Five Best Infotainment Systems

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When shopping for a new car, pickup truck, crossover or SUV, some people focus on the horsepower or the miles per gallon. But no matter what your needs might be in a new vehicle, we all are concerned with safety. We're not just talking about airbags or how well a vehicle does in collision tests. Today's cars also include an amazing array of driver assist features from adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking to lane keep assist, 360 cameras and more.

Gadget Goodies

Hand in hand with these technological wonders are the complex infotainment systems onboard to keep you and your family connected and entertained while you drive. These ever-evolving software systems have become an important selling feature for prospective buyers. Infotainment screens are getting bigger, with better resolution and more features than ever. Some systems are more intuitive and easier to operate than others. Some work faster to get the job done. But which infotainment systems are the best available today? For this guide to this year's best infotainment systems, we looked at everything including screen size, compatibility, functionality, and design.

What is Infotainment?

The infotainment systems in today's automobiles have a lot to do. What began as a simple touchscreen to access and adjust the radio, GPS mapping and climate control settings has now evolved to access Wi-Fi Internet connectivity through systems such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for access to music, movies, TV series, weather, and traffic conditions. It connects to your smartphone through Bluetooth so you can make or receive calls without taking your hands off the steering wheel.
The infotainment screen or screens delivers all this and more to the driver and passengers, even using voice command systems for hands free calling, and to adjust settings without taking your eyes off the road. Some luxury sedans, larger SUVs and minivans include separate screens for all the passengers in the back to keep them entertained. They can listen to their own choice of selected music through earbuds, watch movies, even play video games.
Intuitive infotainment touchscreens on new vehicles allow you to connect your phone, change ambient lighting, change driving modes depending on road conditions, even alter the performance and suspension of the car. These screens are also the gateway to all kinds of driver assist features that border on autonomous travel, and in all-electric vehicles, the screens alert you to how much range you have, lets you alter the regenerative braking, and finds EV chargers near you.

Top Five

For this look at the best infotainment systems currently available, we will list our top five in alphabetical order by automaker. All represent the best in terms of ease of operation and are intuitive to the user. Rather than to rate these in order of features, we believe it is best to simply present these amazing systems to you by explaining their capabilities and let you decide which ones might work best for you based on your unique wants and needs. Enjoy!
This luxury brand utilizes a unique, two touchscreen stacked system. The top screen takes care of navigation and all your media needs while the bottom screen handles comfort features such as the heated seats and climate control as well as all the driver assist tech. The screens are slightly angled to cut glare and the system works quickly and efficiently.
Last year, Audi updated its Multi Media Interface (MMI) Touch Response System with many new features including Amazon Alexa voice support. It allows you to turn on your home climate control and lighting before you arrive, or even order groceries on the way home. Users with an Apple ID and an Audi Connect Primer Plus subscription can log in and play music without pairing their phone. Using the My Audi app, you can create an account to store all your creature comforts such as climate control settings, locking, lighting, seat settings and preferences which can be transferred to other Audi models.
A screen that sits above the steering wheel called Virtual Cockpit displays any select information the driver chooses from radio stations to Google Maps. Audi Navigation Plus now includes route planner for all-electric models that can let you know if a charging station has Level 2 or DC Fast Charging. The look and operation of the screens is similar to your smartphone with familiar swipe, pinch, tap, and write functions to make navigating easy.
BMW was one of the first automakers to include a screen and infotainment features in its ultimate driving machines. Now, over 20 years later, the iDrive 8 System is regarded as one of the best in the industry. It uses artificial intelligence and natural language recognition to offer state-of-the art infotainment. The driver's gauge screen measures 12.3 inches while the center stack display is 14 inches. Appearing together as a curved screen, they are very high res and sharp.
iDrive has used a console-mounted scroll knob from the very start. It provides shortcuts to all media, GPS navigation, and driver assist wonders. Other than that, all controls are activated through the touchscreen via voice commands or hand gestures. The gauge cluster graphics change depending on which drive mode you choose. The mapping navigation is excellent when it comes to turn by turn instructions on the screen and head's up display.
You'll get wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and built-in Spotify to access your streaming library. Voice control is very responsive for controlling everything hands-free while you're driving. For instance, you could say, "Turn my seat heater to medium" or "Change fan speed to high" and the friendly AI voice will let you know that your wish is its command. All the various systems are nicely integrated on screen and easy to use.
General Motors' Cadillac User Experience (CUE) Infotainment System is beautifully displayed in its upscale Cadillac models, offering custom settings that learn about your needs much like Ford's SYNC 4 system. Caddy's three-row Escalade is known for its massive OLED system that includes three screens for a curved 38-inch display.
The CUE system is displayed before the driver's dash on a 12.3-inch touchscreen. GPS mapping is a cut above, showcasing 3-D arrows over live video for easy navigation. Natural speech recognition can distinguish between users' voices to control music selections, make phone calls, and change destinations. CUE supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Cadillac's own app store.
The system is logically laid out for easy use. You can pinch to zoom in on navigation maps, and swipe to change pages with your finger, just like your smartphone. The home screen shows most-used selections such as music, navigation, phone, and climate control. A simple screen tap will also take you to Cadillac's On-Star system to receive directions, get help, or access the Wi-Fi hotspot.
New Ford models come equipped with its SYNC 4 infotainment System which actually learns your interests as you use it to provide a custom driving experience for up to three different driver profiles. It brings you cloud-based connectivity, a Wi-Fi Hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, over-the-air updates, and natural voice recognition.
The automaker's latest all-electric vehicles, the Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning pickup introduced its massive 15.5-inch infotainment screen. This vertically mounted touchscreen sticks up in the center of the dashboard and the only traditional knob is a volume control at the bottom center. The newly revised system is designed to improve constantly through over-the-air updates. It is incredibly responsive and quick to learn your needs.
The audio functions make it easy to create customizable tiles, playlists, and it is very easy to add a phone. In Navigation mode, the operation is very smooth as you zoom in or out and move the screen to see the desired real-time map. You can search out gas stations, food, and hotels in seconds. Likewise, all the driver assist features can be modified and overall navigation of the SYNC 4 is very intuitive and fast.
If you're looking for a truly gorgeous infotainment display, Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) has you covered. Its sleek Hyperscreen travels over the entire curved dash with three screens that stretch 56 inches from driver to passenger. The system was launched with the all-electric EQS model in 2021. The themes and graphics are amazing as is the stellar design, but for now, the Hyperscreen only comes with the EQS.
All other Mercedes models use a single 12.3-inch touchscreen version of MBUX. Artificial Intelligence helps the system understand and respond to your voice commands. It watches, listens, and learns, making for an infotainment system that is tailored to your wants and needs. In fact, the MBUX voice assistant not only handles all your auto-related voice commands but answers questions as you drive.
Various display styles are available to fit your mood, and you can operate the system by voice command, touchscreen, or touchpad on the steering wheel. It will remember your favorite songs, phone numbers you call frequently, and your route to work, literally adapting intelligently to the individual driver. It can interpret your hand and arm movements to activate selected functions faster and smartphone integration links to the media system via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Spotify to give you instant access to all your favorite apps.