Hands-on With Boss Audio’s Latest CarPlay Receiver (With Exclusive Deal for MacRumors Readers)

A couple of months ago, Boss Audio debuted its latest aftermarket CarPlay receiver, the BVCP9685A, offering a relatively low-cost way to add wired CarPlay (and Android Auto) to your existing vehicle.

The BVCP9685A is a double DIN unit with a 6.75-inch capacitive screen and a vertical strip of capacitive touch controls along the left side. With an external microphone and support for steering wheel controls and backup camera input when paired with proper auxiliary wiring, the BVCP9685A can integrate with much of the existing technology in your vehicle.


Boss Audio sent me a demo unit of the BVCP9685A to test out, and I've come away pretty impressed with its ability to deliver CarPlay functionality at a budget price point, which is currently even lower with an exclusive 5 percent discount code for MacRumors readers.


The BVCP9685A demo unit I received is a relatively self-contained package, hooked up to a standard AC power plug and a small external speaker. That makes it easy to test out the unit without needing to install it in a vehicle, which can be a bit tricky depending on your level of experience and the types of connections you need to make.


On the flip side, the demo unit doesn't give you the full experience, so this is more of a hands-on look than a complete review as I haven't been able to test its sound quality with a full car speaker setup, integration with steering wheel controls and rear camera, and some other features.

Overview


Boss's BVCP9685A offers a relatively clean look dominated by the large screen, although it does have a bit of a bottom bezel where there is some Boss branding and the model number. A strip to the left of the screen offers persistent access to capacitive mute, volume, Siri, and home buttons. The buttons are a little on the small side in a tradeoff with maximizing the size of the main screen.


The 6.75-inch, 800x480 screen is bright and fairly crisp, although it doesn't quite match the higher resolutions seen on some other more expensive systems. The touch buttons along the left side can be set to just about any color of the rainbow or allowed to cycle through a range of colors automatically, and separate color and brightness options can be set for day and night modes.


The main interface of the BVCP9685A consists of a set of tiles that offer access to the system's functions like radio, CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth hands-free calling, rear camera, and media player functions over Bluetooth, USB or an RCA AV connection on the rear of the unit. Small tiles also offer access to settings and an equalizer.

The overall look certainly isn't as polished as some infotainment systems, but if you're a CarPlay user you'll likely be spending much of your time in there anyway.

The radio app offers a large display of the current station and a couple of sets of forward and backward buttons to help navigate between stations on the dial and via presets. Other options let you switch between AM and FM, stereo and mono, local and distant station optimization, and more.


It's fairly easy to operate, although some of the options aren't necessarily intuitive such as the way tapping the option icons toggles indicators elsewhere on the display rather than simply changing a label on the icon itself. Tuning buttons also aren't explicitly labeled, although you'll quickly learn how they work once you start using them.


Playing media from an external device such as via Bluetooth is a similar affair, although I think the look of the media player screen is a bit better than the radio screen, with full track, artist, and album information as well as clear play/pause, track skip, and shuffle buttons along the bottom.

CarPlay


CarPlay and Android Auto require a wired connection on the BVCP9685A, which many users prefer considering they want to charge their phones while in the car, but for those who prefer wireless CarPlay that's starting to become more widely available in aftermarket units, you'll need to look elsewhere.


The BVCP9685A includes a pair of USB ports on short cables, one for CarPlay/Android Auto and one limited to charging and media playback, so you'll need to make sure you connect your Lightning cable to the right one. Once you're up and running with CarPlay, you'll find the usual experience with access to the default Apple apps, compatible third-party apps, and a dedicated Boss icon to take you out of CarPlay and back to the Boss system.


The screen is definitely smaller than some built-in infotainment systems that can go up to 8 inches or more, but within the limitations of the double DIN size standard, Boss has done a pretty good job of maximizing screen space. A few competitors have pushed their screen sizes to 7 inches by using skinny hardware buttons along the bottom of the unit, but Boss gets pretty close to that size while keeping buttons along the left where they're closest to the driver.

Overall, the CarPlay interface looks good on the BVCP9685A, with Maps being where you would most likely notice the difference compared to systems with larger screens, due to the mapping field of view and the various informational overlays. CarPlay is relatively responsive on the BVCP9685A, accurately registering taps and swipes.


In addition to the Boss icon on the CarPlay home screen, you can also use the main capacitive home/back button in the lower left corner of the BVCP9685A to jump out of CarPlay and over to the Boss system. That button can take you back into CarPlay, but only if it's the immediately previous screen you were on. If you switch over to the Boss system and then fiddle with radio settings, for example, you'll need to get back to the Boss home screen and then tap the CarPlay tile there to return to CarPlay.

Wrap-up


As an entry-level CarPlay receiver, the Boss BVCP9685A looks like a solid way to bring your iPhone to the dashboard in your existing vehicle. It doesn't include features seen on more (in some cases much more) expensive models like SiriusXM tuner support, a wireless microphone, a DVD/CD drive, or built-in navigation, but if what you primarily need is CarPlay you may not be interested in many of those missing features.

The BVCP9685A is currently priced at $239.99 on Amazon, but the exclusive MacRumors discount available through this link knocks $12.00 off of that through May 22. Boss is also currently offering a $35.00 on-page or in-cart coupon that is stackable with the MacRumors discount, bringing the final price down to just $192.99.

That's a fantastic price for a CarPlay aftermarket head unit, but do keep in mind when budgeting that depending on your install situation, you may need to pick up some extra equipment like wiring harnesses and perhaps pay for professional installation if you're not comfortable with cracking open your dashboard yourself.

Note: Boss provided MacRumors with a loaner demo unit of the BVCP9685A for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received. MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

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Some 2018 Lexus Vehicles Eligible for $199 Software Update to Add CarPlay Support

Lexus recently announced that it is bringing CarPlay to some older vehicles, following the launch of CarPlay in new 2019 Lexus vehicles last September.

CarPlay can be installed in the 2018 LS, LC, RC, RC F, and NX, and as pointed out by iPhone in Canada, the new CarPlay options are available in both the U.S. and Canada.


According to Lexus, 2018 and 2019 vehicles equipped with a Lexus Multimedia System can have an enhancement installed that adds CarPlay compatibility along with support for Alexa. A full list of eligible vehicles is below:

  • 2018 LS

  • 2018 LC

  • 2018 RC and RC F

  • 2018 NX

  • 2019 NX (produced before October 2018)

  • 2019 RC F (produced before October 2018)

  • 2019 ES, without factory navigation (purchased before October 2018)


Lexus says that it is "pleased" to offer the software enhancement for $199, and Lexus owners who are interested should contact their Lexus dealer for more information.

Lexus says that new software will be installed on the Lexus Multimedia System to add the CarPlay feature, and a Lexus dealer is required to install the update.

CarPlay is already available in select 2019 Lexus vehicles including the 2019 UX crossover and the 2019 Lexus ES.

Lexus and parent company Toyota were among some of the last major car manufacturers to introduce support for CarPlay, instead supporting the SmartDeviceLink platform from Ford and Livio.

The wide availability of CarPlay spurred Toyota to reverse course and support Apple's platform after all, and the first 2019 Toyota and Lexus vehicles with CarPlay were announced in early 2018.

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Toyota Announces 2020 Prius Prime With CarPlay Support

Toyota today announced that CarPlay and Amazon Alexa support will be standard features in its all-new 2020 Prius Prime range in the United States.


Toyota states that CarPlay will come as standard across the full line of 2020 hybrid plug-in Prius models, so customers won't have to pay extra for Apple's in-car infotainment system. As in other Toyota vehicles, CarPlay remains a wired implementation in the 2020 Prius Prime.

Other new features include two additional USB-A ports for rear passengers, an additional fifth seat, black interior accents for a more premium feel, and a new sun visor extender.

Available this summer, the 2020 Prius Prime's suggested retail price for the LE grade will be $27,600, the XLE grade will be $29,500 and the Limited grade will be $33,500.

Other Toyota vehicles equipped with CarPlay include the 2019 Avalon, 2019 Corolla Hatchback, 2019 Sienna, 2019 Camry, 2020 Tacoma, 2020 Tundra, 2020 Sequoia, 2020 Corolla, 2020 Yaris Hatchback, and 2020 Highlander.

Earlier this week, Toyota announced plans to bring CarPlay to 2018 Toyota Camry sedans and 2018 Toyota Sienna minivans through a new retrofitting program that will be available through Toyota dealers.


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Toyota Offering Retrofit CarPlay Upgrades for 2018 Camry and Sienna

Toyota recently announced plans to bring CarPlay to 2018 Toyota Camry sedans and 2018 Toyota Sienna minivans through a new retrofitting program that will be available through Toyota dealers.

According to CNET, 2018 Toyota Sienna and Camry sedans will soon be able to visit a dealership to add CarPlay support to their vehicles. Amazon Alexa compatibility is also included.


Visiting a Toyota dealership will be required to install the CarPlay update, which will be made available through new software. Toyota has not yet confirmed if the CarPlay update will be free or if there will be a fee.

Toyota has introduced CarPlay in quite a few of its 2019 and 2020 models, but to date, CarPlay has been limited to newer vehicles, so this is the first time Toyota is making it available in a 2018 vehicle.

Other Toyota vehicles equipped with CarPlay include the 2019 Avalon, 2019 Corolla Hatchback, 2019 Sienna, 2019 Camry, 2020 Tacoma, 2020 Tundra, 2020 Sequoia, 2020 Corolla, 2020 Yaris Hatchback, and 2020 Highlander.

It's not known if Toyota will, in the future, provide similar CarPlay retrofitting options for other Toyota vehicles.

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CarPlay Makes First-Ever Debut in 2020 Toyota Highlander, Nissan Versa, and All-New Hyundai Venue

Ahead of the annual New York International Auto Show, several automakers have announced new vehicles with first-time support for CarPlay, including the 2020 Toyota Highlander, 2020 Nissan Versa, and 2020 Hyundai Venue.

2020 Toyota Highlander with wide 12.3-inch touchscreen in Platinum model

CarPlay will be a standard feature in the 2020 Toyota Highlander, equipped with a wide 12.3-inch touchscreen display on the highest-end Platinum trim and an 8-inch display on all other trims. Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, Waze, SiriusXM, and Wi-Fi connectivity through AT&T in the U.S. also come standard.

CarPlay and Android Auto come standard in the 2020 Hyundai Venue, the Korean automaker's all-new subcompact crossover SUV. All trims of the vehicle are equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen display.

Nissan is making CarPlay and Android Auto available as upgrade options in its 2020 Versa, equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen display.

CarPlay is wired in all three vehicles, with USB ports for connecting an iPhone via Lightning cable, providing convenient access to frequently used iPhone apps such as Phone, Messages, Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, Apple Music, Spotify, and those from the MLB and NHL directly from the dashboard.

Fully gas 2020 Highlander models will arrive at Toyota dealerships in December 2019, followed by hybrid models in February 2020. Hyundai says the 2020 Venue will arrive at dealerships in the fourth quarter of this year, and the 2020 Nissan Versa goes on sale in summer 2019. No prices were disclosed.

The New York International Auto Show opens to the public Friday.

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NHL App Now Supports CarPlay Ahead of 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The National Hockey League this week updated its iPhone app with support for CarPlay, providing convenient access to live radio broadcasts of games from a vehicle's dashboard just in time for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.


The app has a very simple interface that displays a list of the day's scheduled games and start times. When a game begins, options will become visible to tune in live to the home or away radio broadcasts, with no subscription or account required. "No streams available" is indicated during off-hours.


This mirrors the experience of the iPhone app, which has a headphone icon in the top-right corner for accessing radio broadcasts.

That's it, really. At least for now, the CarPlay app does not feature standings, stats, news, or video, which is in the best interest of driver safety. Just like the MLB At Bat app for CarPlay, this is all about the listening experience. The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin next Thursday, April 10.

Thanks to MacRumors reader and New Jersey Devils fan Matt Donders for providing us with the screenshots above.

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Tag: NHL

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Toyota Continues CarPlay Rollout With New 2020 Yaris Hatchback

Toyota this week announced that CarPlay and Android Auto will be standard features in its all-new 2020 Yaris Hatchback in the United States.


The subcompact vehicle is equipped with a seven-inch touchscreen display protruding above the dashboard, complete with CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and SiriusXM. As in other Toyota vehicles, CarPlay remains a wired implementation, with two USB ports for connecting an iPhone to the system with a Lightning cable.

Toyota was a longtime CarPlay holdout, but it now offers Apple's platform in the 2019 and later Avalon, Camry, Corolla Hatchback, C-HR, RAV4, and Sienna as well as the 2020 Corolla, Tacoma, Tundra, Sequoia, 4Runner, Supra, and now the Yaris Hatchback. Toyota has yet to add CarPlay to the Yaris sedan.

CarPlay provides convenient access to frequently used iPhone apps such as Phone, Messages, Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, Apple Music, and Spotify directly from the dashboard. The platform was introduced in 2014 and is now offered in over 500 vehicle models in the United States, according to Apple.

The new Yaris Hatchback is essentially a rebadged Mazda2, in line with the Yaris sedan. Pricing and availability have yet to be disclosed.

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Tag: Toyota

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Review: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Gets a Boost From CarPlay Even on Lower-Level Trims

Volkswagen's Jetta compact sedan, a mainstay of the German automaker's lineup for 40 years, received a significant redesign for the 2019 model year, bringing a new platform, fresh new design, technology upgrades, and more.

The Jetta is popular with car buyers looking for a cost-efficient daily commute vehicle, and the new Jetta starts at a little under $19,000 but can rise to around $30,000 if you opt for the high-end SEL Premium trim and upgrade the wheels.


I spent some time testing out a relatively modestly specced 2019 Jetta SE, which is the second lowest of the five available trims and starts at just over $22,000 before any additional options.

VW offers three different infotainment systems across the Jetta trims, starting with the 6.5-inch Composition Color system on the S, SE, and R-Line trims and moving up to an 8-inch Composition Media system on the SEL trim that adds features like voice control, CD player, and premium Beats Audio in addition to the larger screen. On the top-level SEL Premium trim, you'll find that same 8-inch screen but with what VW calls its Discover Media system that includes built-in navigation but lacks the CD player.


As an SE trim, my test vehicle came with the 6.5-inch Composition Color system, which gave me an opportunity to see what a buyer with a relatively modest budget can expect to experience in a Jetta.

Composition Color


On its own, the Composition Color system is pretty basic. It includes AM/FM radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity for media sources, Bluetooth phone support, and some vehicle efficiency data.

Main FM radio screen on Composition Color infotainment system

There's no SiriusXM and no embedded navigation, but what it does have is VW's Car-Net App-Connect that's standard across the lineup, and that means support for CarPlay and Android Auto, which I'll get to shortly.

Connection screen for CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink

The Composition Color system is simple and easy to use, with large icons for changing radio presets and making other adjustments. The user interface design isn't very exciting, as it's mostly white on black with a bit of accent color here and there, but that's partly due to the simple functions it offers.

FM radio station list for browsing

On higher-level trims with the Composition or Discover Media system, the general look is the same but you'll see a bit more color in appropriate places like channel logos on the preset buttons in SiriusXM.

Playing audio from a phone via Bluetooth

The screen has a matte finish that does a decent job of minimizing glare and fingerprints, although the hardware buttons surrounding the screen tend to pick up a bit of visible oils from your fingers.

Speaking of those hardware buttons, they represent a straightforward set of options that eliminates the need for any sort of home screen on the system. Radio and Media buttons at the top left let you jump straight to the radio controls or change audio sources, while a Car button at the bottom left shows you some vehicle data like fuel and power efficiency.

Bluetooth phone favorites

At the top right, you'll find a Phone button for accessing a Bluetooth-paired phone and an App button to take you into CarPlay or Android Auto. Finally, a Setup button at the bottom right gets you into various settings. A power/volume knob on the left and a tune/scroll knob on the right complete the lineup of hardware controls.

The Jetta offers nearly a full set of hardware climate control knobs and buttons, which is great for making adjustments by feel rather than having to hunt around on a touchscreen. There are also touchscreen controls if you prefer to use them, although it took me a little while to even discover them.

Hardware climate controls

The climate control screen on the infotainment system is activated by hitting a Menu button on the center fan control knob. Locating it so far from the screen is a little odd, but I guess it makes sense to have it with the physical controls and once you learn it's there, you're unlikely to forget it.

On-screen climate controls

The touchscreen pretty much duplicates what the hardware controls can do, although the digital screen lets you see more information such as exactly where air flows from on different fan settings and quickly switch between them.

Driver's display in instrument cluster

The Jetta SE does include a digital driver's display with several different views to help you see some data like audio track information, but it's monochrome and pretty low resolution, so it could stand to see some improvement. It's not until you get up to the SEL and SEL Premium trims that you get a full digital cockpit, including the ability to display full-screen navigation on the SEL Premium's Discover Media system.

CarPlay


To augment the Composition Color, VW supports CarPlay and Android Auto standard on all trims, and here you'll get the usual CarPlay experience with full, vivid color on the screen. At only 6.5 inches, things can get a little cramped, particularly in Apple Maps or Google Maps where you have informational overlays obscuring portions of the map view.

CarPlay home screen

There's a VW app icon on the CarPlay home screen that takes you back to the Composition Color system, but it's easier to just use the hardware buttons to jump straight to your desired function from wherever you are in CarPlay.

Apple Maps in CarPlay

The combination of CarPlay and the Composition Color system on the lower-level Jetta trims really lets you see how you can get away with a barebones infotainment system. The built-in infotainment system really doesn't need to support much more than terrestrial radio, as even basic phone connectivity like Bluetooth call and media support are unnecessary once you activate CarPlay.

CarPlay's "Now Playing" screen

With nearly everything you need being delivered from your phone through CarPlay, it makes even a basic built-in system much more powerful, as long as you have a decent screen and some good hardware controls around the periphery.

Google Maps in CarPlay

The Composition Color system found on the lower-level Jetta trims doesn't include its own voice assistant functionality, so the voice control button on the steering wheel serves only a single function, and that's for interacting with your phone. That means Siri Eyes Free if you're connected via Bluetooth, and if you're got CarPlay running over USB it'll bring up the Siri interface for that.

Voice assistant button is at top left of right cluster

Ports and Connectivity


The S, SE, and R-Line trims of the 2019 Jetta include only a single USB-A port located near the bottom of the center stack, adjacent to a roomy tray where you can store your phone. The SEL and SEL Premium trims add a rear charge-only USB-A port.

Phone storage tray with USB-A port

I always like to see as many ports as possible including one in the center console compartment for those who want to tuck their phones away, but the compartment in the Jetta is pretty small (though deep), which would make it difficult to include a USB port inside.

Wrap-up


Most people considering a Jetta are probably, looking for a relatively cheap, reliable daily commuter car, and the Jetta delivers on that front, complete with one of the best warranties in the business. All Jettas come with CarPlay and Android Auto support standard, which is great as even an entry-level buyer can end up with a fairly powerful infotainment system based around their phone.

I do wish that an 8-inch display, or even a 7-inch one, was standard, as it would give a bit bigger palette for CarPlay. Many apps look fine on the smaller 6.5-inch screen found on lower Jetta trims, but navigation in particular suffers from the limited screen space.

It's always nice to have some sort of extra display space to show more than CarPlay, whether it be a split widescreen main display, a secondary one on the dash, or a multifunction one in the driver's cluster. It's great that these lower-level Jetta trims include one, but it could stand to some improvement in both looks and functionality.

The 2019 Volkswagen Jetta starts around $19,000, and with CarPlay being a standard feature it's one of the cheapest ways to get into a CarPlay-equipped vehicle. Manufacturers are rapidly bringing CarPlay support downmarket in both models and trims, but it's good to see VW being one of the leaders here. If anything, CarPlay is more important on a low-end trim than it is on a maxed-out vehicle with its own navigation system and all of the other bells and whistles.

If you do want to upgrade your Jetta, you can certainly do that, and the higher-end Composition Media and Discover Media infotainment systems offer some nice upgrades on that front, topped out by the Digital Cockpit that can fill nearly the entire driver's cluster with a navigation view on the top-end Discover Media.

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Boss Audio Launches New $210 CarPlay Receiver With 6.75-Inch Touchscreen

If you don't have a vehicle with CarPlay installed natively, there are a number of third-party aftermarket CarPlay receivers from companies like Alpine and Pioneer, which can be an affordable way to get CarPlay integration in your car.

Boss Audio, known for its range of car speakers and accessories, recently launched a new CarPlay receiver, the BVCP9685A, and its $250 price tag makes it one of the cheaper CarPlay options on the market. For a limited time, there's a $40 coupon available on Amazon, dropping the price even further to $210.


The BVCP9685A from Boss Audio features a 6.75-inch capacitive touchscreen LCD, and the company says that this new version has a number of upgrades over the prior BVCP9675A option. The unit depth is now 5.3 inches instead of 6.7-inches, with the shallower body allowing for an easier installation process.

With proper car wiring, steering wheel controls and backup camera are supported, and an external mic improves voice pick up when giving voice commands to Siri.


Other BVCP9685A features include Android Auto support, AM/FM radio receiver, RDS and RBDS tuner, Aux and AV input, subwoofer pre-amp outputs, USB charging, multi-color illumination, and true double din.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

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Review: 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Forgoes Built-In Navigation in Favor of CarPlay

Mitsubishi isn't one of the biggest-selling car manufacturers in the U.S. these days, but the Japanese automaker has been rebounding substantially in recent years thanks in large part to its focus on the popular crossover segment, led by the Outlander.

The Mitsubishi Outlander has been offered in a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant for the last few years, and I've been testing out a brand-new 2019 model of the Outlander PHEV just as the first units are starting to roll out to dealers around the country.


In fact, the 2019 model is so new that Mitsubishi isn't even featuring it on its website yet, but in the U.S. at least, changes from the 2018 model are primarily cosmetic aside from some tweaks to the suspension, noise and vibration reduction, and comfort. 2019 models in other countries are seeing some more substantial upgrades under the hood, but those have yet to make their way into the U.S. models.

The U.S. version of the 2019 Outlander PHEV offers a 2.0 L 4-cylinder gas engine paired with dual 60 kW electric motors and a 12 kWh Li-ion battery. Operating solely on electric power, the Outlander PHEV can drive up to 22 miles depending on conditions, while it gets 25 MPG in gasoline-only mode, for a combined rating of 74 MPGe. But with a relatively small 11.3 gallon gas tank to make room for the batteries, overall range is only a little over 300 miles.

Level 1/2 (left) and CHAdeMO (right) charging ports

A 110–120 V Level 1 charging cable is included with the Outlander for charging from a standard electrical outlet, and it offers the ability to switch between 8 A and 12 A charging options. A full charge requires approximately 13 hours at 8 A or 8 hours at 12 A. For faster charging, you can use a 220–240 V Level 2 charging device, which takes about 3.5 hours for a full charge, or a CHAdeMO quick charger at a public charging station to deliver an 80 percent charge in about 25 minutes. The battery is also charged on the go through regenerative braking with steering mounted paddle shifters to adjust the regenerative braking force.


My test vehicle was the high-end GT S-AWC trim, which checks in at just over $42,500 before federal tax credits and includes a number of upgrades and option packages as part of the trim level. The lower-level SEL S-AWC trim starts around $35,000 before tax breaks.

Smartphone Link Display Audio


Mitsubishi offers a 7-inch touchscreen standard in the Outlander PHEV with an infotainment system it calls Smartphone Link Display Audio (SDA). CarPlay and Android Auto support are also standard on all PHEV trims, although SDA and CarPlay/Android are not available on the base ES trim of the regular Outlander.

Mitsubishi's Smartphone Link Display Audio (SDA) home screen

What's interesting about Mitsubishi's SDA system is that there is no embedded navigation available in U.S. models, with users instead needing to rely on CarPlay or Android Auto for their navigation needs. I spoke with Bryan Arnett, Mitsubishi's senior manager for accessory development and advanced technology, and he explained to me that the company made the decision to remove embedded navigation as an option in the United States as of 2016 models for several interrelated reasons.

One of the key aspects had to do with cost, as navigation packages frequently cost in excess of $1,000 on top of other options, so only a portion of users even purchased cars with built-in navigation. In addition, embedded navigation systems need to be regularly updated to ensure they have the latest maps and points of interest, and even when Mitsubishi offered map updates free of charge, users were slow to update.

Embedded navigation systems also can have difficulty competing with smartphone options that owners are already used to in terms of interface and the overall user experience, so Mitsubishi made the decision to go all-in on CarPlay and Android Auto to provide navigation using devices customers already have. Arnett told me that customer feedback on this move has been great, with users increasingly preferring their phones over embedded navigation.

That said, Mitsubishi is part of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, which late last year announced that it will be among a number of car manufacturers moving to adopt Google's Android OS to drive their future infotainment systems. The move will allow users to access built-in versions of Google Maps and other services, although CarPlay will continue to be supported. The Alliance is planning to start rolling out vehicles with Android OS-based systems in 2021.

SiriusXM screen in SDA

As for the current SDA system in the Outlander PHEV, the 7-inch display is framed by a small power/volume knob at the lower left corner and a vertical strip of fixed touch icons along the right side. These icons include a Home button to take you back to the SDA home screen from wherever you are, including in CarPlay or Android Auto, as well as an Apps button that offers a persistent, one-touch option to take you into CarPlay or Android Auto.

Pop-up menu in SiriusXM screen

There's also an Audio button to take you directly to the SDA audio functions and cycle through the various audio sources (including CarPlay's Music app), and a Menu button that pops up a panel at the lower right where you can access settings and other options depending on which SDA screen you're on.

FM radio screen in SDA

In general, Mitsubishi has worked to ensure that the SDA system is intuitive by limiting submenus and making sure everything you need should be no more than two taps away. That's certainly the case with most functions, but I feel like there are some areas where the interface could use some improvements.

Phone keypad in SDA

In particular, the SDA system could use a visual overhaul with modernization of icon and button designs, and some functions such as the SiriusXM screen feel quite cluttered. I recognize that SiriusXM offers a lot of features and I appreciate Mitsubishi's effort to make them all accessible, but I feel like there could definitely be some streamlining.

Second page of SDA home screen showing EV-related icons

As a plug-in hybrid, the Outlander PHEV has a good bit more going on technology-wise than most other cars, and so the SDA system has been augmented to handle that. There are a number of home screen icons for PHEV-specific functions such as vehicle info on charging state and power flow, timed air conditioning and charging settings, and more.

EV eco-related data

Climate controls are handled strictly through separate hardware controls located below the infotainment system, although you do get a brief climate setting overlay on the screen when you make an adjustment. There's also an Air Conditioning icon on the SDA home screen that displays the current climate control settings, but you can't make any adjustments through the touchscreen.

Hardware climate controls at bottom with display-only climate information app in SDA

CarPlay


CarPlay uses a wired connection in the Outlander PHEV, which is unsurprising given how slow wireless CarPlay has been to take off. There's a single USB-A port near the bottom of the center stack, which comes with a rubberized plug cover that feels a little unnecessary and just seems to get in the way if you plan to be plugging and unplugging a USB cable frequently.

CarPlay home screen

CarPlay behaves as you'd expect on the 7-inch screen, which is about middle of the road in terms of screen sizes. Some views such as in maps feel a little on the small and cluttered side if you're used to an 8-inch screen, but it's completely usable. CarPlay is operated strictly by the touchscreen, with no additional touch pad or control knob on the center console, and that's fine with me.

Apple Maps route guidance in CarPlay

The dedicated Home and Apps buttons make it easy to jump in and out of CarPlay, although I'd prefer it if they were located on the left side of the screen for a little bit easier reach.

Now Playing screen in CarPlay

The Outlander PHEV does come with a digital driver's display centered behind the steering wheel that can offer information such as range, MPG, trip odometers, energy flow, and more, but unfortunately there's no option to display audio information, a feature I typically like to use when the main infotainment screen is taken over by other functions such as CarPlay navigation.

Driver's display between the speedometer and power/charge gauges

As with most other cars, the voice control button on the steering wheel serves dual duty, with a short press bring up the SDA voice assistant and a long press bringing up Siri.

SDA and Siri voice control button located at top of lower left cluster

The first time you hit the voice control button, a screen pops up letting you know how that works, and you can tap a checkbox to permanently prevent the introduction screen from showing up in the future.

Pop-up screen explaining how to activate SDA and Siri voice controls

Ports and Connectivity


As I mentioned in the previous section, there's a single USB-A near the base of the center stack, where you can connect a phone for CarPlay or Android Auto, or other devices like iPods for audio purposes.

USB port located at base of center stack and adjacent to console cupholders

A pair of cupholders are located very close to the USB port and serve as decent places to store a connected phone, but there's no dedicated phone storage tray. I do feel like Mitsubishi could have made room for a tray, as there is a fair amount of empty space on the center console even with some extra buttons and switches for managing the hybrid functions of the vehicle.

Center console layout

There's no USB port inside the center console compartment, which would have been another nice option to have for those who like to keep their phones hidden away while driving. You can certainly still store your phone in the compartment, but you'll have a USB cable running out from under the lid all the way up to the dash.


On the rear of the center console, you'll find a second USB-A port for rear passengers. It's a fully functional USB data port, so it can be used not only for device charging but also for CarPlay or a media source.

Mitsubishi does not offer any wireless phone charging or Wi-Fi hotspot option on the Outlander PHEV.


One thing that is available on the Outlander PHEV GT trim is a 1500-watt AC power system with one outlet on the rear of the center console and a second in the cargo area. When active, you can power all sorts of electrical devices using the system, which can be handy for camping, extended trips into remote areas, or even for household items during power outages. There's also a single 12V DC power port up front on the dashboard.

Wrap-up


Overall, I was impressed with the CarPlay integration on Mitsubishi's latest SDA infotainment system, which the company tells me has been included on over 400,000 vehicles worldwide and over 100,000 in the United States. Interactions with CarPlay are fluid, and dedicated touch buttons for hopping in and out of CarPlay make for a smoothly integrated experience.

As for SDA itself, it certainly offers a lot of capabilities, especially on the Outlander PHEV with all of its hybrid technology. I thought I'd miss an option for embedded navigation, but it's starting to make a lot of sense for companies to forego built-in navigation in favor of owners' own smartphones that can offer a better user experience.

But while Mitsubishi has emphasized a streamlined menu hierarchy to limit the number of taps needed to access any option or setting, the visual design of the system could stand to see some improvement. It looks dated, and some screens end up looking quite cluttered. The home screens are easy-to-use grids with colorful icons to help you pick out what you're looking for at a quick glance, but again, the user interface element designs are looking rather dated and could really use some freshening up.

I'm optimistic about Mitsubishi and other manufacturers moving toward Android OS in the next few years, as built-in Google Maps (and hopefully Waze) will be great additions to these systems. Cloud-based navigation systems do sometimes falter compared to embedded systems in areas of poor cellular coverage, but Mitsubishi tells me it's working on addressing that through caching and other means as it moves toward bringing built-in navigation back with Android OS.

The base gas-powered Outlander ES trim starts at a little under $25,000, but you'll need to step up to the SE trim for an additional $1,000 in order to get the SDA system with CarPlay. If you're interested in the PHEV version of the Outlander, that starts around $35,000 for the SEL S-AWC trim with SDA and CarPlay standard.

Stepping up to the higher-level GT S-AWC trim can push pricing up to around $42,000, with even more options and packages available on top of that. Keep in mind that the Outlander PHEV will qualify for federal electric vehicle tax credits of $5,836, so that'll go a long way toward making the PHEV version more price competitive compared to traditional gas models if you'd like to go that route.

Related Roundup: CarPlay

This article, "Review: 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Forgoes Built-In Navigation in Favor of CarPlay" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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