We aren’t enamored with any of these in-car systems.
In-car infotainment has become increasingly important to evaluate new models. Almost all new cars come equipped with screens to manage their assortment of functions such as navigation and radio. Even inexpensive cars boast high-tech infotainment systems. But not all infotainment systems are built equally, and the following five are those that we feel are in desperate need of an immediate update.
Toyota and Lexus share very similar systems that are controlled in different ways. Toyota typically uses a touchscreen, while Lexus uses either a mouse or a track pad controller. Many people have said that the Lexus control system is hard to use, but we haven't experienced too much difficulty with it. Where both systems fall short is their lack of smartphone integration. Toyota and Lexus don't support Apple Car Play or Android Auto, and instead rely on proprietary systems called Enform for Lexus and Entune for Toyota, which are slow and clunky to use.
Honda and Acura both use very similar systems that are severely showing their age. Honda has started to roll out Android Auto and Apple Car Play on several models, but Acura has been slower to adopt these technologies. Honda and Acura use touchscreens, which are simple but basic. Acura has started to integrate two screens, which are a bit confusing to use. The navigation on Honda/Acura cars hasn't changed much for years, and we'd like to see the company make their systems look more modern. The most annoying missing feature is a simple volume knob to adjust the stereo on several Honda/Acura cars.
When Mazda first rolled out it latest infotainment system, it was a huge improvement. Old Mazda cars couldn't settle on an infotainment system that worked, including one that could only be controlled from the steering wheel. This new system is still several years behind the competition. Mazda doesn't support Android Auto or Apple Car Play and the interface reminds us of an early 2000's MP3 player. From a design standpoint, we'd get tired of looking at the overly stylized menus and lack of smartphone integration. The combination of touchscreen and BMW iDrive style control is not the easiest to figure out, and needs to be simplified.
Like Honda and Acura, Nissan and Infiniti both use systems that feel very dated. Nissan supports Apple Car Play, but not Android Auto. We sampled Nissan's new system in the Maxima and Infiniti's two-screen system in the Q50 and Q60, but both systems still look cartoonish compared to the more attractive German systems. Like in Acura cars, having two screens ends up being confusing and cumbersome, especially when they show the same information.
Perhaps the number one system that is in need of a refresh is Cadillac CUE. This system has been criticized for being laggy and slow to respond. Our biggest gripe with CUE is the buttons (or lack thereof) that surround the screen. CUE uses touch-sensitive controls instead of physical buttons, which are especially irritating to use while driving. There isn't even a simple volume knob, which makes the whole system needlessly complicated. Cadillac has tried to improve the system, but we think that CUE should be scrapped for something similar to what the Germans use.