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Learn To Speak Car

How often do you read about a car and come across a phrase or set of letters (like ESC, ISOFIX, or TPMS) without having any idea about what they actually mean or stand for?

Well fear not, because we’ve created the below information for you to help explain the car lingo and acronyms that you don’t understand.

Is there anything missing from this list that you would like us to add? Contact us and we’ll see what we can do!

 

Car Acronyms & Lingo

 

ABD (Automatic Brake Differential)

An Automatic Brake Differential (ABD) system works by using the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) to applying braking power to any individual wheel that may be slipping during acceleration in order to maintain grip on the road.

ABL (Active Bending Lights)

Active Bending Lights (ABL) is Volvo's version of an Advanced Front-Lighting System (AFS). Scroll down to read about AFS.

ABS (Anti-lock Braking System)

An Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) prevents the wheels of a car from locking up when the driver applies heavy pressure to the brake pedal, usually during an emergency braking situation.

Without ABS, the front wheels of the car would likely lock up and start skidding across the road surface under heavy braking. As soon as the front wheels are sliding they will not respond to steering input making it impossible for the driver to try and steer clear of a hazard ahead. ABS works by constantly monitoring the rotational speed of each wheel. If it senses that any wheel is rotating at a slower speed than the speed of the car (which will occur just before the wheel is about to lock up) then it will automatically release braking pressure on that wheel to prevent it from locking up. As soon as it senses that the wheel is rotating faster than the speed of the vehicle then it will reapply brake pressure, and then the process repeats. Most ABS systems can complete this process multiple times per second making it almost impossible for the wheels to lock up. This enables the driver to maintain steering control of the car to assist in avoiding a hazard ahead.

Practically every new car on sale today includes an ABS system as a standard feature. This system forms the basis of the more complicated Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system and Traction Control System (TCS).

ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control)

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC; sometimes also called autonomous cruise control) is an evolution of standard cruise control where the car is able to adjust its speed of travel based on its surrounding environment - often based on what the car in front is doing. If the car in front of you slows down then your car will automatically slow down as well, then speed up again when the car in front does so. This makes the system extremely useful for motorway driving and busier periods such as rush hour.

Some systems (often mentioned as having traffic jam assist or something similar) will allow the car to slow all the way to a stop then will automatically creep forward with the traffic in front during a traffic jam situation.

Advantages:

  • Enhanced safety over traditional cruise control
  • Can reduce driver fatigue and stress in busy traffic situations

Disadvantages:

  • Can cause drivers to pay less attention to traffic in front

Things to be aware of:

  • Some systems can leave a large gap between your car and the one in front, allowing other cars to slot into that gap which causes your car to slow further in order to build the gap back up. This is especially common in the UAE where following distances tend to be smaller than in other countries.
  • Scroll down to read about regular cruise control.

AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking)

An Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) system is one that detects that the vehicle is about to crash into an object ahead and automatically applies the brakes in an attempt to avoid the collision.

To do this, it uses a range of sensors to both determine what objects lie ahead of the car's path, along with the movement (or in some cases the anticipated movement) of those objects. AEB systems are normally combined with a Crash Warning System (CWS) to try and warn the driver before a crash becomes imminent.

AFS (Advanced/Adaptive Front-lighting System)

An Advanced or Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) automatically adjusts the direction of the headlight beam in different conditions - generally to follow curves in the road.

Alloy Wheels

Alloys are mixtures of metals or other elements. Alloy wheels in the automotive industry are generally made from an alloy of aluminium or magnesium (which forms the basis of the common term "mags"). Producing wheels using this method gives designers a huge amount of choice as to how the wheel will look, as well as creating a wheel that is as strong as steel at a much lighter weight.

Most cars these days have alloy wheels, though some base model vehicles still have heavier steel wheels that usually take a generic form and are covered by plastic covers named hub caps.

ASL (Automatic Sound Leveliser)

An Automatic Sound Leveliser (ASL) automatically adjusts the volume of your car soundsystem to account for changing noise levels inside the car.

When accelerating up to highway speeds the level of ambient noise inside the car usually increases due to the sound of the tyres on the road, wind noise, etc. The soundsystem detects this increase in ambient noise and increases the volume of your soundsystem accordingly - decreasing it again when you slow down. The sensitivity of the system can often be adjusted depending on how much or little you want the volume to increase.

ASL systems will likely become a thing of the past soon as more advanced technology such as noise cancelling soundsystems become more common.

ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation)

Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR; also referred to by the German name Antriebsschlupfregelung) is another name for a Traction Control System (TCS).

Attention Assist / Driver Alert / Fatigue Detection Systems

These systems are fairly new so there is no common, agreed upon term to describe them yet, but what all of these systems aim to do is monitor and correct driver fatigue. Different manufacturers tackle the problem in different ways - some use the existing lane departure assist system to analyse and detect if the car's movements might be as a result of the driver getting tired, while some systems have a camera that focuses on the driver and analyses facial movements such as drooping eyelids or relaxing muscles.

The action that the system takes if it determines that the driver is getting tired also differs between different manufacturers - some systems will simply sound an audible alert, while others will require the car to be pulled over and either switched off or the driver's door opened before the alert is cancelled. Most systems can be adjusted or completely disabled if desired.

Automatic Air Conditioning / Climate Control

Automatic air conditioning (often referred to as climate control) is a system where the driver only needs to set the temperature that they want the interior of the car to be, and the air conditioning will automatically adjust itself to reach the desired temperature and maintain it. The system will control the speed of the fan but the driver is able to adjust this if necessary, along with the location from which the air is distributed.

A lot of modern cars now have multi-zone air conditioning which allows different people inside the car to set a different temperature to suit themselves.

Automatic Parking Assistance

Automatic parking assistance does exactly what it sounds like it should - assists you in parking your car automatically. Most systems allow you simply to approach a car park space then press a button to have the car manoeuver in the space by itself. Most systems work with parallel parking, angle parking, and side-by-side parking. The car uses a range of sensors to ensure it doesn't collide with other cars or objects.

Advantages:

  • Your car will park itself, just sit back and relax

Disadvantages:

  • Automatic parking only really works in normal 'car-sized' spaces, as it generally relies on positioning itself based on surrounding objects. So attempting to use it in an empty car park or in a situation where other motorists have parked poorly may not give the best results.

Automatic Tailgate / Hands-Free Liftgate/Boot

The rear door of a car can be called many things, depending on where you're from - trunk lid, boot lid, tailgate, liftgate…they all refer to the door to access the luggage compartment at the rear of the car. An automatic (or hands-free) version of this door allows you to open it without any physical interation with the car.

All you need to do to open the door is wave your foot under the rear bumper of the car and the door will automatically open itself - perfect for when you have a full load of groceries or are simply feeling lazy.

The system works by detecting the key in your pocket or bag in close proximity to the door which lets the system know it's safe to open. The first hands-free systems forced you to just guess, or get to know where the point you needed to wave your foot was, but most modern systems are starting to project the car logo on the ground at the position where you need to wave your foot to make things easier. Some minivans with sliding side doors now also offer the same system.

Autonomous Cars

The world of autonomous cars is vast and complicated, featuring a range of different variables and considerations as the world moves slowly towards more automation in driving. We'll give you a brief overview of what an autonomous car is here, but those interested in reading more should check out the Wikipedia article on the subject here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-driving_car.

An autonomous car (also called a self-driving car) is a car that is able to operate with little or no human input. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) classifies autonomous cars from level 0 to level 5. Level 0 is where the car may issue warnings but will not take any sustained control of the car. Level 1 is where the car can either accelerate/decelerate or steer by itself - but the driver must be ready to retake control at any time. Examples of level 1 automation include Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Keep Assist (LKA) systems. Level 5 autonomous cars are where no human intervention is required at all and is the ultimate goal of the industry developing autonomous driving technology.

Currently, most cars have technology that puts them at level 1, or level 2 in the case of Tesla's autopilot system. We are beginning to see level 3 capability come through which means that the driver is able to completely take their attention away from the road, but must still remain available to retake control if requested to do so by the car.

There are a huge range of potential advantages and disadvantages of autonomous car technology, the obvious advantage being the ability for people to take less of a role in driving the vehicle leading to a more relaxing journey and increased productivity during trips. Disadvantages may include issues with other non-autonomous vehicles sharing the road, hacking, loss of driving-related jobs, and more. At the moment it's too early to tell where things will lead and how our roads will evolve with the gradual increase in automation technology but one thing is for sure - you can expect to see more of this technology making its way into every new car you buy.

AWD/4WD (All/Four-Wheel Drive)

All Wheel Drive (AWD; or Four Wheel Drive (4WD)) refers to a setup where the power from the engine is distributed to rotate all four wheels. This differs from front- and rear-wheel drive cars where the power is sent to either the front or rear wheels only.

Advantages:

  • All-wheel drive systems provide more grip when accelerating as the power is sent to the ground via four different points. This means that even if one or two wheels don't have traction the other wheels should - this is one of the reasons that all-wheel drive vehicles are essential for off-road driving.

Disadvantages:

  • All-wheel drive systems tend to be heavier than front- or rear-wheel drive systems. Added weight in a car means that the engine needs to work harder to move the car, which is less efficient. This is the reason that you will often see an all-wheel drive version of a car have worse fuel economy than a two-wheel drive version of the same car.

Things to be aware of:

  • Even though the terms all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are generally used to mean the same thing, this isn't always the case. An example is the Mercedes G63 AMG 6X6 which is all-wheel drive but actually has six driving wheels.

BDW (Brake Disc Wiping)

A Brake Disc Wiping (BDW) system is a safety feature that most UAE drivers will never need to make use of - it wipes off the film of water than can build up on brake discs when driving in the rain or on wet roads.

The system is activated when the windscreen wipers are switched on. If the driver does not brake within a five minute period then the system will gently press the brake pads to the disc in order to wipe off the film of water that has built up. The driver does not notice the process and it stops when the windscreen wipers are turned off. Keeping the brake disc clear of water improves braking performance when the brakes are actually needed.

Blind Spot Warning

Believe it or not, if you adjust your car mirrors correctly you should be able to completely eliminate any blind spots.

For those who want the additional peace of mind of an extra warning in case you do miss something then a blind spot warning system is a good thing to have. Your blind spot is the area either side of your car that isn't visible to you when you look in either the wing mirrors or the rear view mirror. Blind spots are incredibly dangerous as they can lead a driver to believe that the lane beside them is clear when it is not.

Blind spot warning systems work by displaying a visual alert to the driver to warn them that there is another vehicle in their blind spot. This warning is normally displayed on either the wing mirror, the dashboard, or on the windscreen if the car is fitted with a head-up display.

Advantages:

  • Blind spot warning systems can potentially spot something that you miss

Disadvantages:

  • Like other driver information systems, a blind spot warning system can mean that drivers don't bother to check their blind spot themselves. Drivers should always have a quick glance in their intended direction of travel even with a blind spot warning system in place.

BOS (Brake Override System)

A Brake Override System (BOS) is a system that detects when the driver is pressing both the brake and the accelerator at the same time, and is able to automatically slow the car down (overriding the fact that the accelerator is being pressed). It works on the theory that pressing both the brake and accelerator at the same time is not normal behaviour and that the probable intention of the driver is to slow the car down.

Boxer Engine

In a common petrol engine, the pistons inside the engine move up and down vertically, or on a slight angle in the case of a "V" engine. In a boxer engine the pistons lie flat and move up and down horizontally instead (towards either side of the car).

The primary advantage of a boxer engine is that the mass of the engine is lower down than in a conventional engine. Having the weight of the engine lower down in the car contributes to a lower centre-of-gravity for the entire car, which improves the handling characteristics of the car.

The two prominent car brands which use boxer engines in their cars today are Porsche and Subaru (the Toyota 86 is also fitted with a Subaru boxer engine).

CBC (Cornering Brake Control)

Cornering Brake Control (CBC) works in a similar way to Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) by distributing the brake force to different wheels depending on where it's needed to keep the car stable. Some manufacturers consider this part of an Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system.

While EBD tends to primarily focus on distributing braking force between the front and rear wheels, CBC is specifically concerned with cornering and focuses more on left-right braking distribution.

Crash Warning System

A Crash Warning System (CWS; sometimes known as a collision warning system, collision avoidance system, or collision mitigating system) is a system that alerts the driver of an imminent crash with the vehicle in front, and often will apply the brakes automatically if the driver does not take action fast enough. This second feature is referred to as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB).

The systems use radar, laser, or cameras to determine that the car may be about to collide with the vehicle in front and to warn the driver through a visual, audible or seat vibration alert. Crash warning systems are one of the most valuable active safety systems currently in use, so much so that many governments around the world have decreed that soon all new vehicles sold in their countries must be fitted with such a system.

Advantages:

  • Can detect an imminent collision often before the driver becomes aware of it
  • Crash warning systems are very effective at getting the attention of a driver who may be distracted

Disadvantages:

  • As with all such active safety features, there is always a risk that drivers will become complacent and rely too heavily on the feature.

Things to be aware of:

  • While current crash warning systems are very good, they aren't perfect. There is always a chance that the system will miss something, so drivers should always ensure they are paying attention to their surroundings while controlling any motor vehicle.

Cross Traffic Alert

Cross Traffic Alert (sometimes called Rear Cross Traffic Alert) is a system that warns you if a car is approaching from the side when you are backing out of a car park space.

It often works alongside a blind spot warning system, using the same equipment. If, when you are backing out of a space, the system detects a car approaching from either side it will give you an audible and/or visual warning. Some vehicles combine this warning with an autonomous braking system that will automatically brake the car if a crash is imminent and the driver doesn't take action.

Things to be aware of:

  • Cross traffic alert systems don't work in every situation, such as when reversing out of an angled parking space. It also may not spot pedestrians or cyclists so it's critical that the driver still pays attention in any reversing situation.

Cruise Control

Cruise control allows you to set the car to travel at a specific speed, without the need for you to continue to press the accelerator. You simply accelerate up to the speed that you want to continue cruising at then set the cruise control at that speed and the car will automatically continue driving at that speed. Most cars then allow you to alter the speed up or down a little at the touch of a button, so that you don't need to reset your speed for small changes. The set speed can be cancelled either by pressing a button to cancel it, or by putting even a small amount of pressure on the brakes. Then, when you want to continuing cruising at the speed you had previously set, you just need to select the 'Res' option (which stands for Resume) and the car will automatically accelerate back up to the speed you set.

Advantages:

  • Helps cut down on fatigue during long journeys
  • Assists you in maintaining a constant speed on motorways (avoid speeding fines!)
  • Allows you to concentrate more on other parts of your driving

Disadvantages:

  • Can cause drivers to pay less attention to traffic in front and move their foot away from the pedals, reducing the ability to brake quickly in an emergency

Things to be aware of:

  • Cruise control DOES NOT steer your car, it only controls the speed of travel.
  • If you accelerate above the speed you have set then once you release the accelerator the car will automatically slow back down to the speed you set and continue cruising at that speed.
  • Most systems do not work under around 30-40km/h.
  • Cruise control is available in both automatic and manual cars.
  • Cruise control will switch off automatically if you try and push the car past its limits. This could be something as simple as trying to turn a corner too quickly, or trying to drive up a hill in a gear that is too high for the slope. Most cars will maintain the set speed on small inclines such as motorway on/off ramps, but some cars are better than others at not allowing the car to overspeed when coming down a hill - look out for this if there are speed cameras around.
  • Scroll up to read about Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).

CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)

A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is a type of automatic transmission that can seamlessly change through an infinite number of gear ratios. It operates in a completely different way to a standard gearbox in that it doesn't have a set of gears, instead it uses a different system which means that the transmission is always changing to find the best combination for speed and/or fuel consumption. The result is that when you are driving a car with continuously variable transmission it feels like the car just has one long gear - there is no 'kick' between gears like in a traditional manual or automatic car.

Design Language

The term "design language" refers to the theme that the car designers followed when designing a particular car, or range of cars.

Every car you see on the road today spent hundreds of hours being painstakingly designed by the world's most skilled automotive designers before a single part of the car was created. Most manufacturers want their cars to have a specific identity, something that is instantly recognisable when you see it driving past. To achieve this they develop a design language to guide the look and feel of each model to ensure they all follow the same theme to maintain the overall brand identity.

BMW's kidney-shaped front grille, Cadillac's sharp edges, and Infiniti's double-wave bonnet are all elements of their respective design languages.

Drivetrain

The drivetrain is the set of components that deliver power from the engine (or electric motors) to the wheels, but does not include the engine itself.

The layout of the drivetrain determines whether a car is front-, rear-, or four-wheel drive.

DRL (Daytime Running Lights)

Daytime running lights are lights mounted at the front of a vehicle for the purpose of ensuring that the car is visible to other road users. Daytime running lights are automatically switched on when the car is put into drive mode during daylight hours when the headlights are not switched on. On some cars the daytime running lights are deactivated when the headlights are switched on.

Daytime running lights significantly increase the ability for other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to be able to see a car - especially in low light situations such as dawn, dusk, or fog. This increased visibility makes them an important safety feature - so much so that some regions now require all new cars to be fitted with them. Manufacturers are also increasingly using daytime running lights as a stylistic element of the car design, and using them to reinforce their brand identity.

DSTC (Dynamic Stability Traction Control)

Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC) is simply a combination of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and a Traction Control System (TCS).

EBA / HBA (Emergency Brake Assist / Hydraulic Brake Assist)

Emergency Brake Assist (EBA; sometimes just called brake assist) systems work on the theory that most motorists don't press the brake pedal hard enough in an emergency braking situation. Due to the fact that few drivers ever need to use the full force of their brakes most people are unprepared for just how hard they need to apply the brakes in these situations. A lot of drivers can also be unnerved by the "bumping" sensation that is felt when the ABS system kicks in which can cause them to release pressure on the brake pedal at the wrong time.

An emergency brake assist system monitors both the speed and force with which the driver applies the brakes, and if it detects that the driver is attempting to make an emergency stop it will override the braking input and apply the full force of the brakes. This type of system is one step away from Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) which will apply the brakes in an emergency without the driver even needing to touch the brake pedal.

Those interested in viewing just how fast most cars are cabable of coming to a stop should check out some videos on YouTube of professional drivers performing 0-100-0km/h tests on cars.

EBC (Electronic Boost Controller)

An electronic boost controller is an aftermarket device which car tuners attach to the car in order to control the amount of boost provided by a turbo or supercharger.

When a car is built in the factory the boost setting is set at a certain limit. Increasing this limit can help the engine generate more power, making the car faster.

EBC (Engine Braking Control)

Engine Braking Control (EBC) is another name for an Engine Drag Torque Control (EDTC) system.

EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution)

Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD; also known as Elektronischer Bremskraftverteiler (EBV) in German) is a system that works alongside ABS to to ensure that the correct brake pressure is applied to each wheel in every situation. The EBD system constantly monitors variables such as the road surface, pressure on the brake pedal, vehicle weight, and more to adjust brake pressure.

The weight in your car is almost never distributed evenly over all four wheels, and that weight shifts as the car moves around on the road. Due to this, the wheels with a heavier load require more brake pressure than the wheels with a lighter load in order to bring the car to a stop. An EBD system recognises this and adjusts the brake pressure for each wheel accordingly.

EDL (Electronic Differential Lock)

An Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) is a system which works alongside a stability control and/or traction control system to alter the amount of torque (turning power) that is distributed to the wheels during turning to help the car keep a grip on the road.

EDTC (Engine Drag Torque Control)

Engine Drag Torque Control (EDTC) is a system that applies additional torque (turning power) to wheels when needed to keep them rotating in order to prevent the car from sliding.

When a driver changes down a gear quickly, or takes their foot of the accelerator suddenly, the air pressure inside the engine changes which causes something called "engine braking" which slows the car down. If the car slows down too suddenly then the wheels might lock up and start to slide. The EDTC system senses this happening and applies more torque to the necessary wheels in order to keep them rotating and therefore maintaining traction.

EPB (Electronic Park Brake)

An Electronic Park Brake (EPB) replaces the traditional manual handbrake lever with a button or switch. When switched on the system automatically applies the brakes to the rear wheels to hold the vehicle stationary until the driver turns it off or - in some cases - when they press the accelerator.

ESC / ESP (Electronic Stability Control / Electronic Stability Programme)

An Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system attempts to prevent a vehicle from spinning or sliding by applying the brakes to the necessary wheels to try and correct an inadvertent loss of traction. It makes use of an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).

One example of where this system will kick into action is in the case of understeer. Understeer generally occurs when a driver attempts to take a corner too quickly and the car is unable to turn as sharply as the driver intends which causes the front wheels to start skidding towards the outside of the corner. In this situation the ESC system will attempt to correct the slide by applying the brake to the inner rear wheel which hopefully allows the other wheels to regain traction and allows the car to steer towards where the driver intends.

Another example is oversteer. Oversteer is similar to understeer in that it is brought on by a driver attempting to take a corner more quickly than the car is able to handle, but in the case of oversteer the rear tyres break traction first which causes the rear of the car to start skidding towards the outside of the corner. An ESC system will try to prevent this by applying the brakes to the outer front wheel.

Things to be aware of:

  • Electronic Stabilty Control is not the same as a Traction Control System (TCS). TCS systems are sometimes included as part of an ESC system - but not always. The main difference between the two is that an electronic stability control system generally attempts to correct sliding when cornering, while a traction control system tends to correct excessive wheel spin to maintain traction.
  • Related to the above - the phrase Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) can be used either to describe an ESC system by itself, or a system that incorporates both ESC and TCS - the usage of the phrase differs between different manufacturers.
  • These systems are not designed to help you drive faster - they exist to try and correct potentially dangerous loss of traction situations.

FBS (Fading Brake Support)

Fading Brake Support (FBS) is a system offered by Volvo to reduce brake fade and maintain pedal feeling.

Brake fade is when your brakes stop working as well as they normally do which usually happens after periods of heavy braking, such as on a race track or down a steep hill. Pedal feeling is the resistence you feel when you push the brake pedal down.

FWD (Front-Wheel Drive)

A Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) car is one where the power from the engine is distributed only to the front wheels. The rear wheels simply roll along behind as the car accelerates.

Advantages:

  • Front-wheel drive systems are lighter than rear- or four-wheel drive systems as the engine in most cars is at the front so it's relatively straight-forward to connect the engine to the wheels either side of it. This lighter weight leads to better fuel efficiency.
  • Using the front wheels to pull the car through a corner avoids a common cause of accidents in rear-wheel drive cars which is where the power of the rear wheels pushing the car while the driver is attempting to steer around a corner can cause the car to spin.

Disadvantages:

  • Most road users won't find any disadvantages to a front-wheel drive car; the only real disadvantages that exist are those that face professional drivers who probably won't be reading this anyway!

HSA / HHC (Hill Start Assist / Hill Hold Control)

Hill Hold Control (HHC) is a system that holds the car stationary when facing up a hill - such as a motorway ramp.

When the driver comes to a stop on a hill and applies the brakes the system will automatically continue holding the brakes on even when the driver releases the brake pedal, either for a few seconds or until the driver presses the accelerator. This prevents the car from rolling backwards.

On a manual car the system will continue holding the car until the clutch reaches its bite point.

HTRAC (Hyundai TRACtion)

Hyundai TRACtion (HTRAC) is a traction system developed by Hyundai which splits the power from the engine between the front and rear wheels depending on where it is needed for any given driving situation.

For example, during normal highway cruising power will likely be distributed only to the rear wheels as the additional grip of the front wheels is not required, which cuts down on fuel usage. Then, if it started raining the vehicle would sense that there is less grip available on the road and would send power to the front wheels as well to give the car better traction.

Things to be aware of:

  • While this particular system is exclusively available on Hyundai vehicles, other manufacturers have their own version of this system called by different names.

HUD (Head-Up Display)

Originally designed for military fighter aircraft, the head-up display quickly found its way into automotive use through the fact that the same benefits it provides a fighter pilot can be applied to the average road user as well.

A head-up display is named for the fact that it allows a driver to keep their head up and focused on the road while simultaneously being able to view vehicle information. This is achieved through a lighting system that projects information onto the windscreen of the car which is semi-transparent so as not to take away from the driver's ability to see the road. Some models project the information onto a small transparent screen in front of the windscreen instead.

Information displayed normally includes a digital speed read-out along with other information such as navigation directions, audio information, and increasingly more advanced information such as traffic sign recognition. Traditional HUD systems were monochromatic (one colour), but newer systems are available in full colour.

Hybrid Cars

The common definition of a hybrid car is one that uses a traditional petrol engine combined with an electric motor (or set of electric motors) to provide power for the car.

The way that the power from the electric engine is generated and applied differs from car to car

Normally, the petrol engine charges an electric generator which in turn powers an electric motor. The electric motor often provides power during low-speed acceleration, with the petrol engine taking over at higher speeds, or when the generator needs to be recharged. The generator can also be recharged through energy created by friction under braking, depending on the car.

In some performance cars the power from the electric motor is added to the power from the petrol engine to further increase the performance of the car.

Here are all of the hybrid cars currently available in the UAE.

IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System)

The Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS) is a Volvo system that assists the driver by processing information in the car. If the system perceives that a driver is in a driving situation that requires a lot of attention - such as approaching an intersection or parallel parking - then the system can delay incoming phone calls by a few seconds or until it determines that it's safe to put the call (or text message) through. This system will likely be expanded further as more intelligent driving aids are added to vehicles.

Infotainment

Infotainment is a term used to describe the information and entertainment system inside a car.

Entertainment systems have been installed in cars for decades, usually taking the form of a stereo system, but more recently these systems have evolved to provide occupants with much more than just entertainment - the screens in our cars nowadays often provide information on aspects of the car, such as a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), navigation, or now even the full range of apps available on our phones through Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. It's due to this increase in the capability of the traditional entertainment system that the term infotainment is now more commonly used.

ISOFIX

ISOFIX refers to the international standard for the attachment points for child safety seats in cars. In the US it's often referred to as LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren).

Cars fitted with ISOFIX attachments will normally have anchor points at the base of the rear seats, along with points above and behind the seats. Most child car seats are designed to work with these anchor points which makes for fairly easy, secure installation.

Things to be aware of:

  • ISOFIX is not actually an acronym. The first part of the term - ISO - comes from International Organisation for Standardisation standard ISO 13216 which specifies the standard for child safety seat anchoring systems. The second part of the term - FIX - simply refers to the fact that the anchoring systems create fixing points for the child seats.

Lane Departure Assist

Lane departure assist can refer to one of two systems - either a system that warns you when you are about to exit your lane unexpectedly, or a system that combines the warning feature with autonomous steering to actively keep you inside your lane.

A Lane Departure Warning (LDW) system can warn the driver of an unexpected lane departure through an audible warning, a visual warning, or by a vibration in the seat in the direction of the threat (for example, if the car is drifting towards the left side of the lane then the left side of the seat will vibrate to draw your attention to that side).

A Lane Keep(ing) Assist (LKA) system takes the above to the next level by actively keeping your car inside the lane if it detects that you are about to leave the lane unexpectedly. Some systems will only take action if the car starts to drift towards the outside of the lane, while other systems actively work to keep the car centred in the lane at all times.

Advantages:

  • Provides assistance to drivers to avoid unexpected lane changes which are one of the main causes of accidents in the UAE

Disadvantages:

  • Can cause drivers to pay less attention on the road

Things to be aware of:

  • Lane departure assist systems only work on roads with clearly marked lanes
  • Make sure to check with the company you are buying the car off how 'active' its lane departure assist system is
  • The system determines an unexpected lane change based largely on whether or not you have switched on the indicator - so make sure to use your indicator to avoid the system trying to keep you in your lane when you don't want it to!

MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle)

An MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) is another term for a minivan, or people-carrier.

MPVs are designed to carry up to around seven people in comfort and safety. They are normally smaller than a van, but larger than the average sedan or station wagon/estate, with a high roof which makes it easy to take loads in and out of the car while giving all passengers plenty of space inside.

MPVs are targeted squarely at families, and usually have sliding doors on the side which are incredibly helpful when trying to take children in and out of the car in tight parking spaces. They are often loaded with plenty of other family-friendly features as well.

What's the difference between an MPV and SUV?

MPVs differ from SUVs in that they do not have the raised height or off-road capability of an SUV. MPVs and SUVs with the same amount of seats normally have a similar amount of interior space. The lower height of an MPV relative to an SUV gives it a lower centre of gravity, generally making it safer at speed. Despite this, most families in the UAE opt for an SUV over an MPV due to the added visability and confidence that many people feel when in a higher seating position.

So should I choose an MPV or an SUV?

If the family-focused features, sliding side doors, and higher relative safety at speed are important factors for you then go for an MPV. Check out all of the MPVs available in the UAE here.

If the added confidence of being in an SUV, off-road capability, and road-presence are important for you then go for an SUV. Check out all of the SUVs available in the UAE here.

MSR (Motor Slip Regulation)

Motor Slip Regulation (MSR) is Fiat's version of an Engine Drag Torque Control (EDTC) system.

NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme)

A New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) is an assessment organisation in a specific region which crash tests new cars to determine a safety rating for each vehicle based on a number of variables.

There are NCAPs based all around the world. They all take a similar approach to testing vehicles though tend to differ a little in their safety assessment of cars based on the demands of the region in which they are based. The Euro NCAP is generally viewed as the most strict programme.

Manufacturers are not required to provide vehicles to an NCAP for testing, which means that many vehicles on the market do not have a safety rating. This does not necessarily mean that the vehicle is unsafe, it simply means that the manufacturer has opted not to have their vehicle tested. For example, most high-end luxury vehicles and supercars are untested by NCAPs yet tend to be some of the safest cars on our roads. Almost all manufacturers perform their own internal safety testing as required by law by many governments, but these internal tests tend to be less comprehensive than the testing performed by the various NCAPs.

Simply New Cars uses data from various NCAPs around the world when applying the safety ratings to vehicles on our website. This is due to the fact that a vehicle sold on our shores is often slightly different to the same vehicle sold in other markets, so wherever possible we consider the results from multiple NCAPs along with the specific safety features of the vehicle being sold here to determine a Simply New Cars safety rating.

PEPS (Passive Entry, Passive Start)

A PEPS (Passive Entry, Passive Start) system allows you to open the doors and start your car without needing to take the key out of your pocket or bag.

The system works by the car sensing that the key is within proximity then allowing you to open the doors and start the car using push-button start.

Power-to-Weight Ratio

The term power-to-weight ratio refers to how much power a car has relative to its weight.

This is one of the better ways of measuring the performance potential of a car, and is a much better way of comparing one car to another instead of simply considering power alone.

The reason for this is simple - the lighter the car, the less energy that's required to move it. Consider the below example:

Car Power (hp) Weight
 (kg)
0-100km/h Time
Alfa Romeo 4C 240 993 4.5 Seconds
BMW X3 248 1715 6.3 Seconds

The two cars both have a similar amount of power, but the X3 SUV is much heavier than the lightweight 4C so takes 40% longer to hit 100km/h.

Limitations
Two cars may have an identical power-to-weight ratio but that doesn't mean that they will have identical performance. There are a number of other factors that impact a car's performance as well, power-to-weight ratio simply serves as a good starting point for your performance comparison.

 

Powertrain

Powertrain is a word to describe the parts of a car that generate power and deliver that power to the ground to propel the car forward. In regular cars this includes the engine, gearbox, drive shaft(s), differential(s), and the wheels. In electric and hybrid vehicles the powertrain also includes the battery pack and electric motor as well.

The powertrain differs to the drivetrain in that it includes the engine, whereas the drivetrain only includes the components that deliver the power from the engine to the wheels.

RAB (Ready Alert Brakes/Braking)

A Ready Alert Braking (RAB) system anticipates when the driver might be about to make a sudden stop and prepares the brakes in case they are required.

The system works by sensing when the driver lifts their foot off the accelerator abrubtly and responds by gently pressing the brake pads against the brake disc to prepare for heavy braking. This means that the car is ready to start braking even before the driver has had a chance to move their foot over to the brake pedal, which increases the ability for the driver to stop quickly.

Remote Start

Remote start enables you to start your vehicle without being inside it. Remote start systems are either operated by a button on the key fob or an app on your phone. At the press of a button your car will turn itself on and start running which can be a huge benefit in the UAE during the hotter months as it allows you to get the car running with the air conditioning going before you even step outside. Different systems work in slightly different ways - the traditional form of remote start requires you to have a line of sight with the car and be within 50-100m of the car, while more modern systems allow you to start the car using your smartphone from anywhere in the world.

Advantages:

  • Get your car cooled down before you reach it (even starting the car as you're walking up to it can take the initial edge off the heat during the hottest months)
  • Allow your engine to warm up before you start driving (this is better for the car and helps ensure longevity)
  • Can help you locate your car in a crowded parking lot
  • Allows you to prank unsuspecting people walking past your car

Disadvantages:

  • Some systems require you to have a line of sight with the car which can limit the situations where you are able to use the system
  • Slight increase in fuel consumption through the car idling while not in use

Things to be aware of:

  • Your car will remain locked when started, and most systems will shut the car off immediately if someone attempts to drive the car and the system can't detect the key nearby
  • Your car will only run for a short time before turning off again (the length of time it runs for differs between cars)

RMI (Roll Movement Intervention)

A Roll Movement Intervention (RMI) system detects when a vehicle may be on the verge of rolling and takes corrective action through usage of the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system to try and ensure that the vehicle remains upright.

RWD (Rear-Wheel Drive)

A Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) system is where the power from the engine is sent to the rear wheels of the car only. The rear wheels then push the rest of the car forward with the front wheels only being used for steering and braking.

Advantages:

  • Rear-wheel drive cars tend to have better standing-start acceleration than front-wheel drive cars due to the fact that when a car accelerates the weight of the car is transferred towards the rear of the car. This weight over the rear wheels helps them maintain grip while accelerating.

Disadvantages:

  • Due to the fact the the rear wheels of a RWD car push the car through a corner this can sometimes cause the car to slide and spin out if too much power is applied while steering through a corner. There are a lot of modern safety features that aim to prevent this from happening, but drivers should always try to be aware of the limits of their car.

SBBR (Schluss-Blink-Brems-Rückfahrleuchten)

This German phrase refers to a tail light setup where all four of the tail light functions - tail lights, indicators, brake lights, and reversing lights are all contained within a single housing and controlled by a single electronic unit.

SIPS (Side Impact Protection System)

The Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) is (as the name suggests) a side impact protection system developed by Volvo. It uses advanced vehicle construction techniques combined with airbags to protect occupants against a side impact.

Speedometer Error

Every car on the road has a degree of speedometer error. In a standard setup where the car has not been modified the speedo will always read a speed that is slightly higher than the actual speed that the vehicle is travelling. Manufacturers deliberately design the system in this way to ensure that the speedo never reads a speed lower than what the car is actually travelling. This is done for both safety reasons and so that the manufacturer cannot be liable for speeding fines incurred by the driver.

The degree of speedo error in a car depends on a number of factors, but it can be quite high in some cases - especially on older vehicles. This is due to the fact that older vehicles use a cable to measure the car's speed, and the cable wears out and stretches over many years of use. In one case we found an old car that was actually travelling at 80km/h at a speed indicated as 100km/h on the speedometer.

The biggest thing that affects speedo error is wheel size. The way that speedometers work is by having a pre-programmed figure for the diameter of the wheels on the car, and by measuring how quickly it takes the wheel to make one full rotation. The system uses those two pieces of information to calculate how fast the car is travelling. If you change the wheels on your car then the new wheels are likely to be a different diameter which will mean that the car is calculating your speed incorrectly.

There are international agreements that govern the degree of speedo error, but the variance can still be fairly large - even in new cars - where your speedo could be reading 120km/h and you are actually only travelling at 110km/h. So next time you think you're sitting at the speed limit on the highway and the car beside you overtakes you without getting flashed - you may know why.

Supercharger

A supercharger is a device that forces air into the engine to enhance performance. It operates in a very similar way to a turbocharger, and in fact a turbocharger is actually a form of supercharger (and used to be called a turbosupercharger) but the term "supercharger" in modern automotive use is generally accepted to refer to a supercharger that is mechanically driven (by a belt, chain, gear etc. unlike turbos which are driven by air flow).

Like a turbo, superchargers are usually bolted to the side of the engine and operate by forcing compressed air into the engine. Compressed air allows the engine to generate more power.

Advantages:

  • Like turbochargers, superchargers assist the engine in creating more power and torque (turning power)
  • Superchargers have one big advantage over turbochargers which is that they deliver compressed air to the engine almost immediately meaning that there is no lag in power delivery like there can be in a turbo-powered engine

Disadvantages:

  • Due to the fact that most automotive superchargers tend to be attached to the rotating parts of the engine itself this causes drag on the engine components which leads to less efficiency and generally less power when compared to a turbocharger

Things to be aware of:

  • To get around the inefficiencies of both superchargers and turbochargers sometimes manufacturers fit both to an engine - a supercharger for low-speed power and a turbocharger for mid- to high-speed power. This is referred to as twincharging, or a superturbo.

SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle)

An SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) is traditionally a large, five-door vehicle with off-road capability.

In recent years however, the term "SUV" has expanded to incorporate a huge range of different vehicles - with two-door SUVs, convertible SUVs, crossovers, and urban SUVs all examples of unique styles that are emerging in this category.

The SUV segment is now the fastest growing in the automotive industry, with some experts predicting that SUVs will make up more than 50% of all vehicles on the road within the next few years.

No matter what kind of SUV you're looking for, you can find the perfect model to suit your lifestyle by choosing the "Crossover/Small SUV" and/or "SUV" options under the Body Type heading on our search page. You can then filter your results further by what matters to you.

TCS (Traction Control System)

A Traction Control System (TCS) can work in a number of different ways but the end goal is always the same - to stop a wheel (or wheels) from slipping unintentionally, helping the car to maintain grip.

Excessive wheel spin occurs when the power being delivered through the drivetrain is too much for one or more of the driving wheels to handle, causing them to lose traction and start to spin at a higher rate than the other wheels. A traction control system detects when a wheel starts to spin significantly faster than the other wheels and applies corrective action to stop the wheel from spinning excessively, thereby maintaining grip with the road surface.

Things to be aware of:

  • Traction control is often (but not always) part of an Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system or an Electronic Stability Prorgramme (ESP). Traction control systems are not the same as ESC systems - a traction control system tends to monitor and correct wheels that spin excessively, while a stability control system is generally used to take corrective action in the event that a vehicle starts sliding while cornering.

TPMS (Tyre-Pressure Monitoring System)

Sorry to all you American readers - we're using the international spelling of tyre for this one! A Tyre-Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) constantly monitors tyre pressures and will generally alert the driver if the pressure in any tyre drops below a pre-determined level.

Tyre pressure monitoring systems enhance safety, provide better fuel economy (as properly inflated tyres roll with less resistance than under-inflated tyres - less resistance means less drag which means less fuel usage), and increase the life of tyres as under-inflated tyres wear faster.

Trim Level

Trim Level is a term that refers to how well-equipped a certain car model, or sub-model is.

Not all versions of the same model are created equal. Take the Toyota Camry for example: at the time of writing there are six different variations of the Camry available in the UAE. Across those six different models there are three different engine options, and a large amount of difference in the features that are included as part of the purchase price (leather seats vs. cloth seats, sunroof, reversing camera, etc.).

The versions of the Camry that are fitted with more powerful engines and a better range of equipment are referred to as being a higher trim level than the lower models.

Simply New Cars is the only website in the UAE where you can compare all of the different trim levels of every new car - saving you valuable time otherwise spent in lengthy conversations at the dealership. So what are you waiting for - get comparing now!

TSR (Traffic-Sign Recognition)

A Traffic-Sign Recognition (TSR) system uses cameras and image-processing software to recognise various traffic signs.

The car uses this information in traditional vehicles to display information or an alert to the driver, such as if the system determines that the car is travelling faster than the posted speed limit. In autonomous vehicles it can be used to determine the speed at which the vehicle will travel, among other things.

At the moment most systems are only able to recognise a limited range of signs due to the challenges associated with computer software attempting to interpret the huge range of road signage displayed around the world. This will rapidly change though, as road-sign recognition is one of the most important factors necessary for autonomous driving so is being steadily worked on by numerous organisations.

Turbocharger

A turbocharger (more commonly known simply as a turbo) is a device that forces air into the engine to enhance performance.

A turbo is made up of two turbine wheels within an outer housing. Exhaust gases exiting the engine cause one of the wheels to spin which in turn makes the second wheel spin. This compresses the air entering the engine which allows the engine to generate more power. Turbocharged engines are generally more fuel-efficient than non-turbo engines as they create more power with the same amount of fuel.

Advantages:

  • Turbochargers assist the engine in creating more power and torque (turning power)
  • Turbocharged engines tend to be more fuel-efficient and produce less emissions than non-turbo engines
     

Disadvantages:

  • Due to the process that makes a turbo work there can sometimes be a delay in the power boost from the turbo - called "turbo lag".

Things to be aware of:

  • In automotive terms a turbocharger and supercharger are genreally referred to as two different devices. They are both a form of "forced induction" as they both force denser air into the engine, but they do so in a different way. Read our information on superchargers here.

VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control)

Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) is another name for an Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system.

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