Best Infotainment Systems

By Angela Monroe - September 24, 2020


Car infotainment has exploded over the last decade. From lowering the suspension with a key fob to ‘summoning’ your car to drive to you to multi-view sentry modes, we investigate the best car infotainment systems:

Firstly, a quick overview:

Car infotainment means:

Information – details about the vehicle’s settings and operations such as air temperature, navigation, drive mode and which driver assist features are activated.

Entertainment – audio and video such as music or rear-seat screens.

The best infotainment systems master the following criteria:

Ergonomics: Having commonly adjusted things like air temperature, fan speed and music volume in easy to access locations. We don’t want to be fiddling around with options and menus just turn the A/C on.

Response: The faster, the better. No laggy touch screens.

Simplicity: Saving radio stations, using the navigation system and everything else should be straightforward.

Customisation: Ideally, the screen, icon locations and main information displayed should be customisable. 

Quality: Cheap plastic buttons, faded icons and loose dials won’t cut it. 

Tech: We expect to be mind boggled by the latest innovations the auto industry has dreamt up.
Check them out the ‘party tricks’ below:

Best Infotainment Systems

man in car

Mercedes-Benz MBUX

Mercedes launched its new ‘Mercedes-Benz User Experience’ (MBUX) in 2018, initially for premium luxury models. Mercedes claims its big brag is artificial intelligence which is able to ‘learn’ driver preferences and adapt.

For example, MBUX’s super-responsive touch screen (on par with a smartphone), positions commonly used buttons and selections where the driver prefers along with mood lighting and drive modes. Additionally, it features a virtual assistant similar to Apple’s Siri which can connect online.

Party Trick: Energizing Coach: This feature ‘coaches’ you by using specific relaxation procedures. For example, the vehicle will analyse the time of day, your journey, and driving data to manipulate various things inside. The lighting, music, seat massaging, an ‘Active Cushion’ that allows you to exercise your muscles while driving and even fragrancing and ionisation of the air conditioning!

Voice Control: YES
Augmented Reality Navigation:      YES
Digital Gauge Cluster: YES
Apple CarPlay / Android Auto: YES

Tesla Infotainment System

When you’re dubbed the ‘Apple of the auto industry’, you want pretty amazing infotainment. Tesla’s in-car tech doesn’t cease to amaze and is packed to the roof racks with tech (and Easter eggs). For example, you can play video games using the steering wheel and foot pedals via the (massive) screen when charging the batteries. Don’t like games? Netflix and YouTube are available too. Don’t like videos? How about Car-aoke – Tesla’s karaoke for you and your passengers.

On a more serious note, the autopilot and adaptive cruise control can take care of lane guidance, speed, braking and steering. It still requires the driver to keep their hands on the wheel at all times. We’re getting close to self-driving.

Party Trick: Smart Summon: This will actually drive the car to you. For example, if you’re parked at the far end of a car park and come out of a shop carrying big bags, you can ‘summon’ the vehicle to pull out and drive over to you. Tesla is adamant it should only be done on private property but it’s a cool idea.

Voice Control: YES
Augmented Reality Navigation:      YES
Digital Gauge Cluster: YES
Apple CarPlay / Android Auto: NO

BMW iDrive

iDrive has been a top player in infotainment systems for a while now. The latest, as of mid-2020, is the 7.0 version. The quick-to-select customisable tiles on the home screen are a popular feature. This allows you to choose what you’d like to display without clutter. For example, you might prefer only navigation and outside air temperature, others might want fuel economy and phone status. Like its rivals, the touchscreen response is at smartphone speed – it seems like the laggy touch screens of only a few years ago are finally being weeded out of the auto industry. 

Although not BMW specific, gesture control allows you to use hand motions to adjust certain controls. For example, circle your finger clockwise = turn up the volume, point to the touch screen = select navigation. You can program your own too, of course.

Party Trick: ‘Caring Car’ mode: This makes waiting for someone or other delays so much nicer. The car will configure itself to ‘relax’ the occupants by controlling the vented/heated seats, A/C, window shades, mood lighting and play relaxing music. There are other modes too that are designed to ‘transform and enhance your BMW experience’.

Voice Control: YES
Augmented Reality Navigation:      YES
Digital Gauge Cluster: YES
Apple CarPlay / Android Auto: YES

Audi MMI

Audi’s Multi-Media Interface (MMI) is now controlled with a laptop-style touch pad. This is used to control the infotainment system, swipe through menus and draw (write) letters with your fingers to enter addresses into the navigation. The only issue may be alternating hands as it’s located to the driver’s left, meaning you’ll have to use your left hand. Audi’s on top of this and has made the pad an expert at recognising poorly written letters. 

Party Trick: Navigation in gauge cluster: Technically Audi isn’t the only brand to offer this but they do a really good job. You can program the full-digital gauge cluster to display a live video of the vehicle travelling along a 3D map from above. It appears as if a drone is following you along the road.

Voice Control: YES
Augmented Reality Navigation:      YES
Digital Gauge Cluster: YES
Apple CarPlay / Android Auto: YES (depending on model)

What does the future hold?

girl with vr headset

The above mentioned best infotainment systems and their party tricks may seem pretty mind-blowing (and they are)… But here’s what the future might be holding:

Multimedia Glass – This basically turns the rear passenger glass into an iPad. You’ll be able to zoom in on views out of the windows, draw pictures and access media.

Emotional Monitoring – A bit scary but nonetheless this system aims to reduce road rage and aggressive driving. It monitors the driver’s facial expressions, heart rate and even blood pressure and adjusts the interior lighting, sound and ambiance to ‘calm the driver down’.

Holographic Sunroofs – This one does, or is, what it sounds like. It can project holographs or movies, TV shows and visual displays. The difference from a normal screen is that it also allows light to come in like a conventional sunroof.

External Airbags – It sounds a little dangerous but airbags mounted on the outside of a vehicle will deploy if the system detects an imminent and unavoidable accident. They are aimed at preventing an accident from happening altogether by stopping vehicles from actually colliding.

To Sum Up

cleaning infotainment

Car technology is exploding with mind boggling features that Hollywood couldn’t have dreamt up. On the other hand, movies have been promising us flying cars for decades but we still haven’t seen an automaker offer one. Are you ready to trade in or sell your car and upgrade? Which ‘party trick’ impressed you the most?

Angela Monroe
Angela Monroe is the Community Manager at The Positive Group, specialising in giving people the information that they need when they need it, and putting you on the path to a fair financial future. She has 8 years of experience in helping Australians find the right finance solutions, and regularly contributes articles to empower Australians with the knowledge they need to become financially healthy.


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