Choosing a new car today is more difficult than ever. In addition to deciding between models, trim levels, pricing offers and colors, today's shoppers have to make a choice which was unknown just a few years ago: infotainment. Nearly every automaker offers an infotainment system and no two are alike. To help you understand the differences, we've listed each of the infotainment systems offered by today's mainstream brands along with a summary of their features.
Chrysler uses Uconnect as a catch-all to describe many high-tech features in its latest models. In infotainment terms, Uconnect offers a center-mounted touchscreen that allows for voice commands, offers Bluetooth Audio streaming and provides navigation with traffic. Perhaps Uconnect's most important feature, however, is available Wi-Fi. While other brands are beginning to offer similar systems, Uconnect was one of the first to turn vehicles into wireless hot spots. That lets passengers use the Internet for laptops, tablets or even phones -- a useful feature for many situations.
Ford: SYNC/MyFord Touch
Ford offers both SYNC and MyFord Touch, which can be confusing for shoppers. Think of it like this: SYNC, which was codeveloped with Microsoft, offers Bluetooth capabilities. MyFord Touch enhances SYNC by providing more features and a touchscreen interface. That means it's possible to get a new Ford that's equipped with SYNC but doesn't include MyFord Touch technology.
Without MyFord Touch, SYNC provides many convenient phone-related features. They include voice-activated dialing, text message reading, Bluetooth Audio streaming and Uninterrupted Connections -- a feature that transfers calls to SYNC when entering a car. Fords equipped with MyFord Touch add several other items. They include voice-activated climate control and radio tuning, Internet connectivity, app capabilities, available HD Radio and an SD card slot that lets drivers access music and photos.
General Motors MyLink/IntelliLink
GM's infotainment system is dubbed MyLink in Chevrolet models and IntelliLink in Buicks and GMC vehicles. Like many infotainment rivals, it boasts Bluetooth Audio streaming, a touchscreen interface and voice commands for easy operation. But MyLink and IntelliLink also offer services from GM's OnStar telematics system. That means that they can provide collision support, vehicle diagnostics and even live advisors if a driver is lost or has an emergency while behind the wheel.
Honda recently joined the infotainment game with HondaLink, a new system available in the 2013 Accord. Like many rival systems, HondaLink offers Bluetooth Audio streaming and voice-activated navigation technology. The system also lets drivers use voice controls to locate nearby points of interest. But a new feature, dubbed Aha Radio, is sure to raise eyebrows thanks to personalized web content that includes Podcasts, news, traffic and even social media. With it, HondaLink can access restaurant reviews and even read Facebook or Twitter feeds over the Accord's speakers.
Hyundai's BlueLink infotainment system is offered on most of the brand's 2013 models. It includes many common features such as navigation with traffic reporting, Bluetooth Audio streaming and mobile apps that update drivers on weather, stocks, news and sports. But it also offers unique features aimed at parents with young drivers. One is the Geo-fence, which sends an e-mail or text message when the car crosses a pre-set perimeter. That's great for parents worried about teens straying too far from home. BlueLink also offers a similar service for vehicle speed -- and it even boasts a curfew function that can send an e-mail or text if the car is driving after a specified time.
Available in most Kia models, UVO comes standard with a center-mounted 4.3-inch touchscreen. Interestingly, it doesn't include a navigation system. That means drivers who opt for navigation receive entirely different software that isn't Microsoft-based, while UVO is. Those who choose UVO receive a complete Bluetooth experience that includes voice commands and Bluetooth Audio streaming. UVO also includes a reversing camera, which many drivers will find useful in tight parking spots. Unfortunately, UVO won't read text messages like Ford's SYNC -- and it can't help you find a restaurant or gas station like many other infotainment systems.
Toyota's Entune infotainment system is available on nearly all of its vehicles, from the subcompact Prius c to the full-size Land Cruiser and Sequoia SUVs. Compared to rivals, touchscreen-based Entune is easy to use -- and it offers a litany of useful items. One is the restaurant app called OpenTable, which you can use to browse for restaurants and even make a reservation. The MovieTickets.com app lets you find movie times and buy tickets. And the voice-activated Bing search engine lets you find nearby points of interest. Of course, Entune also includes common infotainment features like Bluetooth Audio streaming and an available navigation system.
What it means to you: Infotainment technology can be confusing -- but we hope drivers can use our list to help pick out the system that's right for them.