If there's one thing we know here at Roadshow, it's infotainment systems. You've no doubt seen our Tech Check videos, and perhaps you've browsed our extensive guide of. With so much technology packed into cars these days, we spend a lot of time going through these multi-faceted multimedia systems.
So with so much infotainment research under our collective belt, it's natural that we find some standout examples. There may be tons of multimedia interfaces available today, but the ones listed here are our favorites -- and for good reason.
There's a lot of variety to come in this list, nearly as much variety as you'll find moving from the dashboard of one car to the other. That's something that we at Roadshow do on an almost daily basis, and for that reason, my favorite infotainment system is the one that gives me a bit of consistency: Android Auto.
I go between Windows and Mac a couple of times a day, but for my phone, I've been an Android guy for a long time, and though I've spent a lot of time using Apple CarPlay, the more open and flexible nature of Android Auto is strongly preferred. In there I have more apps that can do more things than elsewhere and, with the recent redesign, it's easier than ever to toggle between Maps and Waze, or Audible and Google Play Music.
Most importantly, though, Google knows me better than any other service on the planet. While that's a little scary at times, it does mean that nine times out of 10 when I get in the car and connect my phone it already knows where I'm going and is suggesting directions on how to get there. It's those smarts that, for me, make Android Auto the most genuinely useful of all the in-car infotainment systems available today.
-- Tim Stevens
Audi MMI Touch Response
First off, you should know that I generally dislike touchscreens as an infotainment interface. Secondly, you should know that Audi's latest Multi Media Interface, Touch Response, has not one, but two massive such displays. That fact alone should give you some clue as to how good this system is because, on some level, it has to overcome my built-in prejudice against its primary method of operation.
Audi has conquered my fears with several powerful weapons, namely organization, speed and beauty. Organization, because menus are well designed and easy to both decipher and rationalize (including the interaction between the billboard-sized displays). Speed because Audi has clearly spent the money on processor power, related hardware and lean coding to minimize load times and latency. And beauty because, well, they've executed everything in such a visually pleasing way.
Audi has canted the touchscreens at the proper (adjustable) angles and given my wrist a way to steady itself to make sure I consistently choose the right on-screen button in a moving, bouncing car. Plus, it corroborates inputs with haptic feedback.
It goes without saying that MMI incorporates the latest features, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plus, there's very good voice recognition with casual speech. Finally, Audi has left enough redundant physical switchgear for core functions like volume and changing audio tracks that I don't have to glance down at the screens for every function.
-- Chris Paukert
Chevrolet Infotainment 3
The Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system may be one of the more unimaginatively named multimedia setups out there, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth your attention. The thing I like best about CI3 is how darn simple it is -- this is easily one of the most intuitive interfaces available today.
Basically, CI3 works like your phone. Swipe left and right to move through menus, touch any of the colorful icons to immediately open a new screen, and just hit the back button on the dash when you need to go back to where you came from. I often spend a lot of time hunting and scrolling through complicated infotainment menus; I've never had to do that with CI3.
Best of all, Chevy makes sure every version of CI3 comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and, in most cases, a Wi-Fi hotspot. Easy to use, nice to look at and always compatible with your smartphone -- it's what every infotainment in 2019 should be.
-- Steven Ewing
Uconnect is found across FCA vehicles in brands like Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Fiat. It may look like a complicated mess on first glance, but when you really look at it everything is intuitively organized. I especially like the lack of menus and sub menus. There is no guesswork involved.
Depending on the model, Uconnect is available with a 5-inch, 7-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen. Ram makes a 12-inch touchscreen available in its top of the like trucks. Certain models have specific features, so Jeeps get off-road pages and the Dodge Charger and Challenger get track timers and the like.
The navigation in Uconnect isn't bad, but it's fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto if you want to use Google maps or Waze. Most versions get a Wi-Fi hotspot to stay connected while on the go.
-- Emme Hall
Acura True Touchpad
Familiarity plays a big part in how much I like an infotainment system, which is why I'm quite fond of the Audi MMIs, BMW iDrives and Chevrolet Infotainment 3s of the world that have been around for a bit. Acura's True Touchpad Interface, however, has caught my attention and is a relatively recent entry into the market debuting in the latest RDX.
True Touchpad is based around a 10.2-inch center screen that isn't a touchscreen. Instead, commands are carried out by the center console touchpad divided into two sections. The larger portion is used to navigate the primary portion of the screen on the left, while the smaller section is used to toggle through a secondary area to the right that displays radio, navigation or time information. With absolute-positioning, the pad operates similar to a smartphone with the part you touch on it corresponding with what's on the screen making it intuitive.
It's also packed with plenty of available features including a stellar 16-speaker ELS audio system, navigation with real-time traffic, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay. Sadly, Android Auto is missing its feature list, though.
-- Jon Wong
Porsche Communication Management
While I'm a fan of data-heavy infotainment systems, I understand many buyers want something a little more straightforward. The latest iteration of Porsche's PCM offers that.
Starting with a configurable home screen, PCM attempts to give you a quick glance of all the important bits in the system. A quick scroll down the left side gives you access to each full-fat menu, with plenty of images and contextual menus that make sense without requiring too much distraction.
The only issue I can think of with PCM is that it lacks Android Auto support, but iOS users will be happy that Apple CarPlay is on board. There's always the possibility for an after-the-fact update, too, because PCM can accept over-the-air updates.
-- Andrew Krok
Nearly two decades after it first debuted in the much-maligned E65 7 Series, I think BMW has finally perfected iDrive. It's intuitive, fairly simple, and no longer frustrating. The main control is an excellent rotary knob, but most new BMWs also have added touchscreen capability, which is a boon.
iDrive also works well with BMW's latest digital gauge clusters and head-up displays. I actually like the design of the cluster and the graphics overall -- some find them fussy and overly complex -- and the integration of audio, maps, and other info into the driver's line-of-sight is really nice. The system is pretty configurable, too, so you don't have to spend much of your time diving into endless menus.
And I've gotta say, I love gesture controls. Yes, they're a gimmick. No, they don't work very well. But they feel like the future to me, and that's the feeling that iDrive as a whole gives. When it first launched in 2001 it was truly awful, with most people praying that the infotainment systems of the future would be nothing like it. Now, I wish more companies would take notes from BMW.
-- Daniel Golson
CarPlay is great because it's the same on every car, and it carries over the familiar and aesthetically pleasing look of Apple iOS. Since CarPlay runs on your phone and not on the car's hardware, it's also generally fairly snappy, unlike many automaker infotainment systems that can feel sluggish and dated really quickly.
When it comes to in-car voice assistants, Siri is a great one. Sure, she's not always the most accurate, but again, familiarity scores points here. I've already trained myself to work with Siri's idiosyncrasies, so I don't want to have to do it with a second digital assistant.
-- Kyle Hyatt