The black interior and dash of a 2022 Chevy Traverse is shown.

The Infotainment Centers Of Today And Tomorrow

I clearly remember getting into my friend’s car and being astounded at the multi-cd player feature. The ability to have several CDs queued up to play during your drive opened a whole new range of entertainment. If you are looking at used car sales, you might find one of these nifty contraptions inside, but probably not since these things went out of style with the extinction of dinosaurs. Okay, I jest, but still, we have come a long way since then. From an 8-track player to the cloud, we have seen it all.

Although I sometimes miss the simplicity of vehicles from ten, even twenty years ago, it is impossible not to appreciate how far technology has come. The benefits offered by these advanced infotainment systems improve our daily experiences, adding convenience, practicality, and, of course, entertainment. However, with so many systems on the market today, it can take time to determine which one is better than the rest. Although new vehicles will likely have the most up-to-date systems, there is no guarantee that they are the best. On the other hand, used cars have tried-and-true infotainment systems that have already been put to the test of the daily drive.

What Makes An Infotainment System Great?

Today’s infotainment systems are fairly matched, with some features an expected standard. Features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on most “newish” vehicles, with upgraded features offering wireless options for these two integration systems. Bluetooth, Voice Recognition, and Hands-Free Messaging are some features you will typically find. So, what qualities make an infotainment system stand out?

Adding a wireless charging pad is not a deal breaker, but it is a great option to include. The ability to charge your device without messy wires is a bonus for most people. Having built-in Wi-Fi capabilities is another excellent addition, one that would make charging those devices necessary. Not all vehicles are to the point where they offer Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities, but I am sure, eventually, they will.

Navigation is a big one since buying a navigation system forces you to have an extra component on your dash or rely on your phone for directions, which drains your battery and possibly your data. Built-in navigation with automatic updates is a feature that sets a vehicle apart. Some cars even offer a concierge service, which sounds fancy but is an assistant built-in to your vehicle that can make plans for you. This may be over the top, but it is still pretty cool.

A head-up display is one feature that, in my opinion, is not added to enough vehicles. The head-up display projects important information onto the front window, eliminating the need to look down and become distracted. This is more of a safety feature but ties into the infotainment system, so I have included it.

Other possible infotainment system features include Sirius XM Radio, Alexa built-in, Google Built-in, backseat entertainment screens, Fire TV, Streaming services, and even 911 Assistance that calls out to emergency services for you. Ultimately, any infotainment add-ons are great, at least coming from the CD spinner days, but that does not mean that some are not better than others.

The black interior and dash of a 2024 Jeep Wrangler is shown.

Connect With Jeep UCONNECT

Jeep has been doing this a long, long time, and that time has been well spent bettering every aspect of their already great brand. It is incredible to think about how far technology has come, especially when we look at brands that have been around for decades. In the forties, Jeep was a military-infused tool designed to change the tides, and now it is a recreational vehicle designed for life. Life nowadays is all about technology and practicality, often finding ways to make technology create practical solutions, which also applies to the Jeep.

Older models of the Jeep sport a full-color touchscreen display as the central hub of information. The display is a smidgen above 10 inches and provides access to various applications. The expected integrations, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, have become routine for most automotive manufacturers. Then there are the more specific apps, like wireless auto navigation and Jeep Skill for Amazon Alexa.

Newer models, even used, offer a few extra features that are worth checking out. One of these features is the ability to program up to five specific user profiles on the UConnect system and create a custom home screen to personalize your vehicle’s central hub. The rear-seat monitoring camera is even more exciting if you are a parent of the human or fur variety. Cameras are mounted on each back row and feed a stream to the UConnect display. Here, you can look in on precious cargo and even zoom in if necessary.

The black and gray interior and dash of a 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid is shown.

Kia Connect Keeps Us Together

Most systems today allow you to connect your compatible smartphone to your vehicle, letting you integrate your life. Kia Connect is no exception, allowing you to pair your smart device to the infotainment hub inside an equipped Kia vehicle. With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you can access most of your phone’s data through your car. Hands-free calling and Voice Recognition make it easy and safe, preventing you from digging for your phone.

Select systems have built-in navigation, a wireless charging pad, and a premium Harman Kardon sound system. Even cooler is that some vehicles offer Clari-Fi, a feature of the Harman Kardon system. Clari-fi produces rich, full sound, improving your music’s quality and enhancing your drive.

Newer models feature OTA, which stands for Over-The-Air. This feature allows the vehicle to receive constant upgrades, keeping navigation maps current and providing improvements as they roll out. I remember a CUV I once had that featured built-in navigation but no updates… let’s just say it is not the best idea to follow out-of-date maps in a fast-paced world like this.

The black dash of a 2023 Ford Mustang Mach-E is shown.

Stay In Sync With Ford Sync 3

Slide into a Ford and look at the large, vivid infotainment screen, complete with touchscreen capability. Sync 3 is the latest version of Ford’s infotainment system, featuring updates that include navigation, app syncing, and more. Integration is taken to the max with voice control and Sync AppLink.

One of the best features that is worth mentioning is the 911 Assist. This feature connects your phone to your vehicle in case of emergency. If the airbags are deployed while connected, then the system may be able to send an emergency call out with a prerecorded message. If the phone becomes damaged in an accident, the system will search for a new connection and attempt to make an emergency call on your behalf.

The most recent Ford models have seen a severe infotainment boost, with one of the largest and most commanding center stack screens. Some of the newer sports models feature this 15.5-inch infotainment screen punctuated with a giant volume knob so you can drive and control the volume without losing focus on the road. While you will have to wait for this to be available on a used model, it is still fascinating to see these vehicles’ direction.

More To Ponder

The handful of infotainment systems listed are simply that, a handful, with many more out there worth looking at. Each new model vehicle comes with an assortment of new and updated technology designed to improve daily life and entertain the masses. However, the infotainment systems listed above powerfully represent what can be expected and what should be had. Refrain from settling for a weak system; choose one that will fulfill your infotainment needs, and with the ones above, you are off to a great start.