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Electric Avenue

High-tech electronics and safety features are making their way into new vehicles.

Many of the high-tech features seen in cars over the past couple of years are moving over to light trucks, either as standard features or options. The stripped-down pickup has been relegated to the past. Instead, you'll find more high-tech toys for the business-person on the road. Light trucks, especially luxury models, feature GPS and stand-alone navigation systems, workstations, multiple power outlets and tailgate desks. GM is installing more power outlets in pickup tailgates, including their hybrid Sierra and Silverado models.

Ford's F-150 pickup series has a reverse-sensing system. GMC's full-size pickups are equipped with displacement-on-demand for an 8 percent fuel economy in certain light-load driving conditions. An option on the diesel-powered Dodge Sprinter cargo van is a maintenance monitor that networks with the vehicle's most important system: Called ASSYST, the computer calculates engine oil service intervals that may be longer than the standard, allowing you to keep the vehicle on the road longer between oil changes. Dodge's 1500 Ram pickup offers an optional UConnect hands-free cell phone with BlueTooth on its SLT and Laramie models. Chrysler's Town & Country provides a rear-obstacle detection system in its Limited model.

OnStar, with its call center; security system; crash notification; voice command; and emergency, personal calling and roadside assistance buttons that tuck into the rearview mirror, is more popular than ever. Its newest version, with improved hands-free voice recognition, is an option on many models. Honda offers a navigation system for the Odyssey minivan.

For up-to-date news, sports, stock market reports and music on the road, more than 50 GM models are equipped with XM satellite radio, either as standard equipment or as an option. The Pontiac Montana SV6 sport van comes with the PhatNoise removable mobile digital media system that can connect to your PC. New on Dodge's Dakota pickup is an optional satellite digital radio system, and the Ram pickup boasts Sirius radio.

A couple of caveats: Be aware that new technology may push up prices and lower reliability because the more electronics on the vehicle, the more likely they'll fail-and these types of repairs can be costly. Also, some of the new high-tech goodies are standard only if you buy a package that includes other features.


Jill Amadio is Entrepreneur's "Wheels" columnist.

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