When you’ve become comfortable with a car’s technology and know exactly where everything is, relearning a new car is like learning to speak a second language. Automotive infotainment software is changing so rapidly that even the savviest and most seasoned car reviewers have to study a new infotainment system before settling into it. Recently, we did just that during our weeklong 10Best Trucks testing that gathered more than 40 new crossovers and SUVs—and we spent as much time parked as we did driving. Here’s a primer on five of the newest infotainment platforms.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
A curved dual-screen display without a cowled instrument cluster is your clue that a new BMW is running iDrive 8.0. This interface erases five years of muscle memories since version 5.0 came out with a tiled home screen—and even then, it wasn’t drastically different than version 4.0. Instead of small renovations, iDrive 8.0 is a complete gut job that will be unrecognizable to any current BMW owner.
Climate controls are now permanently on the lower portion of the main touchscreen, though you’ll need to tap the climate menu to adjust anything more than temperature. The home screen has larger, more vibrant widgets that can be rearranged and removed as before, but the vertical menu bar is shortened to just four selections (Menu, Media, Phone, Nav).
Genesis opts for a simpler layout without BMW’s splatter of app icons and rainbow colors. In the G80 and GV80, the friendly layout is compromised by a 14.5-inch touchscreen that is so wide you can’t touch the right side without leaning. Instead, we prefer the 12.3-inch touchscreen in the electric GV60 for its right-sized, intuitive approach to customization.
For example, while many automakers now use a 3-D render of the exterior to browse vehicle settings, Genesis doubles down with a render of the interior. Matching a virtual perspective to your actual view in the driver’s seat turns out to be very helpful. Have you adjusted the back rest but can’t figure out how to program the massage? Tap on the digital seat. Can’t figure out how to change the instrument panel layout? Tap the mini version and up come the relevant settings.
Two steering wheel buttons can be customized with preset functions. If you haven’t programmed them, pressing either one will activate the menu setting on the touchscreen. It’s the same for the driver assists—everything you need appears right at hand. Installing these shortcuts throughout the car’s software cuts time and frustration. Not everyone wants to browse every last feature—and many owners may not realize their cars even have them—so it’s refreshing that Genesis is trying to make vehicle setup a one-and-done experience.
Rivian’s infotainment borrows inspiration from Tesla, Porsche, and the self-serve kiosks at McDonald’s. It’s a blend of convenience and complication. For example, there are no physical air-vent controls. You have to tap through several menus to find an illustration of the dash, then swipe each vent’s air flow like you’re finger painting. The mirrors and the steering wheel column must be adjusted with dials on the steering wheel, and those dials serve several more functions.
Turning on the driver assists requires a specific movement on the column stalk (and we couldn’t find lane-departure warning, which must be in another menu). Locking the vehicle requires tapping a padlock icon at the top left corner of the screen, and many times we looked at the locked icon assuming the vehicle was locked when in fact, it was the opposite.
But while Rivian is a newcomer to the automotive world, the screen has good fundamentals. Large graphics and lots of white space make it easy to switch driving modes (with plenty of explanations for each setting). The map is uncluttered and searches POIs quickly. The main menu bar is consistent across the bottom and icons are big enough to operate while driving.
In the R1T pickup, the screen opens the hood, charge port, the two “gear tunnel” doors behind the cab, the tailgate, and the tonneau cover. The Gear Guard app automatically records when anyone walks near the car, including us every time we approached with the key.
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen makes every other automotive display look like a kindergarten project. Available in EQ models including the EQS SUV, the 56-inch glass spanning the entire dash incorporates three separate screens: a 12.3-inch instrument panel, a 12.3-inch touchscreen for the passenger, and a 17.7-inch touchscreen in the center. Operating the Hyperscreen, and the electric vehicle attached to it, is the equivalent of driving a desktop gaming PC.
The eight-core processor and 24 GB of memory are enough to stream two media sources across both touchscreens, navigate with augmented reality, monitor traffic and particulate matter outside, save GPS locations for activating the parking cameras, manage the exact level of perfume emitted from the vents, run massage therapy, and say “Happy Halloween” before you even pull out of the driveway. The ambient lighting that flashes, swirls, fades, and shifts does more than any overclocked graphics card in the best home computers. The experience is fascinating and distracting: It takes effort to keep your eyes on the road.
The nav makes it easy to find charging stations with one button and then (after opening the charge port from a separate menu) activates the exact charger without you needing to swipe a card or open a phone app. On the EQS and EQE, the car can start charging with EVGo, ChargePoint, and Electrify America stations simply by tapping on the screen and then plugging in. You have to complete the process in an exact order—and if you tap to another screen menu, you have to do it all again for it to work—but this is a major upgrade for EV convenience.
In the 2023 Ariya, Nissan refreshed its aging software to fit the newest widescreens. In many other Nissan models, including the Armada, their wide displays run in a smaller, square window that won’t expand anything but map content across the entire screen. The Ariya’s standard screen uses every last pixel of its 12.3 inches. It adds colorful tiles to the home screen with horizontal swiping and a left-aligned vertical main menu of shortcut icons.
The graphics look dated compared to the digital gauge cluster, which to our eyes is sharper and cleaner throughout its multiple layouts. But for Nissan, which has struggled to create a competitive infotainment system, this is a big improvement.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below