We're all thankful for the bird on the table -- but how about giving thanks for the design improvements that have made our cars better, safer and more efficient than they've ever been? Maybe in-between mouthfuls -- or during halftime -- take a quick trip to the garage, bow your head a moment and give thanks to the Motor Gods for things like:

* 300 horsepower engines that get 30 mpg -- As much as you hear jabbering about "gas hogs," the fact is that never before have high-powered vehicles been so fuel-efficient. In the muscle car days of the 1960s, big V-8s were luck to deliver mileage in the mid teens. But today, cars like the 303-hp Monte Carlo SS, 300-hp Mustang GT and 400-hp Corvette are solidly in the mid-high 20s on the highway. And "fast and furious" sport compacts like the Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru WRX can do even better -- at the pump as well as at the dragstrip.

* Planet-friendly and still fun to drive -- Thanks to constant tweaking and refinement, many of today's latest cars produce just fractionally more in the way of tailpipe emissions than a pure electric car. And these are not tinny little econo-boxes, either. The '06 Jaguar XJ Super V8 sedan, for example, meets California's super-strict Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) standards, which means you can ride in Lord of the Manor style -- without feeling occasionally guilty about helping to choke the planet's teeming masses in a blanket of smog.

* High-tech keeps getting cheaper -- Like microwave ovens and VCRs, automotive electronics such as on-board GPS navigation systems and DVD players began as high-end toys of the rich but are now affordable gadgets for the masses. Many family-priced (under $30k) new cars -- including the Mazda3 and Jeep Liberty -- offer factory-installed navigation systems; safety equipment such as anti-lock brakes and traction/stability control have become almost standard features -- and will be as commonplace on new cars within a couple of years as air conditioning and power windows are today.

* Really effective headlights -- To get a feel for how many steps we've taken in this department, find a car from the 1970s or even the 1980s and go for a drive on a dark and stormy night. You'll be amazed how weak headlights used to be -- and how perilous night driving was as recently as ten or 15 years ago. Modern High Intensity Discharge and Projector headlights are to yesterday's sealed beam units what a displacement on demand, variable cam timing-equipped modern V-8 is to a Ford flathead from t he 1930s. The latest systems even self-level and steer with you in a corner -- in addition to turning night into daytime at the turn of a switch.

* All-wheel-drive is everywhere -- This design feature, which used to be found only in a few oddball Audis and Subarus, is now offered in bread and butter family cars like the Ford Five Hundred, wagons like the Chrysler Pacifica, minivans like the Toyota Sienna -- and high-performance sport sedans like the new Lexus IS250 and Infiniti G35. AWD is great because unlike truck-style four-wheel-drive, which is designed for off-road operation and typically works in part-time (2WD) mode on dry, paved roads, AWD constantly sends engine power to the wheels with the most grip, on or off-road. And it's just as great for high-performance driving on dry, paved roads as it is for keeping your car glued to the road in rain or snowy weather -- while truck-style four-wheel-drive is mostly good at wasting fuel and sapping performance (by adding weight) unless it happens to be snowing or you've gone off-road.

* There are no slow cars anymore -- True, some new cars are much faster than others, but there are no new cars that need 15-30 seconds just to reach 60 mph -- as, for example, the old air-cooled VW Beetle and other econo-boxes of the '70s and '80s did. Today, a typical mid-sized family car can nail 60 mph in about 8 seconds; many do it in 6-7 seconds. The "slow" cars are closer to 10 seconds. If you go back a few years, an 8-second-to-60 mph time was considered sports car quick -- the stuff of V-8 performance cars like the Pontiac Trans-Am. Also, there are few new cars that have any real trouble hitting triple digit speeds -- even a hybrid like the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight can do 100-plus if you keep your foot in it. And the typical mid-sized, V-6 powered family sedan can nail 130-plus -- a supercar top end as recently as the late '80s.

* They protect us like a warm womb -- Today's cars are more "survivable" than the race cars of the not-so-distant past -- with active (traction and stability control, ABS) and passive (air bags, seat belt pre-tensioners; "crumple zones," etc.) safety features designed to prevent a crash from occurring and protect us against being injured or killed if one happens anyhow. No more steering-wheel-through-the chest, no more being decapitated by the windshield your head just went through. While not death-free, your odds of barrel-rolling a modern car and living to tell the tale (with all your body parts still attached and functioning) is much higher than it's ever been. Even small cars -- which used to be referred to as "death traps" in the business -- are pretty safe, at least compared to the genuine death-mobiles of the '70s, '80s and even early '90s -- before things like air bags and deformable, impact-absorbing body structures became commonplace.

* We have choices like never before -- Depending on how you do the math, there are something like 600-plus makes/models of cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, hybrids and in-betweens to choose from. Everything from micro-sized Scions and Minis to automotive brontosauri like the Nissan Titan and Hummer H1. There are literally cars for every lifestyle, preference, budget -- tailored to please our every whim. And they are more affordable than ever -- with killer financing deals and manufacturer incentives that give buyers an edge like they've never had before. We get to buy the best-built, up-to-date and interesting new cars that have ever been offered to the public -- and we get to do it on our terms.

It's a lot to be thankful for!