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SnoFire 01-28-2013 08:01 PM

Chrysler UConnect
Found this on about the UConnect

Spotlight On: Chrysler Uconnect

That gigantic screen sitting in the dashboard of most of Chrysler's newest models is more than just eye candy – it's the automaker's latest Uconnect infotainment, a system that integrates most of its advanced audio, navigation and climate control functions into one unit.

Unlike conceptually similar systems offered up by most rivals, Uconnect has received little fanfare. But don't let Chrysler's relative silence concern you – the automaker has quietly created what might be the most user-friendly infotainment system yet. And in a world of increasingly complex – and distracting – infotainment devices, that's huge praise.

Here's a look at how the latest version of Uconnect (called Uconnect Access) works. We sampled the system on a 2013 Ram 1500, but other Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram products will see Uconnect Access phased into their dashboards. If you're in doubt about which system you're looking at, your dealer should be able to tell you. Beginning with certain 2013 models, Uconnect Access can be upgraded to newer software when it is released.


Available with or without navigation (which can now be installed by a dealer), Uconnect Access uses an 8.4-inch touchscreen located centrally on the vehicle's dashboard. Separate controls for climate and audio volume and tuning are also included, but radio presets are on the screen only. Redundant audio (volume, seek and media) switches are conveniently located on the back of the steering wheel.

A second 7-inch screen is available on the Ram's instrument cluster. It provides access to a number of trip computer functions and it can also be configured to display audio information.

In addition, Uconnect access can operate as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot over a 3G network for an additional monthly charge.

Using Uconnect

Uconnect fires up as soon as the vehicle is started. Only a brief safety warning screen greets drivers. At the bottom of every screen are seven large, well-labeled icons – Radio, Media, Climate, Nav, Phone, Apps and Settings. The selected icon is backlit in a glowing red shade when it is selected, making it easy for drivers to tell what menu they're on.

Built into the rearview mirror are 911 and Assist buttons, which can either call up emergency services or connect drivers with either roadside assistance or Chrysler's Vehicle Customer Care Center. Unlike General Motors' OnStar, the system does not provide concierge services, although a smartphone app can remotely lock, unlock and start the vehicle.

A steering wheel button accesses the handsfree voice commands. Generally, the system understands natural commands like “tune to Sirius 90s on 9” or “show map.”

Radio. AM, FM and SiriusXM are found here. At the top of the screen are six presets that list either the name (satellite) or the number (AM/FM) of the preset station. In the center of the screen is a large display for the chosen radio station. For SiriusXM, the display shows the station's logo, plus large text for the station name and slightly smaller text for the song and artist.

A few other buttons below control more advanced functions. Thankfully, a separate knob for tuning is included, which saves the effort of repeatedly tapping a fast forward button.

Media. Bluetooth streaming, USB, SD card and standard headphone jack auxiliary audio modes are found here. Using both an Android and an iPhone, it was easy to connect and use Bluetooth audio. The iPhone displayed song title information.

Climate. Our test vehicle's climate control system featured big redundant buttons and knobs below the 8.4-inch screen, something we hope all future Chrysler products will include. The climate control's temperature is displayed via a small icon at the top right of every screen (near the clock, compass and outside temperature thermometer).

Note: Some Chrysler products will include another icon next to Climate for heated and ventilated seat controls. Our Ram was not equipped with either. We prefer separate buttons integrated into the climate control for heated and ventilated seats, which makes them easy to access while on the go.

Nav. Chrysler uses a Garmin-like easy-to-use navigation software. Although the screen graphics are a bit rudimentary compared to the Google Maps-style screens seen in some other vehicles, Uconnect rewards by being incredibly easy to operate. Big buttons make inputting destination information a cinch. The system does limit some functionality while the Ram is moving, something we don't mind since the voice recognition system easily inputted our requests. Though it is more time consuming to input a destination or search for a nearby point of interest with the voice recognition software, keeping both hands on the wheel is much safer than tapping away at a screen while moving.

Phone. We had no difficulty connecting both an Android and an iPhone 4S to Uconnect. In fact, the system found our phones particularly quickly, and it downloaded their phonebook information. Drivers can set five presets at the top of the screen for frequently-called numbers. The only demerit we give this system is that the button to access the keypad is small, although the keypad itself is big enough to operate reasonably safely while driving.

The system can also announce and read text messages, which worked reasonably well with our iPhone but not our Android. Given the open source nature of Android, not all phones will necessarily be able to use the text message system.

Apps. Chrysler is planning to offer a number of downloadable applications for Uconnect, though the library is small at the moment. The most useful so far is a Wi-Fi app, although our truck also included a Bing search app. Instead of relying on the navigation for, say, restaurant suggestions, drivers (while sitting still if they want to use the touchscreen) can search for relevant locations. User reviews are also displayed.

While the Wi-Fi hotspot might be a boon for commercial users, consumers might find that their hotspot-enabled smartphone will provide faster data access depending on their carrier.

Apps are downloadable via the Sprint-provided 3G system. Apps currently offered are free. More complex future apps might require a charge.

Leftlane's bottom line

Frankly, it's hard to fault Uconnect. In fact, we don't think Chrysler has been vocal enough about its excellent infotainment software, which sets the standard for low-distraction usability. One thing that really sets Uconnect apart is its extra large screen, which gives Chrysler more flexibility than other automakers with smaller displays.

The attractive screen is intuitively laid out with big, clear labels. Even more advanced functions – like changing equalizer settings – can be done reasonably safely while on the go.

We wish that the audio presets had separate buttons, but that's about the only major complaint we can levy against Uconnect.

Leftlane's Spotlight On series aims to provide new car shoppers with an in-depth look and critical evaluation of new technologies and features. Since high-tech items tend to evolve quickly, it is important to note that the information presented here is accurate as of the publish date above.

Guennik 01-29-2013 05:43 AM

Re: Chrysler UConnect
Snofire, I guess you know the following message already from the other post, however it may be of interest to others as well.

In my humble opinion one of the disappointing drawbacks of the new 8.4 Uconnect system is the lack of any ability to import preplanned routes via USB. Actually, there seems to be a lack of any reasonable pre-planning of routes even on the unit itself. The Garmin-based system allows at least to import way-points via the in-car USB, whereas the Harman Kardon based system (like in the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee) lacks even this feature. Thus these expensive built-in systems fall short, despite all of the fanfare about their latest technology, of what your simple Garmin or TomTom handheld navi can easily do!

I am surprised that Chrysler remained ignorant of the fact that navigation should meanwhile mean more than finding a route from point A to point B. Whereas straight A-B is fine for business travel, pre-planning of routes on the PC enriches vacation traveling. It allows selecting scenic routes and small tracks that otherwise never would be chosen by the navigation system. The lack of this feature is the more surprising because Harman Kardon is providing it for BMW's navigation system.

I was totally poised to buy the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit, however its "dumb" navigation system and some other deficiencies in Chrysler/Jeep's product lineup strategy caused me to buy a BMW X5 instead. The navigation system in the BMW is excellent (the vehicle obviously as well, at least for an "off-road lite" guy), and allows easy importing of routes, fully pre-planned on the PC, into the car's navigation system via the in-car USB connector.

I hope that Chrysler/Jeep will some time in the future recognize the need for this feature (giving Harman a push) and may be will rectify some other issues as well, upon which I will be happy to consider Jeep again for my next purchase.

The above is not at all intended as a rant against Jeep. I like the product and would have liked to buy my first Jeep, if not ....... . To the contrary, I hope my comments may help Jeep to make their product even better and more attractive than it already is, should any empowered Jeep manager read this post.

SnoFire 01-29-2013 05:47 AM

Re: Chrysler UConnect
Yes, I've read your post about that.

bill_de 01-29-2013 06:27 AM

Re: Chrysler UConnect
What's strange, is that while trying to get info on Jeeps nav system, I read that BMW uses the Harman Kardon system. On HK's website BMW is listed as a partner ... Chrysler/Jeep is not.

I wish Jeep would supply some definitive information on the system. There was quite a bit of info on the Garmin system posted on wk2Jeeps that made it look like a great system. Hopefully the switch to HK was made based on a better customer experience, and not some back room deal.

If the change is good for the customer, let's hear about it.

tllapointe 01-29-2013 09:02 AM

Re: Chrysler UConnect
I always pre-plan long trips. I use "via" points to take me on the roads I want and away from roads I don't want to travel. With a Garmin, I did this on a PC or I brought the portable GPS into the motel.

In April, if our Overland arrives by then, we will be driving from Maine to Las Vegas to Colorado, and back. I could really use a Jeep Nav manual in Feb-March to prepare.

I plan to bring my portable Garmin 3590 with me in case the Jeep unit has limitations. God I hate those suction cup rings on the windshield.


ColdCase 01-29-2013 09:12 AM

Re: Chrysler UConnect

Originally Posted by bill_de (Post 750035)
Hopefully the switch to HK was made based on a better customer experience, and not some back room deal.

Prior to 2014, you could get either Garmin (430N) or HK (730N) navigation although in some models you were forced into the 730N. You could import trip data into the 430N, but not the 730N. The 730N had dead reckoning, the 430N not, however.

I dunno what Jeep means by Garmin like, for the 2014. The 8.4 used in Chryslers have Garmin Nav.

tllapointe 01-29-2013 09:51 AM

Re: Chrysler UConnect
One common way to share waypoints and routes is through a .gpx file. I have several mapping programs that save information in the GPX format so I am hopeful the HK can read and import the information.


bill_de 01-29-2013 10:05 AM

Re: Chrysler UConnect

Originally Posted by ColdCase (Post 750102)
Prior to 2014, you could get either Garmin (430N) or HK (730N) navigation although in some models you were forced into the 730N. You could import trip data into the 430N, but not the 730N. The 730N had dead reckoning, the 430N not, however.

I dunno what Jeep means by Garmin like, for the 2014. The 8.4 used in Chryslers have Garmin Nav.

According to Milous;

" Radio, 8.4" touchscreen screen with Harman Kardon navigation, featuring one-step destination entry, 3-D city models, landmarks, and digital terrain modeling, dead-reckoning with gyro and more ...


Guennik 01-29-2013 07:26 PM

Re: Chrysler UConnect
I did compare the navi sections in a 8.4" Garmin-based manual with a 8.4" HK-based manual. The Garmin-one mentions the import of custom waypoints, the HK-one does only mention the ability to do a detour, i.e. to change the route to a different endpoint while driving. However, there is little information in detail about the actual capability of the system. Let's hope there will be a pleasant surprise once the details are known from user experience. I wrote to HK about the pre-planning and waypoint import issue but did not get a response.

Scottina06 01-29-2013 11:45 PM

Re: Chrysler UConnect
it has already won several awards as new technology of the year

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