Technology is the great democratizer, and skeptics should look no further than today's cars, which offer more choices than ever before when it comes to in-car entertainment options. Automakers are eager to cram more screens and more features into their models, all to make your commute as effortless and as enjoyable as possible.
The sheer number of options can overwhelm even the most knowledgable car shopper. Do you need navigation, or will your smartphone's plethora of navigation apps suffice? Is Apple CarPlay or Android Auto a must-have feature? Do you enjoy satellite or internet radio? Parsing your in-car technological needs from your wants is critical before heading to the dealership. Doing so can be a frustrating experience in navigating not-so-friendly consumer websites that burry the information.
To help, we've broken down which makes and models offer what features. However, for now, we've limited our list to mainstream brands. Sorry, but you won't find details about Bugatti or Koenigsegg.
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Most Acura models use a two-screen infotainment system called an On-Demand Multi-Information Display. There's a 7-inch lower and 8-inch upper display with a physical rotary and jog controller and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The ILX sedan is an exception, with a 5-inch display coming standard and a single 8-inch display optional on higher trim levels.
The NSX supercar has a single 7-inch touchscreen interface. The newest Acura, the 2019 RDX crossover, introduces a new infotainment system with a 10.2-inch screen and a "True Touchpad Interface," which uses a touch-sensitive pad on the center console. For now it only offers Apple CarPlay, but Android Auto support is coming.
In general, Acura's infotainment systems feel a little dated, with so-so graphics and a cumbersome interface. Using the two screens and the physical control knob is not as straightforward as many rival premium automaker infotainment systems. As for the RDX's new system, we found it easy to use and much improved over older Acura interfaces, with less of a learning curve to using the touchpad than expected.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio are both available with either 6.5- or 8.8-inch infotainment displays, operated via a rotary controller on the center console (the screens are not touch-sensitive). Both variants offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, while navigation is optional on either system. Satellite radio is standard on higher-trim cars (Ti and Quadrifoglio) and optional on-base models. The 4C sports car has a minimalist Alpine head unit with AM/FM radio, satellite radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
The Giulia and Stelvio infotainment systems use a proprietary software interface (meaning it's not a rebranded version of software from FCA, Alfa's corporate parent) with a fairly minimalist design. The menu structure itself is easy to navigate using the physical controller, but the system's responses are slow and clunky. The navigation system doesn't offer advanced features such as online destination search.
The 4C's system feels like an aftermarket unit you might have fitted to your own car. And while the Alpine system is an improvement over the Parrot one installed in earlier models, it's still nothing special when compared to other similarly priced sports cars.
Older models such as the Rapide and Vanquish feature a system called AMI III, which has navigation, text-message integration and Bluetooth. Its functions are managed with a rotary controller on the center stack. The two newest Aston Martins, the DB11 and Vantage, use a Mercedes-Benz-sourced Comand infotainment system with an 8-inch non-touchscreen in the dashboard and both rotary and touchpad controllers on the console. The Rapide and Vanquish support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but neither is offered on the DB1, DBS Superleggera and Vantage -- though a spokesman says they don't offer those features "yet," hinting they could be added later.
Aston Martin's older infotainment systems are crude and dated by today's standards -- hey, you're buying these cars for their beauty and engines, not their tech, right? But the Mercedes-sourced DB11, DBS and Vantage systems are just as straightforward and modern as in other Mercedes models, a refreshing change from older cars.
Most older Audi models use an infotainment system called MMI, which features a rotary knob with shortcut buttons that's used to access all information on the display. Many newer Audi models also allow drivers to interact with the infotainment system through Virtual Cockpit, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster operated with the steering-wheel controls. In fact, the TT and R8, as they're driver-focused, don't have a center screen and put all infotainment interactions in Virtual Cockpit.
Audi's older MMI works well and quickly, with logically structured menus that we find easy to use while driving -- though navigating Android Auto via rotary knob rather than touchscreen takes some getting used to. Virtual Cockpit is a must-have feature when available for its ability to present lots of information clearly and easily directly in the driver's line of sights. Its graphics are crisp and bright.
The A6, A7, A8, Q8 and the forthcoming Q3 and E-Tron all use a new, more advanced version with two screens called MMI Touch Response, with haptic feedback on the screens. The primary display is 10.1 inches across, while the lower 8.6-inch one is used for operating the climate control and entering information such as navigation addresses. Every Audi supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
We're impressed by MMI Touch Response -- in fact, we gave the technology a Roadshow Shift award. The twin-screen setup is pretty to look at and both swift and simple in its operation. Even using the climate controls on the lower screen is simple, without much waiting for the systems to boot up when you turn the car on. That said, the glossy touch surfaces tend to attract a lot of fingerprint smudges.
The Bentley Bentayga, Flying Spur and Mulsanne come equipped with 8-inch touchscreens. In the Bentayga, you get a newer version with features including navigation, a built-in hard drive for storing music and Google Earth satellite imagery. The new Continental GT and Continental GT Convertible, however, use the same 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system that's found in the Porsche Panamera, as the two are based on the same basic platform. To add a luxury touch, it can be hidden behind wood trim thanks to an elaborate rotating display bezel. It has a Wi-Fi hotspot and supports Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto.
Bentley's older infotainment systems feel, well, old, though the Bentayga's newer touchscreen is snappy and responsive. It even supports Apple CarPlay. The Continental GT's system works just as well as in the Panamera, with fast responses to user input that make using in-car functions a breeze.
Though there's a basic AM/FM/satellite radio with USB, Bluetooth and auxiliary connectivity, all BMW models can be upgraded to an infotainment system called iDrive. Most models are controlled using a rotary jog dial on the center console, but some newer systems also offer touchscreen support. You can "write" letters and numbers atop the controller in certain models, which can be useful when inputting navigation address. Apple CarPlay is supported but you will have to pay an annual subscription to use the function. Android Auto is not offered.
Most newer BMW models, including the 5 Series, 7 Series, 3 Series, 8 Series and X5, offer limited gesture-recognition ability: You can twirl your finger in the air to raise or lower the volume, for instance. We're still not sure that's useful, except as a way to impress your passengers. Other options include a Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless phone charging, depending on the car.
Modern versions of iDrive are fast, responsive and intuitive, with great functionality whether you're stopped or on the move. We just wish that BMW didn't charge extra for a feature (CarPlay) that is fast becoming standard on much more affordable mainstream models. The 2019 X5 and X7 introduce a new version of iDrive (called version 7) that uses a 12.3-inch touchscreen as well as a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The 2019 3 Series, 2019 8 Series and 2019 Z4 also have iDrive 7, albeit with a 10.25-inch screen.
BMW is also introducing a new Alexa-like feature called Intelligent Personal Assistant. Available in the 3 and 8 Series, as well as Z4 and X7, the voice-recognition tech can respond to inquiries like, "Hey BMW, look for the nearest fuel station," or "Hey BMW, I'm cold." As with Mercedes' similar function, we're not totally sold on Intelligent Personal Assistant just yet.
Buick's infotainment systems run the same basic software as other General Motors cars, including GMC and Chevrolet models, albeit with unique graphics and logos. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on every model except the Cascada convertible, which uses an older version of Buick's infotainment system. Screen sizes are either 7 or 8 inches, depending on the model, with navigation offered as an option. And like most GM models, a Wi-Fi hotspot is available as an option.
As on Chevrolet and GMC models, the Buick infotainment systems perform well: They're quick to respond to user inputs and while the graphics aren't especially flashy, they are clear and legible. Unfortunately, the Cascada's system is a generation behind other Buicks. We experienced slow load times and were frustrated by the button-heavy center stack needed to operate it.
The Cadillac CT6, XT5 and Escalade use the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) touchscreen infotainment system, with built-in AM/FM/satellite radio, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary connectivity, OnStar telematics support and optional navigation and a Wi-Fi hot spot. The ATS, CTS and XTS have an updated version that can save a driver's preferences to the cloud to be used in multiple vehicles, and also boasts "predictive" navigation and an app store to add even more functionality. Both systems feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as optional navigation. As with Chevrolet, performance models (ATS-V and CTS-V) can be equipped with a Performance Data Recorder for capturing your track-day heroics.
The newer XT4, XT6 and CT5 have a slightly updated infotainment system that adds a rotary jog controller on the center console.
Like other General Motors touchscreen infotainment systems, we find CUE to be easy to use and live with. All versions have simple menus that can be navigated at a glance while on the move, and the CarPlay and Android Auto integration works well with the touchscreen interfaces. The newer version of CUE is notably faster in its performance responses, and its graphics are a little fresher and crisper, too.
Branded MyLink, Chevrolet offers 7- and 8-inch touchscreen infotainment systems on most models, with optional navigation, as well as built-in connectivity to the OnStar telematics system. AM/FM/satellite radio, Bluetooth, auxiliary and USB inputs are all included. On performance models such as the Camaro and Corvette, you'll even find an optional Performance Data Recorder that can record video and telemetry from your on-track laps -- all the better for posting to YouTube later. The Bolt EV has a slightly different infotainment system focused on offering information about its battery charge time and other information, with a 10.2-inch screen. Every Chevrolet supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Chevrolet's MyLink system impresses with its simplicity, quick responses and overall ease of use. The built-in navigation and other functions work well, as do the CarPlay and Android Auto integrations. Its graphics aren't the flashiest, but overall great functionality still makes MyLink a great pick among mainstream infotainment systems.
The Chrysler 300 and Pacifica both offer the Uconnect 4 infotainment system on an 8.4-inch screen, with some Pacifica minivan trims offering a 7-inch version of the display. The system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as Bluetooth, satellite radio, and aux and USB ports. Navigation with SiriusXM traffic and travel data is optional. In the Pacifica specifically, Uconnect Theater functionality allows for showing movies on the optional rear screens for kids (or older passengers, presumably).
The latest version of Uconnect is better than ever, with bright and clear graphics, quick responses and simple-to-navigate menus. Using the on-screen climate controls isn't always the smoothest experience, but Chrysler does provide redundant physical buttons for most of those operations.
The Dodge Challenger and Charger offer buyers a choice of two touchscreens powered by the company's Uconnect software, a 7-inch and an 8.4-inch. Both feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as Bluetooth, satellite radio, and aux and USB ports. The 8.4-inch display can be optioned with navigation that features SiriusXM traffic and travel data, too. The Durango SUV offers the same displays, though its 8.4-inch option comes standard with navigation.
The Journey is the oldest vehicle in the Dodge lineup and thus has the oldest infotainment features. A 4.3-inch touchscreen is standard on base models, with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth plus aux and USB ports, as well as optional satellite radio. You can option up to the 8.4-inch screen running Uconnect 3 (a version behind other Dodge models), with or without navigation, and without any support for CarPlay or Android Auto.
Performance models of the Challenger, Charger and Durango also come with extra on-screen displays for adjusting vehicle settings, monitoring engine data or even recording your acceleration and braking times. Using the on-screen climate controls isn't always the smoothest experience, but Dodge does provide redundant physical buttons for most of those operations. The Journey's infotainment systems are behind the times within the class, as is the crossover as a whole.
Today's Ferraris essentially offer two different infotainment options. The Portofino and GTC4Lusso have 10.2-inch touchscreen systems with navigation. The 488 family and the 812 Superfast, as well as the new F8 Tributo, however, have small color displays at the right of the infotainment system, controlled by buttons on the dashboard. Every Ferrari supports Apple CarPlay (though it's a paid option), but none offers Android Auto. The F8 Tributo can be optioned with a small touchscreen on the passenger side of the dashboard.
While we haven't had chance to try the 10.2-inch system yet, the color display on the 488 GTB is best described as "minimal but functional."
Fiat offers different infotainment systems for each of its models. The standard 500 hatchback and Cabrio -- whether in base or Abarth trim -- has a 5-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, USB and aux ports. Satellite radio and navigation are offered as an option. The 500X crossover and 500L hatchback both receive a standard 7-inch Uconnect 4.0 touchscreen for the 2018 model year. It includes satellite radio plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, and can be optioned with navigation and SiriusXM traffic information.
The Fiat 124 Spider is an interesting exception. Because the convertible is based on the Mazda MX-5 Miata, it uses the Mazda Connect infotainment system, with a 7-inch touchscreen and rotary controller. Scroll down to the Mazda section for our thoughts on Mazda Connect.
The 500's infotainment system looks and feels pretty dated at this point, with little in the way of phone integration. But the newer Uconnect system introduced this year for the 500X/500L is bright and responsive, with crisp and clear graphics.
Base versions of Ford products use a relatively basic non-touchscreen radio with AM/FM, auxiliary and USB inputs, Bluetooth and Ford's Sync voice-command features. The upgrade option is Ford Sync 3, which uses 6.5- or 8-inch touchscreens and adds features such as satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and optional navigation. It can even be used to adjust the climate controls and the heated steering wheel in appropriately equipped cars. And newer Ford models offer Wi-Fi hotspots which you can connect with up to 10 devices at once. Where the touchscreens used to be embedded into Ford cars' center stacks, newer models, such as the EcoSport and 2020 Escape, have tablet-style screens that stick up from the dashboard. The new 2020 Explorer, meanwhile, can be optioned with a 10.1-inch portrait-style touchscreen.
Early versions of Ford Sync were error-prone and difficult to use, but Sync 3 is quick and responsive in most situations, with large and clear menus on-screen. It even has an AppLink app interface allowing for integration of things like Slacker internet radio or AccuWeather forecasts. Ford cars also have physical volume and tuning knobs, so you're not forced to do everything through the touchscreen.
The Genesis G90 has a 12.3-inch touchscreen with auxiliary and USB ports, Bluetooth, AM/FM, satellite radio and navigation. While it does feature Sirius XM traffic and travel information as well as wireless phone charging, it doesn't offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support.
In the smaller and more affordable G80 sedan, there's an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation as standard along with Bluetooth, satellite radio, XM traffic and travel information and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Buyers have the option to add a 9.2-inch display with a rotary controller on the center console, too. The G70 sedan, a Roadshow Shift Award winner, also uses the 8-inch touchscreen, featuring CarPlay and Android Auto support.
The basic on-screen software for the G70 and G80 is based on Hyundai's Blue Link infotainment software, meaning that the Genesis systems work well with quick responses and straightforward menus. The lack of CarPlay and Android Auto on the G90 may be a letdown to some buyers, but the screen impresses with its size and clarity. Navigating its menus with the scroll wheel is reasonably straightforward.
GMC's infotainment systems are rebranded versions of the ones you'll find in equivalent Chevrolet trucks or SUVs. Depending on trim level, 7- or 8-inch touchscreen displays are offered, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included as standard. Built-in navigation is available as an option on high-trim models.
Honda offers a basic 5-inch radio system that lacks satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, or Android Auto. Both higher trim levels can be optioned with a 7- or 8-inch touchscreen that adds those features, as well as the ability to read out text messages and integration with Pandora internet radio and optional navigation. That means that every Honda offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, at least as an option.
Overall, Honda's infotainment systems work well and are simple to use. Downsides with most of the touchscreens include a lack of physical volume and tuning buttons on many models, something Honda has corrected with the new Accord. The graphics on the 7-inch screen are also relatively crude, and some functions require jumping through multiple menus. The newer 8-inch screens have fresher, higher-resolution graphics, especially with the new tile-based layout in newer models such as the Accord, Insight, Pilot, Passport and Odyssey.
Hyundai uses either 7- or 8-inch touchscreens, depending on model, with AM/FM, satellite radio, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary connectivity, as well as optional navigation. Every Hyundai supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And wireless phone charging is available on certain higher-trim models, too.
Hyundai's touchscreens may not be the flashiest, but they're routinely among our favorites for their speed, ease of use and sheer legibility. The on-screen software works well, even if it doesn't have the flashiest or fanciest graphics on the market. The built-in navigation works well, and the CarPlay and Android Auto integrations are excellent.
The Q70 and QX60 have a basic AM/FM/satellite, Bluetooth, USB and aux system as standard. The optional upgrade is to an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation. The QX30 comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen, while the QX80 has an 8-inch touchscreen. Finally, the Q50, Q60 and QX50 feature a dual-screen system with a 7-inch lower and 8-inch upper touchscreen.
Functionality includes an AM/FM/satellite radio, Bluetooth, USB and aux inputs, but you won't find support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. All models also have a jog dial in addition to the touch support.
Infiniti's single-screen systems have no real problems, but also fail to stand out compared to today's best rivals: the navigation graphics are dated and the built-in functionality is not especially impressive. The dual-screen setup is frustrating because while the lower display has crisp, modern graphics, the upper one looks, "to have been nicked from a Garmin installed in a 1995 Civic," we wrote. Moreover, the functionality is slow and feels a step behind most rivals -- especially given the lack of CarPlay and Android Auto.
An 8-inch touchscreen is standard on most models, while Jaguar offers an upgraded system with navigation and a 10-inch display, which has bright and colorful graphics. A Wi-Fi hotspot can be equipped, and new models, including the updated XE sedan, can be equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Unfortunately, we struggle to love Jaguar's infotainment systems. Their responses are sluggish, especially when first starting the car or swapping between menu structures. Although the homepage's tiled layout can be reconfigured, the many submenus are tough to navigate, making even everyday functions (such as changing radio presets) more of a chore than in rival luxury systems.
Depending on which Jeep you buy, different infotainment systems are available, but all offer at least 7- and 8.4-inch touchscreens with Uconnect 4, the latest version of the user-friendly infotainment system. It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and has optional navigation, SiriusXM traffic and travel information. The Renegade, Compass, Wrangler and Gladiator all also offer a much less impressive 5-inch touchscreen on base models, with older Uconnect 3 software that doesn't support CarPlay or Android Auto.
As on all vehicles with Uconnect, the Jeep systems listed here work well, with bright and clear graphics, plus quick responses and simple-to-navigate menus. Using the on-screen climate controls (on vehicles with 7- or 8.4-inch displays) isn't always the smoothest experience, but Jeep does provide redundant physical buttons for most of those operations.
Kia offers 7- or 8-inch touchscreens in all its cars, with the upgraded UVO3 option featuring navigation as well as voice recognition. All of the systems feature AM/FM, Bluetooth and satellite radio, and every Kia supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Pandora internet radio. UVO telematics services, like many competitors, allow let you locate the car with an app. The 2019 K900 sedan features a 12.3-inch touchscreen with navigation as standard and also has a rotary controller for operating its interface.
Kia's touchscreens may not be the most feature-rich, but they, like sibling brand Hyundai's, work seamlessly and flawlessly. Though not the prettiest or most stylized, the on-screen graphics and impeccably clear and easy to use at a glance while on the road. Using CarPlay or Android Auto with the touch functionality works simply, too. The new K900's system has even smarter graphics and a revised menu structure that, we think, borrows a lot from the design of BMW iDrive -- that's not a bad thing.
The Lamborghini Aventador has a full-digital instrument cluster along with an infotainment screen operated by Audi-like buttons and a rotary knob. It supports Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto. The Huracan also has a full-digital instrument cluster and lacks a central infotainment screen, instead relegating all functions to the display and using a rotary knob and buttons on the center stack. It, too, supports Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto.
The Urus SUV may brand its in-car tech as Lamborghini Infotainment System (LIS), but anyone who's been in the new Audi A8 will recognize the twin-screen setup. As in the A8 (and A6 and A7), a 10.1-inch primary touchscreen works with an 8.6-inch lower one that's used for things like climate controls and writing navigation addresses. It features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support as standard. Its graphics have, of course, been restyled to suit a Lamborghini rather than an Audi.
While the Aventador and Huracan's systems are dated, the Urus' works very well. Just as in new Audis, it's pretty to look at, fast in all its functionality and easy to use.
An 8-inch touchscreen is standard, with an optional 10-inch system called Land Rover InControl Pro available with navigation. The Range Rover Velar has a more advanced infotainment package, called Touch Duo Pro, with twin 10-inch touchscreens. The lower display is used, as in newer Audi models, to operate secondary functions such as climate and seating options. Land Rover also includes special menus with off-roading information including the vehicle's angle or four-wheel-drive status.
Though it looks stylish in the dashboard and has bright, clear graphics, Land Rover's infotainment system is often sluggish in its operations and cumbersome to use, especially taking time to boot up when you start the car or switch between menu functions. That can be especially frustrating when the system is needed for operating features like heated seats. The newer infotainment system in the Range Rover Velar seems faster to use than older models, and its graphics are an extra step forward in terms of crispness and prettiness. Land Rover is now adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.
Lexus offers a basic infotainment display with AM/FM/satellite radio, Siri Eyes Free for iPhone users, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary input and support for the Scout GPS navigation app. The optional upgrade is to an infotainment system with a 10.3-inch screen operated by what Lexus calls the Remote Touch Interface, a mouse-like controller on the center console.
It features navigation and a Lexus Enform app suite that, similar to Toyota's Entune integration, allows for using certain apps that have been downloaded to your phone. The 2019 ES was the first Lexus to offer Apple CarPlay connectivity (it became available in October 2018), and it's also available on the UX crossover, though no Lexus has Android Auto. An 8-inch screen is standard while models with navigation get a 12.3-inch display. Both use a touchpad rather than the hump-style touch controller on other Lexus models.
The Lexus Remote Touch Interface is one of the most frustrating-to-use systems in the car business. Convoluted menus and an ultra-sensitive touch controller make changing settings or even picking a radio station while driving a chore. In fact, many on-screen functions are locked out entirely while on the move, perhaps in part because manipulating them can be so tricky.
Lincoln vehicles all use rebranded versions of the Ford Sync infotainment system. That means, like Fords, there's support for satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with navigation offered as an option. And just like those Ford models, the Lincoln systems work well in most situations.
As of the 2018 model year, all Maseratis use infotainment systems based on the Uconnect touchscreen interface found in FCA cars. That means you get a bright, clear and responsive 8.4-inch touchscreen -- though it's been rebranded with different colors, fonts and graphics compared to similar systems in other FCA-brand cars. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported.
Every new Mazda comes with a 7-inch touchscreen that the automaker brands as Mazda Connect. In addition to the touch interface, the system can be operated by a rotary knob on the center console. Standard features include AM/FM radio, auxiliary and USB ports, Bluetooth, and support for Aha, Pandora, and Stitcher Internet radio services. Satellite radio and navigation are both available as options, dependent on trim levels. An 8-inch version of the screen is standard on the 2018 Mazda6 and on the CX-9's Touring trim level. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have long been unavailable, but fortunately Mazda is now introducing support for those technologies across the lineup -- as well as on older models sold since 2014.
Mazda Connect is reasonably responsive to inputs, its graphics are sharp and the navigation looks good and works well. But the system lacks many of the more advanced features found in rivals, like online destination search for nav, for instance. Although Mazda is beginning to introduce CarPlay and Android Auto, the technologies' continued absence is a continued sore spot if you want to connect your phone to your system. While the screen is touch sensitive, almost all the touch controls are locked out once the car is on the move, so you'll find yourself primarily using the "Commander Control" knob instead.
McLaren's cars use a 7-inch, vertically oriented touchscreen running software called Iris. In addition to the touch controls, there are also buttons at the bottom of the display and a rotary knob for interacting with the system. Satellite radio and navigation are included, while a Track Telemetry app records your on-track exploits for later analysis on a computer. The feature can be upgraded with cameras, too. Iris doesn't support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
Unfortunately, the infotainment system is nowhere near as satisfying as the cars in which it's installed. We found Iris' graphics crude, its menus tricky to use and interact with and its overall functionality slow and lacking compared to rivals. It's sluggish in all operations.
Mercedes calls its infotainment system Comand, and while there are slightly different versions depending on the age and model range of each car, overall it's an excellent system to use. Operated by a rotary dial and, in some newer models, a touchpad controller, it offers navigation, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary connectivity, as well as AM/FM/satellite radio. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported. Optional features include Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless phone charging. The Sprinter, A-Class, GLE-Class and CLA-Class -- as well as all future Mercedes models -- use an all-new touchscreen system called MBUX. It uses 7-, 10.25-or 12.3-inch screens, depending on model
Comand has a logical menu structure that is simple to navigate with the rotary dial or touchpad. The latter offers some simpler shortcuts for jumping between functions on the display. The screen's graphics, especially the 12.3-inch screens on newer models like the E- and S-Class, are pretty and legible, with stylish iconographic and images yet very straightforward controls. While we need to spend more time with it, MBUX proved impressive though its voice controls, intended to be operated by saying, "Hey Mercedes," did not always work as intended in our early testing.
The Mini Connected infotainment systems are offered with 6.5-inch screens as standard and 8.8-inch ones as an option. It's operated either by the touchscreen or with a rotary jog dial on the center console, on top of which you can write letters or numbers for the navigation system. Built-in app support includes Pandora, Spotify and other internet radio choices, plus Siri Eyes Free. Navigation is optional, too, and there are some Mini-quirky features on-board, like flashing lights around the outer edge of the circular display that correspond to in-car actions (such as adjusting the volume.) Only the Countryman and Clubman support Apple CarPlay. No Mini supports Android Auto.
The Mini Connected software is essentially a reskinned version of parent company BMW's iDrive, with a fairly straightforward menu structure, albeit done in more fun colors and graphics than the BMW version. Though it's easy to bump the awkwardly placed control knob by mistake, overall the infotainment system is very good: easy to use, stylish and fast.
Across most of its lineup, Mitsubishi offers a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard, with one USB port, AM/FM radio, and Bluetooth connectivity. Higher trim levels of the Eclipse Cross and Outlander (and standard on the Outlander Plug-In Hybrid) feature an upgraded system that Mitsubishi calls Smartphone Link Display Audio. It features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as satellite radio and two USB ports. It has a 7-inch touchscreen display and can also be operated via a touchpad on the center console. No matter the car or trim level, no built-in navigation is offered on any Mitsubishi. This year the refreshed Outlander Sport gets a new 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.
The 7-inch system has straightforward menus, but we found that there's a bit of delay in response when touching the screen or using the touchpad controller. We also wish there were a real volume knob aside from the up-down buttons on the steering wheel and headunit. The lack of integrated navigation is probably not a deal-breaker given the availability of CarPlay and Android Auto.
Like Toyota, Nissan has a diverse variety of infotainment systems available depending on vehicle -- and only a handful of them feature Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The 370Z family, for instance, comes standard with a very basic AM/FM/CD system with few added features besides Bluetooth and auxiliary connectivity -- though a 7-inch touchscreen with navigation is optional. The only vehicles with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are the Altima, Kicks, Maxima, Murano, Rogue, GT-R, Titan/Titan XD and Leaf (as an option).
A 5-inch touchscreen is standard on many Nissans, including the Leaf, Frontier, Rogue Sport and Versa. Other models have larger displays: the Rogue, Versa Note, Kicks, Titan/Titan XD and Rogue Sport have 7-inch screens, while the Pathfinder, Armada, Murano and Maxima have 8-inch screens as standard.
The new 2019 Altima has an 8-inch touchscreen as standard, with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, Google Assistant voice, Bluetooth and satellite radio. Navigation is offered as an option.
The Nissan GT-R and Leaf both have unique infotainment systems. For the GT-R, it's an 8-inch touchscreen with multiple special displays showing various vehicle and engine data. Other features include navigation, satellite radio and Apple CarPlay support. There's also a secondary rotary control knob for the system on the car's center console. As to the Leaf (SV and SL trims only), it uses a special version of Nissan's 7-inch touchscreen system that's designed for electric cars; things like Bluetooth, satellite radio and various menus for adjusting the Leaf's battery-charge status are standard, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Leaf Plus has an 8.0-inch screen as standard.
Most of Nissan's infotainment systems feel dated and perform slowly. Very few have modern connectivity features, too. That said, they're all acceptable for everyday use. The Leaf's infotainment system is an improvement, and we're looking forward to spending time with the Altima's new touchscreen later this year.
On the 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman, you'll find a Porsche Communication Management system with a 7-inch touchscreen and a rotary dial controller. Built-in navigation is optional, while integrated functions include AM/FM/satellite radio, Bluetooth, auxiliary and USB inputs, as well as an optional Wi-Fi hotspot. The Cayenne, updated Macan, 911 and Panamera feature a new, more advanced system with a 12.3-inch touchscreen with navigation. Every Porsche offers Apple CarPlay but none offer Android Auto.
On the older PCM systems, physical shortcut buttons help make navigating the simple, somewhat plain menu structure simple; everything about the system works easily and quickly. The new 12.3-inch touchscreen is the Cayenne, Macan, 911 and Panamera has incredibly sharp, clear graphics on its wide display. A simple menu on the left-hand side of the display allows for jumping between different features and information pages; proximity sensors show or hide info depending on how close your hand is to the screen, and multi-touch functionality makes zooming maps a breeze.
The new 2019 Ram 1500 features a 5-inch touchscreen radio as standard, with auxiliary and USB inputs and AM/FM. It's standard on the truck's Tradesman, HFE, Big Horn and Rebel trim levels. The next step up is an 8.4-inch touchscreen familiar from other Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models. Equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, as well as satellite radio, it's standard on the Laramie model and optional on Big Horn and Rebel. A version of that system with built-in navigation is standard on the Longhorn and Limited trims, and optional on Big Horn, Rebel and Laramie. Finally, the new Ram 1500 offers a new 12-inch vertically oriented touchscreen infotainment system. Because it is essentially two of the 8.4-inch screens combined, it can show two apps at once -- though not, for instance, Apple CarPlay and the integrated navigation simultaneously. The 12-inch display is optional on Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited models. Need a tougher truck? The new 2019 Ram HD also offers the 5-, 8.4- and 12-inch screens, depending on trim level.
As on other Fiat Chrysler models, Uconnect's software is fast and responsive, and its screens are bright, crisp and highly legible while driving. The 12-inch display especially impresses, drawing comparisons to the massive tablet-like infotainment display in Teslas.
Rolls-Royce models use modified versions of BMW iDrive software, with a 10.25-inch screen and operated with a "Spirit of Ecstasy" controller on the center console. Users can even write letters and numbers on the top of the controller, or pinch-to-zoom like on a phone. Rolls notes, by the way, that a touchscreen is less than ideal for its cars because it, "might leave unsightly fingerprints at driver and passenger eye level." Navigation is included as standard, as well as Bluetooth phone integration, but you won't find modern proletarian touches like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support.
With crisp, modern graphics and smooth performance, the Rolls-Royce infotainment systems perform very well.
The Smart brand is pulling out of the US and Canada at the end of the 2019 model year, so your chance to buy a new model is running out. The Smart Fortwo, whether in Coupe or Cabrio guise, has only a simple AM/FM radio as standard, with Bluetooth, an auxiliary port and USB connectivity. It can be upgraded with a $100 phone cradle that lets users pick music via an app called Smart Cross Connect. For $1,290, the Prime and Passion trim levels can be upgraded with a 7-inch touchscreen that offers more features, like TomTom-based navigation and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration.
Infotainment options are pretty basic in their functionality no matter whether you choose the base option or not. Poor screen quality and a tough-to-use built-in interface are letdowns even with the optional $1,290 system.
Subaru has made Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard as part of its StarLink infotainment systems on nearly all its models, most recently the 2019 WRX. The BRZ is the lone exception: the Premium model's 6.2-inch display offers a CD player, auxiliary and USB ports, Bluetooth, satellite radio and connectivity for Stitcher, Aha, and Pandora Internet radio. If you want Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, upgrade to the Limited model, where it's standard and housed in a 7-inch touchscreen. All other Subarus now offer a 6.5-inch touchscreen as standard with 7-inch (BRZ, WRX/STI) or 8-inch (Ascent, Impreza, Crosstrek, Forester) versions as an upgrade. Subaru's 6.5-inch StarLink system boasts Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary inputs, as well as integrated Pandora and Aha Internet radio functionality. The 7- and 8-inch ones feature even more integrated apps, including Glympse social navigation, Stitcher and iHearRadio internet radio apps, Yelp and even eBird, a utility for birders (hey, it's a Subaru). Optional built-in navigation is powered by TomTom software.
The new 2020 Outback and 2020 Legacy offer an optional 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The newest Subaru StarLink systems use fast processors to deliver nearly lag-free performance. Bold, clear, colorful menus and icons make operation a breeze. We're not crazy about the integrated navigation options, but you can always connect your phone if you prefer Apple or Google mapping.
The Tesla Model S and Model X use 17-inch vertically oriented touchscreens with Bluetooth, navigation, FM and HD radio, two USB ports and a built-in web browser. Like many electric cars, AM radio is not offered. The Model 3 and Model Y have just one 15-inch touchscreen that's used to control almost all secondary vehicle functions -- yes, even the lights, wipers and mirror position. Neither of the systems supports Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The big touchscreen in the S and X looks great and is easy to use, but in our most recent drive of a Model X we felt that performance and responsiveness were lacking. It just wasn't as snappy as some competing luxury cars' touchscreens, and it doesn't have a particularly impressive feature set by today's standards. The touchscreen in the Model 3 frustrates at times because of how many commonly used features are buried in menus. The infotainment itself works well, but the lack (in the S and X, too) of CarPlay and Android Auto support seems like a huge miss in expensive, technology-focused cars.
Toyota's infotainment offerings vary greatly by model. Most models offer 6.1- or 7-inch touchscreens with features like Bluetooth, AM/FM, and USB and auxiliary inputs. Upgraded models add features such as satellite radio and the ability to use Scout GPS navigation via a connected phone. Specifically, the Yaris, Corolla, Tacoma, Tundra, Highlander and Prius all offer both 6.1- and 7-inch screens. The C-HR and 86 have only 7-inch screens. The 4Runner and Sequoia only offer a 6.1-inch screen. The Land Cruiser has a 9-inch display.
Several newer models use Entune 3.0, an updated infotainment system with a broad feature set that includes AM/FM, Bluetooth, auxiliary and USB inputs. Using the Entune app on your connected phone, you can access apps such as Pandora, Slacker and NPR One, as well as Scout navigation. Built-in nav is an option on higher trim levels. The Avalon has Entune 3.0 with a 9-inch display, the Sienna and Mirai have a 7-inch Entune 3.0 display, while the 2019 RAV4, 2020 Corolla sedan, 2019 Corolla Hatchback and the Camry offer it with both 7- and 8-inch screens, depending on trim. Toyota also offers a Wi-Fi hotspot and Amazon Alexa integration on certain models.
Toyota's support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is limited. From the 2019 model year onward, CarPlay is available on the Avalon, Camry, Corolla Hatchback, C-HR, RAV4 and Supra, as well as the 2020 Corolla. Android Auto is offered on the 2020 4Runner and Sequoia SUVs, as well as the Tacoma and Tundra pickups, and we're told it'll eventually be offered on other Toyotas, too.
The Toyota Yaris -- now offered as as both a sedan and a hatchback -- is an interesting exception: Because it's based on the Mazda2, it uses the MazdaConnect infotainment system. The Toyota Prius Prime is another exception. Though a 7-inch display is standard, a portrait-style 11.6-inch touchscreen is optional on certain trim levels (as well as on the standard Prius Limited). So, too, is the Toyota Supra's infotainment system an aberration: Because the reborn sports car is based on BMW technology, it uses iDrive software on either a standard 6.5-inch screen operated by a rotary controller or an 8.8-inch touchscreen.
All of Toyota's infotainment systems feel behind-the-times, with cruder graphics and a smaller feature set than most rivals. That said, Entune 3.0 in the Camry and Corolla is a huge improvement. It may not be as feature-packed as some competing systems, but it is simple and straightforward to use on the road.
Most newer Volkswagen models offer a choice between a handful of infotainment systems. A 6.5-inch touchscreen has Apple CarPlay and Android auto connectivity as standard (VW brands these features as "Car-Net"), as well as USB, auxiliary and Bluetooth connectivity. There's an 8-inch version of that touchscreen that adds a CD player and satellite radio, and then an optional upgraded version with built-in navigation. The older VW Beetle has a 5-inch display as standard, while the 6.3-inch option with CarPlay and Android Auto support is optional, and navigation is optional on certain models. Finally, Volkswagen is rolling out a full-color Digital Cockpit instrument cluster as an option on certain models: the E-Golf, Golf, 2019 Jetta, Tiguan, Arteon and Atlas.
The newer 6.5- and 8-inch displays are bright and easy to use at a glance while driving, and though it's not quite as quick as FCA's Uconnect screens, responses are fast. On the downside, the gloss-black trim around the screens tends to pick up fingerprints easily. The 8-inch model especially is incredibly easy to view, but we think some of the menus and icons could be rearranged so navigating the many options and features is easier. Although the 6.3-inch display still works well, its smaller screen size means picking out icons and reading text is a little more difficult while on the move. In cars with Digital Cockpit, you can avoid the infotainment screen entirely because the color cluster provides so much information right in the driver's sightline.
Every new Volvo uses a touchscreen infotainment system called Sensus, with a portrait-style 9-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard. Features include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation and some built-in apps such as Glympse, Pandora, Stitcher and Yelp. Volvos can also be equipped with wireless phone charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot, as well as a full-digital instrument cluster.
Though it is pretty and feature-rich, Sensus can at times be very slow to boot up when you start the car and switching between functions can require more waiting than we'd like. That said, all model-year 2019 cars get a faster processor that does appear to improve performance. The system's basic three-page layout, with big, legible tiles and buttons and a high-contrast color scheme, however, is easy to view at a glance. Because Sensus controls most vehicle functions (climate control, car settings and so on), any delays in its start-up and operation can be frustrating. We wouldn't object to adding more physical controls to its operation. Right now pretty much just the volume and defroster still have real physical controls in Volvos.