Customizing a factory automobile can turn your car into your personal playground

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The Ford Escape, above, makes accessing the trunk a hands-free breeze; heads-up displays — pioneered by General Motors and all but perfected on the Cadillac, below left — make driving safer and more high-tech; comfort and styling, like that developed by Mercedes-Benz, below right, include bonuses like heated seats.

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

As Clairee so smartly informed us, what sets mankind apart from the beasts is our ability to accessorize. It’s also one of the toughest tricks for any queen to learn. An Armani suit is suave, but only if accompanied with the perfect watch, tie and shoes.

The same is true of your car. Choose the right accessories, and you’ll turn your ride from transportation to heaven on highways. And you can often get that ride for a song.
Here are some of our favorite current add-ons.

Hot asses. You don’t think you need heated seats until you get them, then you know: nothing better than a hot ass on a cold day. Most new cars, even the Chevy Sonic and Smart, offer them. Many luxury makes even shove them in the rear. If it’s summer and your ass is too hot (imagine!), check out ventilated seats, too. Luxury brands even add massagers. Divine.

Warm fingers. There’s a lot of science that proves blood flows strongly through your hands, and changing their temperature quickly changes your body’s. Hence, the great trend of heated steering wheels — made all the better when hand-stitched leather is involved. Like heated seats, they sound stupid until you flip them on in colder weather. It’s like a Jacuzzi for your mitts.

Heads up, baby. General Motors was the first manufacturer to introduce heads-up displays, way back in the ‘80s. New versions are reconfigured for audio, tachometer, navigation and other key info. HUDs are a must for driving enthusiasts who want to keep their eyes on the road. Cadillac, Buick and Corvette have some of the best, but Mercedes, BMW and Lexus are close behind.

Sweet pipes. Especially in Texas, we spend a lot of time in our cars, so spring for the best audio system you can afford. It sounds expensive up-front, but you’ll never regret it. Think of how many hours lost on the road during rush hour and the music you love. Unlike at home or even a theater, engineers know exactly where you’ll sit and can perfectly optimize what hits your ears,  whether that’s Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett … or both.

Foot action. If you’re a queen who can’t even open her own door, you’ll love this one: Foot-operated trunklids. Wave your foot under the bumper and up goes the lid. When your arms are full of shopping bags, luggage or baby stuff, they’re da bomb. Check for them on vehicles as varied as the Ford Explorer, Range Rover Evoque, Cadillac Escalade and Hyundai Sonata.

Shopping tip. As any fashionista knows, you never pay full retail or buy the entire suit at once. If you like the pants, buy just the pants. Automakers often create packages that group what they think will be favorite features. Except, I’m one of those people who will buy a basic car with the entry-level engine, stick shift and leatherette … then load up on heated seats, premium audio and configurable lighting. I’ve ordered three cars to get it right.

Point is, if you want all that’s in the package and are willing to pay for it, great. I love you. If not, many automakers list key options separately and you can choose them a la carte. Visit your favorite automaker’s website and click “build it” to find out. It’s easier to buy a vehicle out of inventory, but dealers will happily order a car that suits you perfectly.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 7, 2014