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Luxury Car Infotainment Systems: A Comparison

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by James Riswick June 2017

Infotainment systems and in-car technology are constantly becoming more important to car buyers. Yet, as we explained in our mainstream brand infotainment comparison, not every manufacturer's tech offerings are created equal despite often seeming similar on paper. The availability of features can depend on model, trim level or package content, as can the interfaces that control them. In fact, there can be huge differences within a brand.

This is even more pronounced among luxury brands. There is particularly a wider disparity in available feature content, and indeed, many mainstream brands offer more than those supposedly ritzier marques described below. Nevertheless, you can assume that all the luxury brands discussed include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, at least one USB port, an auxiliary audio jack and some ability to control your smartphone's music/media selections with the car's interface. Satellite radio and an integrated navigation system are always at least optional.

Acura

Acura

Interface name: On Demand Multi-Use Display (ODMD)

Interface type: Two screens in the center stack. Lower one is touch operated, the upper one is controlled through buttons and a knob located under the touchscreen.

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Pandora internet radio controls, voice controls, talk-to-text, Acura Link app content (Aha and iHeart streaming radio, maintenance reminders, automatic crash notification)

Differences between models: The ILX and RDX come standard with a more traditional array of audio button controls and a large color display. Optional on those models and standard on all others is a dual-screen setup dubbed On Demand Multi-Use Display. The bottom screen is touch-operated and mostly handles the audio functions (graphics and processing speed are updated for the 2018 TLX and MDX). The upper screen operates much like the screen-and-knob setups offered by other manufacturers, although its controls are located on the center stack under the touchscreen. Some audio functions must be controlled with this interface -- specifically the media player interface and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto -- which can lead to confusion.

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Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo

Interface name: Information and Entertainment System

Interface type: Knob and button control on center console with a central dash display (6.5-in standard, 8.8-in optional).

Noteworthy available features: Three USB ports

Differences between models: The Giulia and Stelvio come with the same Information and Entertainment system. A 6.5-in display is standard, while a 8.8-in screen is included in their Navigation packages. Alfa Romeo offers no app content at this time, nor Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 4C has an aftermarket-style radio faceplate.

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Audi

Audi

Interface names: MMI (Multi-Media Interface), Virtual Cockpit

Interface type: Knob-and-button controller on the center console with a dash-top screen. Enhanced by touch-sensitive knob, larger center display screens, redundant MMI controls on steering wheel and "Virtual Cockpit" 12.3-in instrument cluster interface.

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Audi Connect (emergency and remote services, geofencing and teen driver limitations), voice controls, hand-written inputs, on-board 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Google Earth navigation views, Google Voice navigation search, MMI Connect (remote services for smartphones and Apple Watch)

Differences between models: Every Audi has some variation of MMI, which all fundamentally consist of a knob-and-button control layout that operates a dash-top display screen. Steering wheel controls operate some redundant MMI functions in an instrument cluster display. From there, the system is enhanced depending on model or package content. These enhancements include a touch-sensitive pad (on or adjacent to the MMI knob) that allows for finger-written inputs to the navigation system, a larger central display and the Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster. The latter replaces the standard gauge cluster with a 12.3-in screen that serves as both the instruments and a redundant display for navigation, audio and general vehicle functions. It is controlled by a miniaturized version of the MMI controller on the steering wheel. Note that some older Audi models like the A6, A7, A8 and Q3 can't be had with Virtual Cockpit and have a previous-generation MMI controller and menu structure. Those cannot be had with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, either. The placement of the MMI controller depends on model as well -- some are aft of the shifter, some are forward of it and use it as a wrist rest. The Q3's MMI controller is on the center stack, rather than in-between the seats.

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BMW

BMW

Interface name: iDrive

Interface type: Knob-and-button controller on the center console with a dash-top screen. A 6.5-in screen is standard and 8.8-in is optional on most models. A touch-sensitive knob controller comes with the 8.8-in screen. Most recently redesigned models (5 Series, 7 Series) have a 10.2-in touchscreen standard, plus Gesture Control optional.

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, wireless smartphone charging, Wi-Fi hotspot, BMW Connected (emergency and remote services, phone-to-car navigation, Amazon Echo integration, smartphone and smartwatch apps, various infotainment apps including Pandora internet radio), all digital instrument display

Differences between models: The 5 and 7 Series have the latest version of iDrive, consisting of the latest knob-and-button controller, a 10.3-in center display with redundant touch operation and optional Gesture Control (wave your finger for a small number of functions), and a 12.3-in all-digital instrument cluster. Other BMWs essentially have smaller screens and fewer ways to control them. A knob-button iDrive controller is always standard, almost always with a 6.5-in dashtop display, while an 8.8-in display with a touch-sensitive controller is tied to a navigation system. The graphics, menu structure and basic functionality with either is effectively the same. The i3 and i8 come standard with a basic navigation system. Note that Apple CarPlay is a stand-alone option.

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Buick

Buick

Interface name: IntelliLink

Interface type: Touchscreen (7- or 8-in)

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, internet radio control apps (Pandora and Stitcher), customizable menu layout, talk-to-text, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, emergency communications and remote vehicle controls (via OnStar), wireless smartphone charging, teen driver settings

Differences between models: Every Buick interface may be dubbed IntelliLink, but not all are created equal. Older models like the Cascada, Verano, 2017 Enclave and 2017 Regal come with the previous-generation version consisting of a 7-in touchscreen, some physical accompanying buttons and older graphics/menu layout. Features like the Apple/Android functionality and customizable menu layouts are not available. The recently redesigned LaCrosse, Encore, 2018 Enclave and 2018 Regal have those, along with the latest 8-in IntelliLink screen that features quicker responses and improved graphics. OnStar with 4G LTE on-board internet is common throughout the Buick lineup.

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Cadillac

Cadillac

Interface name: Cadillac CUE

Interface type: Touchscreen (8-in for most models). CT6 has a 10.3-in screen with a redundant touch-sensitive control pad on center console.

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, emergency communications and remote vehicle controls (via OnStar), voice controls, customizable menu layout, wireless smartphone charging, various infotainment apps, streaming navigation app

Differences between models: Although the CT6 has a 10.3-inch touchscreen and a redundant touch-sensitive pad controller on its center console, nearly every 2017 Cadillac shares the rest of the same interface. Dubbed CUE, it consists of a touchscreen and redundant gauge cluster displays operated by steering wheel controls. However, you should note that the 2017 CTS, 2018 ATS and 2018 XTS will get an updated version of this system that ditches the CUE name. Other models will get this new "Cadillac user experience" system in future years. Updates include simplified graphics and supposedly more intuitive operation.

Genesis

Genesis

Interface name: None

Interface type: Touchscreen (8-, 9.2- or 12.3-in). Redundant center console knob controller standard on G90, optional on G80.

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, emergency communications and remote vehicle controls (via Genesis Connected car telematics), wireless smartphone charging, Amazon Echo integration (via Genesis Connected), all digital instrument display

Differences between models: The G80 and G90 have most of the same available features but their interfaces differ. The G80 comes standard with an 8-in touchscreen and can be enhanced by a 9.2-in touchscreen paired to a redundant center console controller located aft of the shifter. Every G90 comes standard with a 12.3-in display (not touch operated) and a console button-knob controller of a different design.

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Infiniti

Infiniti

Interface name: Infiniti InTouch

Interface type: Two touchscreens with redundant center console controller (Q50, Q60). Knob-and-button controller with 7-in display (QX30). Dash-mounted controller and in-dash display. All other models 7-in display standard, 8-in touchscreen optional.

Noteworthy available features: Emergency communications and remote vehicle controls (via Infiniti Connection or Infiniti InTouch Services), voice controls

Differences between models: Although all go by the name InTouch, Infiniti has the widest selection of interface types of any brand. Older models have a single 7-in display standard operated by a button-knob controller located just below on the center stack. It can be upgraded with an 8-inch touchscreen when navigation is selected. The Q50 and Q60 come with 7-in lower and 8-in upper touchscreens. The lower screen is of a more sensitive variety akin to a smartphone, and handles most audio and smartphone-connection app tasks. The upper one is mostly for the available navigation system and redundant displays. The system in the QX30 is also called Infiniti InTouch, but is actually an older version of Mercedes COMAND. Note that all Infinitis offer similar emergency and remote vehicle services, but their names differ depending on which model you have.

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Jaguar

Jaguar

Interface name: InControl Touch

Interface type: Touchscreen (8-in InControl Touch, 10.2-in InControl Touch Pro)

Noteworthy available features: 3G on-board Wi-Fi, emergency communications and remote services (via InControl Remote & Protect, includes smartphone and smartwatch apps), phone-to-car navigation, customizable menus, voice controls, talk-to-text, all digital instrument display, Stitcher and Spotify streaming audio apps

Differences between models: Most Jaguars come standard with the 8-in InControl Touch touchscreen that controls most audio and infotainment functions. The InControl Touch Pro system (standard on XJ, optional on other models' upper trim levels, unavailable F-TYPE) is more than just a bigger, 10.2-in touchscreen. This upgraded system is substantially quicker to react and process commands, while featuring customizable menus and additional content. It's also paired to a 12.3-in all digital display. Navigation is optional with InControl Touch and standard with Touch Pro.

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Land Rover

Land Rover

Interface name: InControl Touch

Interface type: Touchscreen (8-in InControl Touch, 10.2-in InControl Touch Pro)

Noteworthy available features: 3G on-board Wi-Fi, emergency communications and remote services (via InControl Remote & Protect, includes smartphone and smartwatch apps), phone-to-car navigation, customizable menus, voice controls, talk-to-text, all digital instrument display, Stitcher and Spotify streaming audio apps

Differences between models: Have a feeling of deja vu? That's because Jaguar and Land Rover share their interfaces. InControl Touch Pro is standard on the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, and optional on all others, which come standard with InControl Touch. Note that the upcoming 2018 Range Rover Velar will come standard with a new Touch Pro Duo system with a second, lower touchscreen that handles other vehicle functions like climate control and the Terrain Response off-roading system. It seems likely that it'll migrate to other Range Rovers in the future.

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Lexus

Lexus

Interface name: Remote Touch, Display Audio

Interface type: Dash-top screen (8-, 12.3-in) with either a mini joystick or touchpad controller on the center console. Knob-and-button controller with a 7- or 8-in dash-top screen (Display Audio).

Noteworthy available features: Emergency communications and remote services (Safety Connect), Lexus Enform App Suite (Pandora, iHeart Radio, Slacker, Yelp), voice controls, talk-to-text (Siri Eyes Free)

Differences between models: The majority of Lexus models come standard with an interface known as Display Audio that consists of a knob-and-button controller that wheels amongst menu icons on a dash-top screen. Though it doesn't come with as many features, it can arguably be easier to use than the upgrade Remote Touch interface. That consists of a dashtop screen, which is 12.3 inches on the RX, GS, LS, LX and LC, and 8 inches on everything else. How you control that screen differs by model, however. The NX, RC and LC have a touchpad, similar to a laptop's, on the center console. You slide your finger across it to move amongst icons on the display. All other models have a small joystick instead of the touchpad, which you move up, down, side-to-side and horizontally among those same icons. The GX has a touchscreen that's comparable to a Toyota Entune system.

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Lincoln

Lincoln

Interface name: Sync 3

Interface type: 8-in touchscreen

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, voice control integration for smartphones and media players, internet radio control apps (Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio), remote vehicle controls, automatic post-collision 911 calling (via your phone), teen driver settings, remote scheduling of service pickup and delivery

Differences between models: Lincoln/Ford's recent Sync 3 touchscreen interface is standard on every model. There are some feature content differences depending on model and trim level -- specifically navigation -- and the "capacitive" version of the screen that allows for pinch and swiping inputs is optional on some models. Otherwise, Lincoln keeps things refreshingly consistent.

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Maserati

Maserati

Interface name: Touch Control Plus

Interface type: 8.4-in touchscreen with redundant center console control knob

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 3G Wi-Fi, voice controls, talk-to-text, remote vehicle controls

Differences between models: This is essentially Chrysler's UConnect 8.4 system with a different color scheme and some Maserati emblems. While that may seem like a bad thing on the surface (we wouldn't blame you for scoffing at a Maserati sharing something with a Dodge Dart), it's actually one of the more user-friendly interfaces out there. Touch Control Plus, as Maserati calls it, at least sets itself apart with a multi-level rotary controller on the center console that provides redundant control for certain touchscreen functions. You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard, which have only made it to a handful of Chrysler group vehicles. Note that the Gran Turismo has an extremely antiquated interface and minimal modern content.

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Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz

Interface name: COMAND

Interface type: Dash-top screen (7-, 8.4- or 12.3-in) controlled through a redundant combination of a rotary knob and a touchpad with supporting buttons.

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, emergency communications and remote vehicle controls (via mbrace Connect and Secure packages), on-board Wi-Fi, voice controls

Differences between models: Every Mercedes has an interface dubbed COMAND, but they differ based on model and package content. The Mercedes-Benz E- and S-Class model lines have the latest version of COMAND, with a 12.3-in central display that gets its own menu structure and graphics, along with the availability of a second 12.3-in display that doubles as the car's instruments (standard S-Class, optional E-Class). This system gets a mini touch-sensitive control pad on the steering wheel, but otherwise shares every other Mercedes' combination of rotary knob controller located underneath a redundant touchpad that accepts swiping and hand-written inputs. It basically allows you to choose the input method you prefer. This controller combo is paired to a smaller touchscreen on other Mercedes models -- typically a standard 7 in with an 8.4-in upgrade paired to navigation and some sort of optional package.

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Porsche

Porsche

Interface name: PCM (Porsche Communication Management)

Interface type: Touchscreen (7- or 12-in) with small redundant dash-mounted knob

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, emergency communications and remote vehicle controls (via Porsche Car Connect), 4G LTE on-board Wi-Fi (via Porsche Car Connect Plus)

Differences between models: The new Panamera has the latest Porsche infotainment interface, consisting of a 12-in touchscreen. There is also a small knob below it that can handle certain functions if you prefer, while a display within the gauge cluster is controlled by buttons and a toggle on the steering wheel. Every other Porsche's version of PCM is basically the same in concept, but with smaller screens in the dash (7 inches) and in the gauges.

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Tesla

Tesla

Interface name: None

Interface type: 17-in vertically oriented touchscreen

Noteworthy available features: On-board Wi-Fi, internet radio, Google Maps navigation with search capability and full traffic-avoiding guidance, customizable layout, over-the-air vehicle updates

Differences between models: Every Tesla Model S and Model X have the same 17-inch vertically oriented touchscreen that operates virtually all vehicle systems. Feature content is common as well. Nice and simple!

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Volvo

Volvo

Interface name: Sensus

Interface type: 9-in vertically oriented touchscreen (XC90, S90, V90, 2018 XC60); 7-in display with control knob and buttons on center stack (S60, V60, 2017 XC60).

Noteworthy available features: Apple CarPlay, emergency communications and remote vehicle controls (via Volvo On Call), voice controls

Differences between models: There are essentially two Volvo infotainment systems: The old one and the new one. The old version of Sensus, found in the 2017 "60" line of cars, features a 7-in screen in the dash controlled by a variety of buttons that operate traditional functions like the radio and climate systems, and a knob on the center stack that handles more complex tasks like the navigation system or selecting a song from a media player playlist. It's antiquated, but some may actually prefer it. The newer "90" series cars, plus the new 2018 XC60, utilizes a 9-in vertically oriented touchscreen for most vehicle functions -- including those for the climate system. It's the only way to get Apple CarPlay and is also paired with either 8- or 12-inch all-digital instrument clusters.

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Luxury Car Infotainment Systems: A Comparison - Autotrader