Manufacturers a Through C
The navigation system layout used by Acura—Honda's luxury marque—is very similar to Honda's i-MID display, which we reviewed on the 2013 Accord. The latest iteration of Acura's navigation and infotainment system, called AcuraLink, will debut on the 2014 Acura RLX sedan and will include the option of a live concierge in addition to smartphone connectivity.
Active safety features on the new RLX flagship include a lane-departure warning system that will steer the car back into its travel lane if the driver fails to react to audible warnings.
Like many infotainment systems from German manufacturers, Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) uses a center console–mounted clickwheel to control a centrally installed color screen. One of its most interesting features is the ability to pull Google Earth images from a smartphone's data connection, and display them in real time. That way, the MMI screen can overlay turn-by-turn navigation on an actual satellite image.
If owners don't want to use their phone's data plan, Audi also allows them to sign up for AudiConnect, a data plan from T-Mobile that can turn any Audi car into a WiFi hotspot starting at $15 per month. Currently, most models run on 3G, but new cars will feature 4G connections.
When BMW debuted iDrive in 2001, it was the first time a single controller and screen supplanted a dashboard full of buttons and knobs. After some growing pains, it's emerged as one of the best in-car user interfaces currently on the market. We tested iDrive with ConnectedDrive and BMW Apps in a 2013 BMW X1 and came away impressed. You can also get BMW Assist, a subscription based telematics and concierge service, if you're so inclined.
Buick's IntelliLink system got a refresh for the 2014 model year. The old system is nearly identical to Chevrolet's existing infotainment systems, just with a Buick-specific look and feel. The new optional system is once again quite similar to Chevy's MyLink as debuted in the 2014 Impala, complete with smartphone connectivity. You may also see some third-party apps available in 2014.
Cadillac vehicles feature the Cadillac User Experience, or CUE system. It replaces most physical buttons with capacitive touchscreens, including "swipe" controls for volume and climate control.
While we personally prefer systems that leave knobs and buttons for the most basic functions, we appreciate that CUE has a user-adjustable LCD screen in the gauge cluster. If you want a basic speedometer, fuel gauge, and odometer, you can select just that. Alternatively, you can monitor all vehicle systems. It's up to you to decide how complex your dash should look.
There are three separate, optional infotainment systems currently on the market in Chevrolet vehicles.
The Malibu, Volt, and others get an optional setup with lots of physical buttons and a touchscreen. It's a bit crowded, and doesn't allow for internet connectivity.
The tiny Spark and Sonic models get one of the most innovative systems we've seen in recent years as an option. Where most navigation systems rely on a hard drive or DVD for map information and a separate GPS unit for guidance, the Spark and Sonic can be fitted with an in-dash touchscreen that mirrors a navigation app on the driver's smartphone. They also get one of the first implementations of Siri Eyes Free—a button on the steering wheel that will connect to Siri-equipped iPhones.
The new Chevy Impala gets an updated version of MyLink as an option, which we predict will roll out across the company's entire lineup as it's refreshed.
Of course, since Chevrolet is part of the greater GM stable, all cars feature an OnStar button that connects the driver to a real, live human being for turn-by-turn directions and emergency services. Whether that button is activated depends on whether you want to pay a monthly or yearly fee, however.
GM recently opened up MyLink to third-party developers, so in 2014 you can expect to see some third-party apps.
Chrysler vehicles feature Uconnect as an option. It's a very straightforward system with navigation provided by Garmin. Icons are large, basic functions are controlled by physical knobs and buttons, and only a few items are hidden away in sub-menus. We previewed it on the 2013 Dodge Journey.
For 2014, Chrysler is adding some smartphone connectivity to Uconnect. We're looking forward to testing it.