Rolling out the Red Carpet for Drivers
Have you ever fumbled with your car keys in the dark, stabbing at the side of your unremarkable sedan as you tried to unlock the door while holding an armload of stuff? Sure, some cars will flash the headlights and turn on the dome light when you press the unlock button on the key, but by golly! It’s 2015, not 1999! Here are 12 luxury vehicles that really roll out the red carpet for their drivers, plus one bonus vehicle.
12th Place: 2015 Audi A8
The 2015 Audi A8 stands neck and neck with the other German offerings, neither leaving drivers out in the cold putting scratches in the paint nor wowing them unnecessarily. Perhaps it’s the pragmatic nature of German designers, but the Audi doesn’t outshine or underperform when compared with the BMW and Mercedes-Benz in terms of putting out the welcome mat. The keyless entry system is simple and responds immediately, illuminating the puddle lamps as soon as the inside of the door handle has been touched. Once inside, drivers will feel instantly welcomed, as the Audi has one of the best interiors in the business.
11th Place: 2015 BMW 7 Series
Like the Audi, the 2015 BMW 7 Series takes a practical approach to driver-welcoming theatrics, choosing to turn up the comfort once they’ve embarked. BMW drivers are greeted with not only puddle lights but also illuminated door handles, which all activate once the driver touches the inside of the door handle when the key fob is on their person.
10th Place: 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The main reason the 2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class eked out a higher finish than the BMW and Audi is the warm welcome once you’re inside. The S-Class welcomes you with puddle lamps as you walk up and ambient lighting once you touch the door handle. That’s typical stuff (for the German luxury sedan crowd), but six different massage modes help provide that welcoming feeling. Seriously: Two modes combine heat for a “hot stone” effect. Fairly welcoming outside, incredibly welcoming inside. Yep, Mercedes-Benz is doing it right.
9th Place: 2015 Jaguar XF
The 2015 Jaguar XF gives drivers the option of activating the lights from the remote to make finding the car and getting underway even easier (the 2014 XF is shown here). Like the German luxury sedan, the Jaguar does not light up until the door handle is pulled or the button on the remote is pressed. Puddle lamps illuminate the outside of the sedan, LEDs provide ambiance inside, and the start button glows red and pulses like a heartbeat.
8th Place: 2015 Infiniti QX80
Infiniti impressed us with the QX80 AWD, the biggest, most luxurious SUV in the automaker’s portfolio. As you approach the luxury SUV with the key fob in your pocket, lights on the mirrors and under the runningboards turn on gradually, lighting the area around the big Infiniti. The runningboard lights are only available as an option on the AWD model, but puddle lamps are available on all models. You must still interact with the vehicle to unlock the doors, but it merely requires a press of the button inset on the door handle. The interior lights also come on when the vehicle senses your approach.
7th Place: 2015 Kia K900
The 2015 Kia K900 is a newcomer in the luxury segment, but it does a great job of making drivers feel welcome when they’re approaching the car. When the key fob is on your person, the mirrors unfold and the puddle lamps turn on as you come within a few feet of the car. This all happens automatically via proximity sensors. Drivers have to press a button on the door handle to unlock the car, but it’s not a bad first effort. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference, and the Kia is a well-executed luxury sedan with plenty of “hey, that’s nice” features.
6th Place: 2015 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
The attractively styled Land Rover Range Rover Evoque takes a step back in terms of our “welcome mat” discussion (you have to push a button on the remote or touch the door handle) but a step forward in style. It projects a stylized Range Rover profile onto the ground from the mirrors. The light profile is hard to see in the sunlight but downright classy at night. You can dazzle all of your friends, but it’s practical, too, illuminating the ground around the logo.
5th Place: 2015 Cadillac ATS Sedan
The 2015 Cadillac ATS sedan comes with illuminated door handles, not just lights for the door handle pockets (the back side of the handle) but the actual outside of the door handles. Pressing the unlock button lights up the outside of the compact luxury sedan and provides more than enough light to let you maneuver around the car and get your stuff settled, but merely approaching the sedan causes the door handle lights to come on. The button press of a button unlocks the car.
4th Place: 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan
Hyundai has really upped its game with the second generation of the Genesis sedan, introducing not only more safety tech and improved styling but also a really snazzy welcome mat. The theatrics ensue when the driver nears the car, as the power mirrors unfold and project the word “Genesis” onto the ground with a “wings” logo above the word. Drivers have to push a button on the door handle to unlock the door. This feature can also be activated by pressing the unlock button on the remote, allowing drivers to impress friends or dates.
3rd Place: 2015 Lexus LS
Lexus does an excellent job with its keyless access system, pairing the responsive door unlock system (which has been in use on various models for years) with a proximity system that lights up the puddle lamps and interior lights as the driver approaches. On models such as the full-size LS, the system makes approaching and entering your vehicle easy and combines many of the features we appreciate in a keyless system: Lights activate on proximity, and you merely grab the door handle to unlock the car. Pushing a small button (or touching a button, like on the Audi) is far easier than fumbling with a key, but the implementation of a sensor on the inside of the door handle (like on the Land Rover and Jaguar) in conjunction with proximity puddle lamps earns the Lexus a higher finish.
2nd Place: 2015 Acura TLX
How does the Acura TLX, which lacks proximity-activated lighting, earn a higher place than the Lexus LS? When drivers approach the TLX with one of two key fobs (driver one or driver two), and put a hand on the door handle, the car will unlock and activate the puddle lamps. Inside the car, the seat, steering wheel, and side mirrors automatically adjust to the driver’s preferred settings; radio presets are changed; climate control is adjusted; navigation locations are personalized; and speed-dial entries are updated. Impressed yet? The TLX does the welcome mat thing as well as most, lacking only proximity, but goes far ahead of the competition in personalizing the most-used adjustable settings.
1st Place: 2015 Lincoln MKC
The Lincoln MKC is our undisputed (and totally subjective) champion. Infiniti, Lexus, Hyundai, Kia, and Cadillac all have systems that detect the key fob at a range of a few feet, but the Lincoln detects the driver’s approach up to 8 feet away. When the driver (and fob) are detected, the exterior lighting gradually brightens, the door pockets illuminate, and a Lincoln logo is projected onto the ground. Inside, the optional ambient lighting provides a soft glow that is helpful (for lighting) and stylistically subtle. Now, if only the Lincoln would customize settings for multiple drivers …
Bonus: 2015 Ford Mustang
This list has been populated primarily with luxury cars from luxury carmakers, though they’re not the only ones to do projections well. The mainstream arm of our victor put a little extra into the redesigned Mustang, which projects a running horse (sorry, not animated) onto the ground when the doors are opened. When closed the horse fades from view. These “Pony Projection Lamps” are included on Premium trim-level models of the Mustang EcoBoost and GT.