FCA Uconnect review

FCA Uconnect sets the gold standard for in-car infotainment

Thanks to a combination of practicality, great hardware, and the best user interface on the market, FCA Uconnect is the gold standard of inexpensive infotainment.
Thanks to a combination of practicality, great hardware, and the best user interface on the market, FCA Uconnect is the gold standard of inexpensive infotainment.
Thanks to a combination of practicality, great hardware, and the best user interface on the market, FCA Uconnect is the gold standard of inexpensive infotainment.

Highs

  • Industry-leading user interface
  • High-quality touchscreen
  • Stable and smooth-running operating system
  • Wide selection of features

Lows

  • Slightly low-end graphics

Updated on 7-8-2015: This rating was lowered to reflect increased competition in the space from Apple and Google. For more on how we rate products, see our scoring breakdown.

Virtually every new car on the market these days offers some sort of infotainment system. While undoubtedly cool, these units further complicate and confuse the new car-buying experience – especially considering most buyers only get 20 minutes to check out a new car before they sign on the line. That buyer need not worry about the current gold standard in infotainment systems, the FCA Uconnect.

Since the debut of its most recent iteration in 2013, Uconnect has proven to be one of the most user friendly and comprehensive systems on the market. And thanks to the fact that it is featured on just about every Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, and Jeep product, it is also one of the most widely available to boot.

Ease of use

This is the big one. If an infotainment system isn’t easy for drivers to use while simultaneously – and safely – piloting a two-ton vehicle down the road, it doesn’t matter how many features or pretty graphics it offers. And it is on this quality that Uconnect really stands out.

Uconnect has proven to be one of the most user friendly and comprehensive systems on the market.

The key to Uconnect’s success is the simple design of the touchscreen interface. Seven menu buttons run across the bottom of the screen at all times, providing one-click access to the radio, media, heated and cooled seats, climate control, navigation, phone, and whatever apps are installed. No matter where the operator is in the system he or she can instantly transition to where they want to be virtually instantaneously.

Individual menus are also sensibly laid out, with large text and a consistent arrangement of virtual buttons. This means that once one menu is figured out, the rest will come easily. Also, important functions are provided very direct pathways. For instance, pairing a Bluetooth device requires just two clicks: first push the Media or Phone menu and then simply push Add Device.

These features may seem simple and obvious, but I have frequently found myself longing for Uconnect while trapped in the byzantine nightmare of other automakers’ infotainment menu trees.

Features

Keeping the structure simple is difficult when the whole point of a system like Uconnect is to cram enough ‘info’ and ‘tainment’ into the driver’s eyeballs that their brain becomes a squishy mess. Where other automakers have gone nuts, Chrysler has held back a bit and I am okay with that.

Instead of delivering a ton of rarely used features – like three different varieties of internet radio – as standard, Uconnect delivers the essentials … plus a few nice toys.

Chrysler UConnect

The system is built around core features like navigation, phone connectivity, and media, but it also provides nice extras like Sirius XM satellite radio and traffic updates, voice texting, and a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

The only place that Uconnect really lets its hair down is on model specific features. On SRT models, like the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, there are dozens of performance apps to help enthusiasts measure quarter-mile times, lap records, and G-forces. By contrast, Ram trucks can display a variety of towing related information in a connected display in the gauge cluster.

The hardware

Just as features mean little if the user interface isn’t well designed, software is only half the battle. A great many infotainment systems are let down by shoddy touchscreens and weak processing power. I’m looking at you, Cadillac CUE. Fortunately, Uconnect is not one of them.

The key to Uconnect’s success is the simple design of the touchscreen interface.

The standard Uconnect system in most Chrysler brand cars with is a 5.0-inch touchscreen. While this is perfectly adequate, I recommend spending the extra money to upgrade to the 8.4-inch, which is among the best screens on the market. There is no haptic feedback, but the screen is responsive and sensitive. The experience is not unlike using a reasonably good tablet or smartphone, which in this industry is very high praise.

Happily, Chrysler actually installed a chipset with enough horsepower (you measure processors in horsepower, too, right?) to actually run the system, meaning Uconnect rarely freezes or binds up. Again, this may seem obvious, but clearly no one has mentioned that to Ford or Microsoft.

Graphics

The only stone I can cast at Uconnect is on the issue of aesthetics, and even there it is a pretty small stone.

To make the system easier to use, Chrysler has gone with large icons and writing. This is genuinely helpful, especially for quick glances down at the system. However, the size and choice of font can make the system seem a bit “Fisher-Price’s My First Infotainment System” at times.

Chrysler UConnect

This isn’t a problem on a cheap and cheerful car like the $20,000 Dodge Dart, where the somewhat simplistic graphics go with the theme of the car. But on a $102,485 SRT Viper, or even a high-end Grand Cherokee, it looks a little down-market.

That down-market feeling is especially present in the navigation graphics, which, like many infotainment systems, haven’t changed that much from the first dash-mounted GPS systems.

This isn’t to say that the Uconnect system is ugly; its looks are simply a reminder that it is a mass-market system, even on high-end applications.

Conclusion

It is precisely the fact that Uconnect is mass-market that helps make it the benchmark for all others infotainment systems. The beauty of Uconnect is that even the owner of an entry-level car like the Dart can enjoy just about everything the owner of an $80,000 Mercedes can.

In fact, while it may not be quite as slick or high-tech as the systems offered by Mercedes and Audi, it is easier to use and more stable. That doesn’t mean I would choose a Chrysler 300 over an A6, but when choosing between close competitors like the F-150 and Ram 1500, Uconnect’s excellence would absolutely help sway me. And if an infotainment system is that good, it is absolutely worth paying attention to.

Highs

  • Industry-leading user interface
  • High-quality touchscreen
  • Stable and smooth-running operating system
  • Wide selection of features

Lows

  • Slightly low-end graphics
Cars

ABS brakes helped airlines make more money before they helped you stop

ABS -- a technology that prevents cars from skidding under heavy braking -- has been around since the 1950s, when it was first applied to airplanes. Chrysler and Bendix jointly get credit for developing four-wheel electronic ABS in 1971.
Computing

Here's everything you need to know about buying your next laptop

In this laptop buying guide we'll explain exactly what all of the current offerings are all about and why you need them (or don't). Broken down by cost, operating system and features, this guide will help you get what you need.
Cars

2020 Buick Enclave three-row crossover will give you a back massage

The 2020 Buick Enclave gets a number of small updates, including massaging front seats and a new infotainment system compatible with SiriusXM's 360L streaming service. The updated Buick Enclave goes on sale later this summer.
Mobile

Google Assistant finally gets a gesture shortcut in Android Q beta 5

Android Pie recently rolled out, but it's already time to look ahead to Android Q, the next version of Google's mobile OS. We've seen a number of rumors and leaks come out about the operating system, and now it's available for beta testing.
Cars

How selectable driving modes are able to turn your car from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde

If you don’t have unlimited cash to spend on buying a whole stable of cars to fit every need and occasion, you’re going to need your current car to fill multiple roles.
Cars

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Drone lens, laser synth, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

10 crazy technologies and innovations banned from Formula One

Formula One prides itself on being at the pinnacle of racing technology, but that means teams sometimes push things over the edge. Here are 10 examples of tech that was banned from Formula One.
Cars

You can unlock Lincoln’s massive 2020 Navigator with your phone

The 2020 Lincoln Navigator adds a phone-as-key feature that lets the driver use a smartphone in place of a traditional key fob. Other changes for 2020 include more standard convenience features, and some new trim packages.
Cars

Best automotive deals for Amazon Prime Day

Christmas in July has arrived again with Prime Day 2019, and we're here to be your Santa Claus for all things car tech. We scoured through all the best deals for this non-bank holiday to find you the very best swag to keep your ride on the…
Cars

The best Amazon Prime Day deals on dashboard cameras for your car

The dash cam market grows annually, so these devices are rarely on sale. Prime Day 2019 is a stellar opportunity to modernize your car, keep yourself safe behind the wheel, and possibly capture something hilarious on film.
Cars

Waze now tells you the cost of toll roads along your route

Navigation app Waze now tells you how much you'll be paying for toll roads, should you decide to take them. Enter your route and the app will display the various tolls you'll be paying on that particular trip.
Cars

How VTEC works: Why Hondas have that sudden burst of speed

Honda enthusiasts point to it as one of the brand's advantages. However, to others, VTEC technology can be a point of derision. So what exactly is VTEC? Here's a quick explainer to get you up to speed (pardon the pun).
Cars

2020 Honda Insight hybrid returns for its sophomore year largely unchanged

The 2020 Honda Insight returns rolls into the new model year without any major changes. That's to be expected, as Honda only introduced the 52-mpg hybrid sedan for the 2019 model year.
Deals

Amazon hacks up to 44% off of Garmin GPS navigators for Prime Day

To help with your daily drive, Amazon drops the price of a couple of Garmin GPS Navigation devices by up to 44% this Prime Day.