My car’s infotainment system is a DISASTER! Here is a warning to all contemplating a new vehicle purchase.

Not that long ago, car-buying consumers were focused on features like horsepower, air conditioning, power windows, and other comfort and convenience features. Those things still matter, but one of the main considerations in buying any new vehicle is what’s in the dashboard, specifically the infotainment stack.

With cassette players gone (the last factory-ready cassette player came in the 2010 Lexus SC 430) and with CD players disappearing (I didn’t even notice my new car came without one), the focus is now on things like Bluetooth, satellite navigation, 3G/4G connectivity, WiFi and especially smartphone integration.

Can’t plug your smartphone into your car? Dealbreaker. Total dealbreaker.

Here, then, comes my cautionary tale. Do not repeat my mistakes.

My current ride is a Jaguar with Jaguar-Land Rover’s proprietary infotainment software. Even though I was assured it was state-of-the-art for 2018, it SUCKS. It is HORRIBLE. It is a NIGHTMARE.

How? Let me count the ways.

Within a week of taking delivery of the vehicle, the infotainment system began spontaneously crashing dead 90 seconds after I started the car. This required a trip back to the dealer to have the system reloaded. That took a whole day.

Jaguar-Land Rover has a series of apps called InControl that are supposed to make the connections between smartphone and car seamless. They don’t. Most don’t work as advertised, or are poor imitations of more popular apps (why not just inclued Waze?) The ones that do work are so slow and kludgey that they’re useless. Others fight until everything crashes.

“Try unplugging the USB cord and plugging it in again,” says the car. That move accomplishes approximately bugger-all.

There’s a 3G SIM card that’s supposed to connect the car to an online service that offers everything from traffic conditions to emergency communications to remote starting. It has never, ever worked. The dealer has tried many, many times to fix it and ultimately just gave up.

“We’ve referred the problem back to the factory with 18 other owners of ’18 vehicles. At least you’re not alone. The factory will work it out.”

That was back in March. I check in every couple of weeks and only get a sad shake of the head. Meanwhile, I keep getting emails from Jaguar’s chosen 3G provider partner demanding more money because I’ve used up my data allotment on a system that doesn’t work.

And it gets better.

Whenever I plug in my iPhone via USB, the whole thing crashes dead. When a fellow at Jaguar corporate called to ask how I was doing with my car, I explained the iPhone issue. “Sorry, sir,” the dude said, “but your system isn’t compatible with iOS versions above 11.1.”

“What? Apple has moved on long ago! They’re up to 11.4.1 and iOS 12 is coming in a few weeks. You’re telling me that my year-old iPhone won’t work with my six-month-old so-called state-of-the-art infotainment system?

“That is correct, sir,” he replied. “And I’m afraid that Jaguar-Land Rover isn’t currently speaking with Apple to resolve this issue. If you like, I can provide you with a list of phones that are compatible with your vehicle.”

WHAT. THE. F**K?

This, of course, is ultimately all my fault.

I should have insisted on test-driving the infotainment system before I bought the goddam thing. If I had done that, I would have found another manufacturer. Like Kia, for example. They make AWESOME infotainment gear. The infotainment system in my wife’s Honda C-RV is, while maddeningly short of proper knobs (since corrected in newer models), is bulletproof.

Bottom line? While I’m waiting for the factory to get back to my dealer with a fix (I’m not holding my breath), less than 50% of my infotainment system remains utterly useless and non-functional.

This is why I believe that all auto manufacturers must get out of the infotainment software business and farm everything out to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It takes up to seven years for a car to go from design to showroom floor–and that includes developing whatever proprietary software is in the dash. Meanwhile, Apple and Android are iterating new versions of their automotive software every few months with a complete upgrade coming every year or so. There’s no way any auto manufacturer can keep up.

Therefore, for the good of their customers (and the for the sake of their JD Power ratings), they should give up. Cede the ground to Apple and Google. Surrender. Please.

Adding insult to injury is that Jaguar-Land Rover is apparently defaulting to Apple CarPlay in 2019. I can’t wait to see what the company does to the customers they’ve screwed over with their crappy system.

Meanwhile, CarPlay is set to be updated with the release of iOS 12. From CNET:

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) brought the surprise announcement that Apple is opening up CarPlay to more third-party developers, and the company even teased Google Maps (iOSAndroid) and Waze (iOSAndroid).

Fantastic. And I won’t be able to use any of those new tools, features that I use all the time on my iPhone. When it’s not plugged into my ar, of course.

Jaguar corporate has asked that I take my vehicle into the dealership later this month with instructions to explain (again) the problems I’m having. Wanna bet that there won’t be a solution? “Sorry, sir, but the factory has not got back to us with a solution. We’ll let you know.”

If you’re reading this Jaguar, and if you can’t fix my problems pronto, I will never, ever buy another one of your vehicles again. And I will tell everyone thinking about buying one of your products the same thing.

Meanwhile, here is my warning to you: If you are shopping for a new vehicle, demand that the salesperson allow you to play with the infotainment system until you’ve made a proper evaluation of its functionality. Trust me on this. Failure to do so may result in you really, really hating your new ride.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “My car’s infotainment system is a DISASTER! Here is a warning to all contemplating a new vehicle purchase.

  • September 11, 2018 at 11:55 am
    Permalink

    Holy Shit! Can you replace the whole infocentre with whatever they developed for the 2019? Nobody should develope software without someway to update it. It wouldn’t be that hard since the car is already set up for phone/internet. Mind you software updates are proably very big and would take up all your data by cellualar connetion. Poor, poor planning.

    Reply
  • September 11, 2018 at 12:15 pm
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    The UConnect system in my 2015 Dodge works great (the 8.4″ screen helps). Chrysler’s system is known as one of the best. It is lacking Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, which has apparently been added in more recent versions.

    Can’t say I’m a huge fan of the 2018 Hyundai system, it works, and has some good features. Maybe it’s 3 years using the Dodge system with the larger screen that I find Hyundai’s to be cumbersome for navigating the menus. Haven’t played with the Android Auto feature yet though either. The lone USB port is in use with a 5000+ song USB stick.

    Either way, neither is a terrible system, and for the most part are very good. We did play with the Hyundai system on the test drive so we had some sort of idea what we were getting, even if it wasn’t a full blown trial of all the features.

    Reply
  • September 11, 2018 at 7:27 pm
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    Not to sound like a father doing one of those ” in my days…” but, I have to here…in my days just having FM was a treat and the 8 track never failed if you knew how to Jerry rig it if it did fail.

    Reply

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