For me, the late summer and fall months are a nearly endless succession of new car reveals, auto shows, and first drives. So when Buick offered up a relaxed weekend-long visit to California’s stunning central coast with nothing more arduous in store than listening to an audio book, they didn’t have to ask twice. The drive was set up to showcase some important advancements in Buick’s implementation of the OnStar system, and to announce a new partnership with Audiobooks.com.
It’s hard to believe, but OnStar is now 20 years old. General Motors founded OnStar when cellular technology was still in its bronze age, and the service has grown in the last two decades to the point where every new Buick will offer 4G/LTE connectivity, the ability to provide a mobile WiFi hot spot and, with the 2016 Regal and LaCrosse models, will integrate with Apple CarPlay.
Buick estimates their customers are 30% more likely to be book readers than the industry average.
The latest addition to OnStar is called AtYourService, which provides concierge functions including making hotel reservations through priceline.com, location-based retail offers, and streaming books courtesy of audiobooks.com. Buick owners with iPhones can download the OnStar RemoteLink app and the Audiobooks.com app and receive two free books to start. Audiobooks has a full selection of currently popular books for sale, and a big library of free books as well.
While I don’t want my car to offer me 20% off at Chili’s every time I drive by, the ability to make a hotel reservation on the fly is pretty good, and I’m enough of a book nerd to appreciate the audiobook service.
As mentioned, the full Apple CarPlay feature set will appear in the 2016 Buick Regal and LaCrosse, while the Enclave, Encore, and Verano will be upgraded later. However, the core functionality remains the same. You can download audiobooks to your phone and play them through Bluetooth on any Buick, or stream the content directly through the car’s 4G/LTE connection and CarPlay, if you have one of the supported models.
Buick estimates that their customers are 30% more likely to be book readers than the industry average. That should come as no surprise, because even with Buick’s generally successful efforts to appeal to younger buyers with models like the Regal and Verano, the brand’s mainstay is still a more mature set of drivers. But there’s more to it than just the people who already read novels. Daily commuters of any age may find a novel or non-fiction book more relaxing than the relentless shrieking of commercial radio or the tired playlists on satellite radio.
The book for the drive on the Big Sur coastline was All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – this year’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel about two children growing up on opposite sides of the second world war. As I wound my way through the fertile coastal farms and rugged California coastline more often associated with Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck, the slow-paced novel unfolded and held my attention. It’s a good read, or a good listen, depending on your preference.
One key quality I noticed in the Regal is a quiet ride – you’ll need some peace and tranquility if you want to actually hear the words in an audiobook. Beyond the quiet cabin, the 2016 Regal GS is generally comfortable, peppy rather than fast, and well-appointed as Buick’s mid-size offering. The 2016 Regal ranges in price between $27,065 for the base model and $36,490 for the top GS all-wheel-drive version.
To sum it all up, this is not really about a particular book or even a particular car. The news here is that in-car technology is continuing to weave its various components together into a cohesive whole. More and more, your car is becoming the living room and working desk of your life. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on you – do you want your car ride to be peaceful downtime, a chance to deal with your accumulated phone calls, or just a good drive? By next year, all of those options will be available to you.