business features increases, new technologies will be available in mass-market vehicles. In the meantime, technology such as a Bluetooth mobile phone, portable GPS, and plenty of power options will ensure that “you are not going to be