If you've already got a smartphone, it seems useless to pay extra for an in-car infotainment system that can't match the power of the phone in your pocket. But it's both clumsy and downright dangerous to fool with your phone while driving. That's why we're glad that automakers are starting to integrate phones into cars without sacrificing safety or functionality.
You can order Toyota's Entune app platform on nearly every product the automaker offers. It uses your smartphone's data plan to play music and perform searches using voice recognition. You can even make a restaurant reservation. Similarly, BMW's ConnectedApps lets drivers stream radio stations from around the world.
The small Chevy Sonic starts at just over $15,000, and adding a Chevy MyLink radio costs only $595. That gives it a 7-inch color touchscreen which can connect to an iPhone or Android phone for streaming audio apps and—when equipped with the $50 BringGo app—navigation. Similarly, the company's Spark minicar gets MyLink in the 1LT trim, which starts a little above $14,000 with destination charges.
In the same vein, Mercedes' new entry-level CLA sedan features an optional iPhone integration kit that allows your phone to do the heavy lifting when it comes to navigation and audio. While the phone sits in the glovebox, plugged in, Mercedes' dashboard controls, display, and interface use the phone's data connection to provide the functions of in-car infotainment. While the CLA will still be available with traditional navigation and infotainment options, iPhone integration will cost less. Android compatibility won't be available at launch.
The Honda Accord midsize sedan, Chevrolet Spark minicar, and Chevy Sonic subcompact will be among the first vehicles to feature Siri Eyes Free, which allows iPhone users to access Siri with the touch of a steering wheel-mounted button. Siri's responses are tailored to minimize distraction for in-car use. Honda's luxury brand, Acura, is also integrating Siri Eyes Free into the ILX sedan and RDX crossover.