There always seems to be more gadgets on new cars. How many read the owner's manual?
Cars, no -- except to figure out what viscosity oil to use and how much. Bikes, yes. The dash on my Triumph has about 18 different functions (two trips, instant fuel mileage, average speed, max speed, shift lights, etc. etc.) all accessed through three measly buttons. I had to spend some quality time with the manual to figure that all out.
I always read my owner's manuals. They're full of shocking tidbits that the salesperson didn't tell you, or explanations for oddball interior design.
Now that I think about it though, I don't read about the gadgets. I read about the oil, the security (how do you turn that beep beep OFF when you lock the car?) and how to use the jacking supplies if you get a flat tire. I suppose if I had a tracking system like OnStar, I'd read all about that to figure out what they are tracking. (me!)
You may save yourself some money if you read about and understand your compact spare tire. Hidden in the details of the manual there is a description of what axle to put the tire on, and what happens to your mechanical parts if you drive to far with a compact spare. The compact spares are usually smaller in diameter than a regular tire. Damage to differentials, transaxles or transmissions can result if you drive too far with the smaller tire. Reading the manual will explain where to install the compact spare, and how far is safe to drive it without mechanical damage.
I have an AWD vehicle, and I get a lot of flat tires. I was concerned about the effect of the compact spare on the AWD system. The salesperson happily explained that the compact spare is the same diameter as the stock tire/wheel to avoid damage to the car. It's just narrower than a regular tire.
I got a flat, installed the compact spare, and went about my day secure in the fact that I could replace my damaged tire at my leisure. About 25 miles later the car was howling at all speeds/road surfaces. So, I got out the owner's manual. I had to read a few pages BEFORE the tire changing procedure, where there was a tiny paragraph saying that the compact spare is a smaller diameter, and should used only to get off the road/or to get to a place where the original tire can be repaired or replaced.
So I should have read every single page of that owner's manual.
I almost always read the owner's manual for my new vehicles. I say almost because I did not read the owner's manual for my wife's minivan when we bought it but should have. I ended up having to pull out that manual when we got a flat tire and it was not clearly visible where all the jacking components were located.
When I purchase a new vehicle for myself, however, I do go through the manual to see what's new. I turn my vehicles over every 6-8 years and technology can change a lot during that time. I also tend to upgrade (i.e. more options) with each new vehicle I buy (more toys! more toys!). This latest Ford Explorer I bought came with the Microsoft Sync technology. AWESOME feature that allows you to control an iPod or similar device using voice commands. Also, and probably the BEST feature, the bluetooth phone connection. That allows me to get into the vehicle and not have to worry about plugging in a headset for my cell phone. GREAT features that I rely on now, but would have been an absolutely impossible task of getting comfortable with those without the user's manual.
This Explorer also had a different method for engaging the 4X4 so that was kind of important to read about too! ;-)
I think they can be a good starting point, but are also written in a dry, aged way and sometimes contain information not relevant to my specific model. Part of the delivery process should really be the salesperson going over the car stem to stern. In my dealership days, I saw deliveries range from a 4 hour mind-numbing experience with a few bathroom breaks to a 30 second thanks, handshake and back slap.
I am not always sold on the owner's manuals. Maybe it's my generation, but I usually go to the internet first for answers (with a calculated assumption of common sense for each answer found). Or, when buying a 1982 Caprice for $50 from an auction lot behind a dealership, they don't come with a manual! LOL.