Useful Car Tips

The Best Infotainment Systems

October 03, 2020
Infotainment system quality is a major factor for any buyer shopping for a modern car to serve as a daily driver. A well designed infotainment system will ensure that every drive is a seamless experience between driver inputs and media control, while a poorly designed infotainment system can lead to endless frustration and perhaps even the use of choice words to express this. A laggy touchscreen, confusing user interface (or UI), and essential options hidden under layers of menus and submenus are just some aspects of holistically poor infotainment design. Unfortunately, not all brands equip their vehicles with well designed infotainment systems—some may be so frustrating to use that they turn away potential buyers from otherwise stellar vehicles. Thus lies the paramount importance of intuitive infotainment systems. If you’re in the market for a new or modern car, we’ve got you covered: here’s our (non-exhaustive) list of just three of the best infotainment systems available in vehicles right now, although many more are available.


Apple CarPlay and Android Auto begin our list; these two predictable entries have rightfully earned their place here. Both work by augmenting a vehicle’s existing infotainment system, essentially integrating one’s smartphone into it. Drivers with vehicles which support these systems will see their smartphone homescreens effectively mirrored on their vehicle’s display. Among a plethora of other features, these systems allow one to navigate using Apple Maps or Google Maps, use one’s voice to make phone calls and send texts, and control music through music streaming apps. Minor differences exist between the two but their scope of usable features are more or less identical. Just as importantly, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are straightforward and easy to use. Although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are solid infotainment systems in their own right, the best infotainment systems on the market combine their functionality with their respective brands’ own systems.


Audi admirably demonstrates that excellent German engineering encompasses not just mechanical components, but electronics too. The Audi MMI (Multi Media Interface) infotainment system is one of the best on the market, blending together speed, organization, and sleek design into a seamless package that’s as pleasing to use as it is to look at. Touchscreens are the name of the game with MMI, and they work quite well. Minimal lag and logical button placement combines with haptic feedback to ensure that the driver is always able to quickly navigate the display, even while the car is moving. Drivers who generally dislike touch screens will be happy to know that core functions such as volume and audio track track control have remained as physical controls too—a redundant yet welcome addition. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration—with voice recognition software, as one would expect—round out the package to make Audi MMI even easier to use, with MMI indubitably emerging as one of the most intuitive infotainment systems on the market.


Audi MMI faces stiff competition from a fellow German manufacturer in the form of BMW iDrive: just as sleek, fast, and intuitive. Differences first emerge when comparing their main infotainment controls, as MMI utilizes touch screens while older iDrive systems instead utilize a rotary knob for primary control. This has changed with modern BMWs, as most have added touch screen capability which works in tandem with this rotary knob. Information is primarily conveyed through a central digital display, although drivers can configure an auxiliary display situated in the gauge cluster which provides additional pertinent information. Gesture control rounds out the feature set, although this function does not work particularly well. While some may find gesture control gimmicky, iDrive otherwise provides a suite of practical features which suit the technologically advanced nature of modern Bimmers.


Rounding out the list is FCA’s (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) Uconnect system which is naturally found on many of its brands, namely Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, and Ram. Most FCA vehicles from the Fiat 500 to the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT are equipped with the excellent Uconnect system. Uniquely, Uconnect eschews an excess of menus and submenus in favor of a clean, well thought out UI. Most settings are easy to navigate to and the system promotes a holistic intuitiveness which takes relatively little time to master. One of the few marks against Uconnect is its inbuilt navigation; while it gets the job done, it certainly has room for improvement with software updates in the future. Fortunately, full integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto not only expands the existing feature set, it allows drivers to utilize navigation apps of their own.


Remember, our list is non-exhaustive—we’re showcasing just three of the best infotainment systems on the market, although many, many more are available. Other standouts include Porsche Communication Management or PCM, Kia UVO, Ford Sync 3, and Tesla's yet-unnamed infotainment system. Although a plethora of options exist on the market, the only way to know which works best for your needs and budget is to try it out! If it’s safe to do so, schedule a (socially distanced) visit to your local dealership and try out all the bells and whistles of the infotainment systems in the vehicles you’re considering. You just might find that what works for automotive journalists and publications may not work for you. Do you have a favorite or least favorite infotainment system from your experience? Let us know in the comments below!
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