Pioneer AVIC-HD3

What do a Toyota Hilux, Nissan 350Z and a Holden Crewman have in common? They've all been tricked up by the good people at Pioneer -- think custom paint jobs, large wheels and speakers the size of a small nation. Oh, and they've all been fitted with Pioneer's integrated GPS, music, video and communications centre for cars, the AVIC-HD3. Landing in Australia in late June, it will retail for AU$3,799 excluding installation.

Upside
Sporting a large seven-inch LCD touchscreen and a row of physical buttons along its bottom edge, the double-DIN-sized AVIC-HD3 looks like an OEM unit or any number of in-car entertainment systems. The HD3's auto-dimming screen tilts electronically to reveal a DVD/CD loading slot and a mounting plate covering its 30GB hard disk, 10GB of which can be used to store MP3s. Unfortunately, the only way to get MP3s onto the system is by using the HD3's built-in CD ripping function. On the upside, the installed Gracenote database means that all but the latest or most obscure discs will be automatically tagged. The other 20GB of the unit's hard-disk is reserved for storing map and navigation data, which should provide for faster access times than GPS systems driven by DVD.

Pioneer boasts that the HD3's navigation software will learn your driving preferences and will intelligently calculate routes based not just on shortest distance but other factors, such as number of right turns and total turns. And if you've ever heard the message "satellite connection lost" when driving into the city or through a tunnel and had a shiver run up your spine, the HD3's dead reckoning feature might cure what ails you. Dead reckoning kicks in when the satellite connection is lost. By combining readings from the unit's 3D gyroscope with information from the car's odometer, the HD3 is able keep to track of you and continue providing guidance. A side feature of dead reckoning, albeit a gimmicky and nerdy one, is the vehicle dynamics monitor: a set of customisable "gauges" displaying anything from speed and acceleration to lateral Gs and angular velocity. Just perfect for those who've ever lusted after similar gauges in Nissan's hero car, the Skyline GT-R.

Downside
At AU$3,799 the AVIC-HD3 is a pricey piece of kit and those who have kids, drive a 4WD or have an iPod might end up spending even more. If your kids are driving you around the bend, you can attach rear screens to the HD3; they watch their favourite DVDs in silence (hopefully), while you listen to music and utilise the GPS. Each extra screen, however, will set you back AU$849. Those driving large cars or four wheel drives will appreciate the AU$469 optional integrated reversing camera. When installed, the camera comes up automatically when the driver engages reverse. Even with the high base price, some purchasers may baulk at the AU$169 asking price for the optional iPod adaptor.

Outlook
After introducing the world's first GPS in its home market of Japan in 1990, Pioneer took 17 years to dip its toe in our GPS waters. Its two pronged attack aims at both ends of the market, with the AVIC-HD3 hoping to make a splash at the top end and the portable AU$799 AVIC-S2 looking for sales at the affordable end. It will be interesting to see how Pioneer's integrated GPS and car entertainment unit will be embraced by car modifiers and mums and dads alike. We look forward to jumping in Pioneer's pimped up rides -- especially that 350Z -- and testing the HD3 in Sydney's concrete jungle.

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