The Best and Worst Car Touchscreen Systems
(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- For years luxury car makers have touted touchscreens as the crown jewel of their infotainment systems. But even today, they haven’t quite nailed it. For every pinch-and-swipe interaction of joy, you can also encounter a buggy, overcomplicated interface that inspires a new kind of road rage—and over the course of car shows and weekly car reviews, we’ve tried them all.
The Range Rover Velar contains the most exceptional example on the market today—yes, even beating out Tesla—while the screen controls and performance in Lexus’ LC 500 feel like they’re light-years behind the times. Between those poles, it’s a mixed bag. Here are 10 of the most notable.
Land Rover Range Rover Velar
The Screen: A stacked pair of 10-inch touchscreens spans the width of the center console.
How It Works: The top display controls tools such as audio and navigation; two big dials below handle climate and drive settings. It’s super helpful to be able to tweak multiple features at once. The only buttons are on the door and steering wheel.
Wacky Function: A tilting screen. The top adjusts 30 degrees forward and back to match the driver’s height and reduce glare.
Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo
The Screen: A short but wide 12.3-in. touchscreen with big, easy-to-discern icons.
How It Works: A thoughtfully organized main screen sits above another flat panel with touchable icons that control climate and seating. The rear seats also have a touchscreen.
Wacky Function: Thermal image sensing shows animals or people after dark.
The Screen: An executive-worthy 10.2-in. screen that responds to voice commands is set on a 12.3-in. digital instrument cluster with 3D maps.
How It Works: Pretty much everything is controlled by the clever iDrive, which is standard across BMWs. But there are still a few buttons, plus a useful knob to help scroll through options.
Wacky Function: Gesture control. You wave, it does.
The Screen: The 8-in. screen is just big enough, but it will make you angry anyway.
How It Works: The setup looks dated and features metallic “piano key” buttons to control climate and other settings. The screen is set deep in the dash and tilted up, adding issues of glare and awkward icon access to this already confusing interface.
Wacky Function: Fifteen-watt wireless charging is available.
The Screen: An 8-in. touchscreen offers a complete infotainment system with voice control, speech-to-text, and saved movies for back-seat riders.
How It Works: Knobs control climate and sound, and buttons help navigate through options on an almost-square screen. The functionality is not the fastest, but there are a number of USB ports.
Wacky Function: A back-seat theater. Android tablets are set in the seatbacks; riders in the rear can control the car entertainment systems.
The Screen: A vertical 7-in. central screen lies at a conveniently low level. McLaren’s old system suffered from slowness and low resolution; this is much better.
How It Works: Sadly, it can still take dozens of taps on the tablet to get to a function like Bluetooth or to cancel a pre-mapped route. The complicated system can be a serious distraction while driving.
Wacky Function: A disappearing instrument cluster. Behind the wheel, the LCD display that shows speed and engine stats can fold out of sight.
Lexus LC 500
The Screen: A 10.3-in. display can helpfully switch to a full-screen map.
How It Works: The driver-oriented cockpit interface, with mousepad, has haptic feedback and can be pinched, swiped, or flicked. But the whole thing’s horribly glitchy, freezing for no reason. Pairing devices over Bluetooth is frustrating, if you ever even figure out how to do that.
Wacky Function: “Siri Eyes Free.” A voice command system that connects with your phone to access email and send texts.
Tesla Model S
The Screen: At 17 in. on the diagonal, it covers the center console.
How It Works: The system runs on Linux, with custom software and apps built on top, which means updates are continually downloadable. Thus, your car can always have the latest technology, unlike other cars that may feel out of date after a year.
Wacky Function: Easter eggs. Tesla drops treats into updates, such as a 007-themed display or an option for “more cowbell.”
Mercedes-Benz G 550
The Screen: Two 12.3-in. screens form a “surfboard” strung across the dash, similar to those in new Mercedes sports cars. The second, optional in some trims, is worth it.
How It Works: Organized rows of buttons offer simplicity and tactile feedback, and the ones on the steering wheel allow the driver to keep hands at 10 and 2 while adjusting sound, climate, and calls. The screen is bright and easy.
Wacky Function: Spa-style lighting options. There are 64 colors to go with your mood.
Jaguar XF Sportbrake
The Screen: A 10.2-in. touchscreen in the center console is coupled with a customizable 12.3-in. digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel.
How It Works: Both displays provide full-screen navigation, so the driver can keep facing forward. You can preplan destinations via a phone app, and the car begins directing when you start driving. The screen is recessed, which puts it at an awkward angle.
Wacky Function: Pinch and swipe functionality. All screens should have this.
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