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New Car Technology: Best Brands for Connectivity

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author photo by Nick Palermo September 2014

Keeping up with the latest in new car technology is a daunting task for today's automakers. Just take a look at a navigation system in a 3-year-old vehicle; compared to the functionality of the smartphone in your pocket, in-car systems are basic and become quickly outdated.

A few automakers, though, are staying current by offering robust connectivity and infotainment systems that appear poised to remain functional and relevant for years into the future. The systems include a range of features that not only inform and entertain passengers but also help improve safety and comfort.

Audi

The connectivity system from Audi is a great example. With its MMI interface, the Audi connect platform offers enormous capabilities that go beyond simple navigation and music streaming. One notable high-tech function is picture destinations: Send a geotagged photo to the system from your smartphone, and Audi's navigation system will provide a route. No address is necessary.

The latest Audi connect system also includes a 4G LTE connection, allowing passengers to connect to its mobile hot spot. And Audi is one of the few automakers that uses Google Maps to power its navigation system, ensuring reliability and up-to-date road and location information. With several input methods, including a rotary knob with hot keys, a touchpad and voice recognition, Audi's MMI makes using the system easy and relatively safe. Look for Audi connect on the brand's newest entry-level sedan, the A3.

Buick

Buick is also busy bringing a dedicated wireless connection to its newest models with the addition of 4G LTE for OnStar. Arguably the original connected car system, OnStar has long helped drivers with concierge services, turn-by-turn directions, roadside assistance and accident alerts. Buick is among the GM brands that now offer the latest OnStar benefits along with its IntelliLink infotainment platform.

Buick wants drivers to stay focused on the road, so IntelliLink includes natural-language voice recognition in addition to a touchscreen interface. It talks back, too. Set up a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone, and the system will read your text messages aloud while you drive. iPhone users get Siri Eyes Free, which allows users to easily interact with Siri features by voice. Check out the latest in Buick connectivity in the 2015 LaCrosse luxury sedan.

Chrysler

The Uconnect system available in Chrysler products -- including Dodge, RAM and Jeep models -- is a robust platform that also offers a built-in wireless connection. While it can't match the 4G LTE speeds of the Audi and Buick systems, Uconnect Access does bring a wireless hot spot into the vehicle so that passengers can surf the Web on a tablet or smartphone. The connection lets drivers remotely lock, unlock or start their vehicles from a remote connected device.

Using Uconnect is simple thanks to redundant controls. A touchscreen interface is complemented by hard buttons, steering-wheel-mounted controls and voice recognition to reduce distraction. Uconnect allows users to respond to text messages by voice, sending one of 18 preprogrammed responses. Pickup drivers that depend on their vehicles for work or play can benefit from the convenient features of Uconnect in the latest RAM 1500.

Hyundai

Like Audi MMI, the Blue Link connectivity system from Hyundai also leverages Google's unparalleled destination resources. For drivers, this means up-to-date information and directions to help you find what you need, when you need it. Other Blue Link components, such as Connected Care and the Assurance Car Care app, are designed to improve safety and the overall ownership experience.

Like GM's OnStar, Connected Care provides automatic collision notification and roadside assistance. The Remote package adds remote starting, locking and unlocking, along with a car-finding function accessible through a smartphone. The Assurance Car Care app notifies owners of necessary maintenance and even allows them to schedule service from the car. The latest Blue Link system is available on the 2015 Hyundai Sonata.

Mercedes-Benz

With its latest connectivity package called mbrace2, Mercedes stays current with the newest technology to deliver content from the driver's smartphone to the vehicle's display. Google Maps, for example, can be accessed through the vehicle's display rather than by using a handheld device, which helps to reduce driver distraction. The mbrace2 system also offers a range of apps to simplify tasks such as entering a destination or accessing restaurant reviews.

The COMAND system takes Mercedes infotainment a step further with hard-drive navigation and real-time information from SiriusXM Traffic and Weather. Find the latest connected systems from Mercedes in the 2015 C-Class.

What it means to you: Innovations for smartphones are likely to continue to outpace the new car technology that automakers offer with advanced connectivity and infotainment systems, but there is still good news for new car shoppers. Leading-edge advancements are trickling down from mobile devices to automobiles quicker than ever. Systems such as the ones listed here are unlikely to become dated or obsolete any time in the near future.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
New Car Technology: Best Brands for Connectivity - Autotrader