For tech junkies, the infotainment system is the heart of every new car. But like every other aspect of a car, every manufacturer does things a little bit differently, both to engineer the best system and to create a brand-specific experience for the user.
So which car maker has the best infotainment system? Quite frankly, it’s best not to dive into any of these systems and expect a flawless experience. Infotainment still represents a fairly new frontier for automakers, and the demands of driving mean that doing anything else besides paying attention to the road can be cumbersome and awkward—not matter how slick the infotainment interface is. Keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel should always be the highest priority. And frankly, car companies haven’t done this well.
That being said, these 10 infotainment systems represent the best of the best. They come from a wide variety of automakers, and are available in cars at a wide variety of price points. Keep in mind that not all features on a given system are standard, but otherwise be sure to check these systems out when shopping for your next car.
Like everything else about Audi’s cars, MMI is sharp and well designed. It features a rotary controller—always a plus—and a touchpad that can recognize handwriting in some models. But what really sets MMI apart is the available “Virtual Cockpit” display. It replaces the instrument cluster that can display everything from a digital speedometer to Google Maps satellite images. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available on most new Audi models.
BMW was one of the first automakers to launch a comprehensive infotainment system, and its iDrive system remains one of the best. It uses a rotary controller to help the driver navigate the various menus and submenus, which is a bit easier than continuously tapping a touchscreen. Most BMW models offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and some even offer gesture control.
MyLink features large, easy-to-read icons and text, and a decent amount of analog controls. The same basic setup is used in the IntelliLink systems from fellow General Motors brands Buick and GMC. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available across all three brands, and virtually all GM vehicles come standard with a built-in WiFi hotspot that can support up to seven devices.
Chrysler’s Uconnect is one of the best systems available in non-luxury vehicles, although you really need to get the top version with the 8.4-inch touchscreen for the best experience. Uconnect masters the fundamentals with easy-to-read graphics, logical voice controls, a responsive touchscreen, and available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But Chrysler also excels at finding model-specific features, such as the “Performance Pages” app in Dodge muscle cars, or the ability to integrate a rear-seat entertainment system in the Chrysler Pacifica minivan.
When it comes to infotainment, Ford deserves a “most improved” award. Its old MyFord Touch systems were legendarily bad, but the current Sync 3 system has addressed their faults. It features responsive touchscreens, intuitive menus, and a voice-command system that allows the user to speak more naturally. Building on that solid foundation, Ford is adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Wi-Fi hotspots, and an Amazon Alexa skill for certain vehicles.
Hyundai’s infotainment system isn’t the most sophisticated, but they master the fundamentals. BlueLink features fast processors, a sensible menu layout, and a decent amount of backup analog controls. The larger available touchscreens offer good resolution, although the smaller screens that are standard issue in most Hyundais don’t impress as much. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, and Hyundai is rolling out an Amazon Alexa skill as well.
Like corporate parent Hyundai, Kia takes a sensible approach to infotainment. The automaker’s latest UVO3 system strikes a good balance between touchscreen and analog controls, making it easy for drivers of any level of tech aptitude to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, as is an Amazon Alexa skill for the Kia Niro hybrid.
Mercedes likes to think outside the touchscreen. The signature element of its COMAND (short for “Cockpit Management and Data”) series of infotainment systems is a controller that includes a touchpad, rotary knob, and buttons for major functions. Mercedes also introduced steering-wheel touchpads on its E-Class sedan. These devices are a good alternative to tapping and swiping, although they admittedly have a steeper learning curve than other systems.
The infotainment setup in the Tesla Model S and Model X is the equivalent of stuffing a massive V8 engine under the hood of a muscle car: the operative theory is that bigger is better. Both cars rely on a 17-inch touchscreen for nearly all control functions. Even though not all features require such a big screen, it’s an impressive piece of tech. With its new Model 3, Tesla is upping the ante by eliminating the traditional gauge cluster too, and using a central screen for everything.
The latest generation of Volvo’s infotainment system uses a slick, tablet-like portrait touchscreen that’s just as responsive as the devices its shape imitates. It features crisp graphics, and integrates well with the dashboards of Volvo models we’ve seen recently. Volvo was one of the first adopters of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and it is adding built-in WiFi hotspots to new vehicles as well.