We’ve come a long way since the first version of BMW’s iDrive in 2001. Infotainment systems controlling the navigation, HVAC, stereo, and more, have progressed nearly as much as smartphones in the last ten years. The current generation systems are easy to use, quick and reliable, and convenient for the driver. To see the best infotainment systems available in used vehicles, look for one of these:
Audi’s slick new MMI infotainment system looks amazing on their dual screens, one in the standard center dash position, and a larger screen replacing the instrument cluster. Using a central controller and touchpad, you can control the nav, entertainment, interior options, and even the vehicle’s ride dynamics. Navigation here is the best it has ever been, thanks to the familiar look of Google maps. Layering satellite pictures onto the usual nav map makes for a more visually intuitive way to find your route. There’s also access to Amazon music, making your playlist literally millions of songs. MMI is rolling out on all Audis, vehicles as varied as the A3, A8 , and Q5.
Just as the iPhone X is better than the original iPhone, the same can be said for BMW’s current iDrive 6.0, which is immeasurably better than the original. The modern version feels well refined and has innovative touches. The controller is still a large central control knob/touch pad, surrounded by additional buttons that sends commands to the center mounted dashboard display. BMW gets on this list because iDrive is the fastest system here, responding instantly like a current smartphone, and because of the cool gesture control. Yup, just motion with your hand to raise or lower the music volume. iDrive is a standard feature, so you can find it on cars as small as the BMW 2 Series, to the large 7 series and X6 SUV.
Awesome infotainment isn’t just for foreign luxury these days, and affordable cars can have reliability, voice command, and pretty visuals too. Uconnect looks like an aftermarket system, with its bold and bright colors, but the menu style is reminiscent of the quick menu in the Playstation 4. Tech site CNET said Uconnect is one of their favorites for its quick response times, the easy to learn interface, and the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration looks impressive on the big screen. Music options are front and center, instead of buried beneath pages of options. If you want to connect with Uconnect, you have a lot of options. It’s standard across Fiat-Chrysler’s range, including Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger, Jeep Wrangler, Ram 1500, or Fiat 500.
All infotainment systems offer the baseline stuff, but third party apps make Lexus Enform a winner. There’s Pandora, Yelp, and many more you recognize, along with their own proprietary apps for weather, sports, traffic and fuel, and even one that will track your stock portfolio. While stuck in traffic, you can order movie tickets, get a restaurant reservation, or find the best price on a nearby hotel. And, it’s all headache-free, as Enform is smart enough to update the apps on its own. The Dynamic Navigation is more than just a map, as it updates constantly with traffic information to provide the best route. The steering wheel controls and touchpad are also a smart and upscale approach to controls. For more smart and upscale, check out Enform in the Lexus LS, or RX.
The latest generation of Volvo vehicles are elegant designs with gorgeous interiors. The infotainment is no different. Sensus is an attractive, nearly button-free minimalist approach with a nod to Volvo’s record for safety. Since Volvo wants you to keep your eyes on the road, the screen is sharp and high contrast, so you can read who is calling at a quick glance. Since capacitive touch screens (like your phone) don’t work with gloves – and Volvo is from glove wearing Sweden – the screen has a resistive touch screen, with a second infrared sensor to detect swipes from gloved fingers. It looks even more like a tablet than the other systems too, thanks to its vertical orientation in the dash. Treat your senses to Sensus, in the S60 or XC90.