Lincoln MKS, MKT; Ford Escape, Explorer, Flex, Focus
Ford introduced a more affordable automatic parking technology in mid-2009 called Active Park Assist. It debuted on the 2010 Lincoln MKS and MKT, and 2010 Ford Escape. It won the company a "Best of What's New" award from Popular Science in 2009. Ford's system relies primarily on ultrasonic parking sensors to determine the size and location of a parking space and is said to require as little as 24 seconds to park the vehicle. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW-MhoLImqg) The technology has since spread to the Ford Flex (models with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine only), 2011 Ford Explorer (optional on the Limited trim), and even the new 2012 Ford Focus (a $695 option for SEL and Titanium models). The new Focus is thus the cheapest car in America to offer a self-parking feature. Given the Focus's small size, though, we wonder how much buyers really need a self-park option.
BMW 5 Series, 650i Convertible
BMW debuted Parking Assistant on the 2011 5 Series in late 2010. It's available as an option of the 5 Series sedan -- drivers of the 5 Series GT are out of luck -- and 650i convertible. When the car is driving below 22 mph, Parking Assistant automatically "scans" for open parking spaces that are at least 47 inches longer than the 5 Series. When the driver shifts into reverse, the BMW iDrive interface presents a list of nearby spaces that could accommodate the car. As with other systems, the driver keeps his or her foot on the brake as the BMW steers itself into a parallel-parking spot.
Mercedes-Benz CLS, M-Class
Among the many glitzy features on the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is Active Park Assist, another take on self-parking systems. It's available as a $970 option on the CLS550 and CLS63 AMG and will also be offered on the 2012 M-Class when it debuts in September. Active Park Assist uses the car's parking sensors to determine whether an adequately sized space is available; at speeds below 20 mph, a "P" icon and a small arrow appear in the instrument cluster to show an open spot. Once the driver shifts into reverse and pushes the Active Parking Assist button, he or she need only keep the car's speed below 7 mph as the Mercedes steers itself into the spot. We'd like to see the system join the S-Class feature list, as Mercedes's ultimate luxury sedan measures a whopping 206.5 inches end-to-end.
Cheating: Get the Valet to Do It
If only there were people employed for the sole purpose of parking your vehicle, then retrieving it when you needed it next. Luckily, there are: parking valets take the hassle out of parking, although they also take a hefty wad of dollar bills out of your wallet. What simpler way to park than to pull up to the valet line in front of your favorite restaurant or club?
Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4
Admittedly, this strategy is out of reach for most people, but it's a sure-fire way to easy parking. Trust us, if you hand a valet employee the keys to your shiny new Aventador, they'll make sure you don't have to worry about finessing it into and out of narrow spaces. No self-respecting valet attendant would hide Lamborghini's newest supercar in the back lot, so you can be assured that when you emerge from dining or dancing (no drinking, please -- this is a 697-hp Lamborghini), your ride will be parked in prime position by the curb.
The cost of entry is, ahem, high. A new Lamborghini Aventador will set you back $379,700 -- before any options. And with a combined EPA rating of 13 mpg, you'll need to bring plenty of cash for premium fuel. But, hey, you get to drive a Lamborghini and park easily in front of the hottest venues. Surely that's worth the price?