Volkswagen has made syncing your smartphone with its redesigned, Tennessee-built Passat as easy as pie. During a first drive event at VW’s headquarters in Herndon, Va., we experienced the 2016 Passat and its plethora of technology.
Image credit: VW
VW piqued my curiosity with the installation of Apple CarPlay in this vehicle. It is the first opportunity I personally have had to take the technology for a test drive. As expected, I was impressed with Apple’s CarPlay interface and how seamless and easy it is to use. I wasn’t able to test Android Auto at the time, but I suspect that if CarPlay is any indication, particularly given the 6.3-inch display screen on the SEL Premium model we tested, Android Auto will function just as effortlessly. You can watch a video demo of Android Auto on the new Passat over at Forbes.com.
Image credit: VW
Here at Best Cars Guide, we drive dozens of cars every year and trust us that this process only underlines the lack of understanding some automakers have for the importance of a seamless “user experience” for the driver and his or her smartphone once entering the car. I mean, I could spend anywhere from five to 10 minutes simply trying to navigate a head unit and infotainment system, not to mention Bluetooth phone connection, steering wheel controls and the seemingly endless menus to control each and every technology feature. But, I digress.
The reality is few mainstream brands have been successful at creating an environment that welcomes, even encourages, the integration of external technology; and while there is still a long way to go before we’re completely seamless, the advent of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink are helping to make the transition a more effortless one.
Step-by-step visual demonstration of Apple CarPlay inside the 2016 VW Passat, courtesy of Volkswagen:
Go to “App-Connect” in the VW Passat main menu
Select your device. The 2016 VW Passat supports devices via Google’s Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. We’ve selected an Apple iPhone to demo Apple CarPlay.
Plug in, or connect your device via Bluetooth, to go completely hands-free with Apple CarPlay.
A familiar iPhone-like menu will display on the Passat’s infotainment touchscreen. We appreciate the large icons for easy selections while driving.
Upon connecting, your contacts will be uploaded and your phone’s latest activities synced. It’s like using a giant version of your iPhone. To make a call, you can select the appropriate icon. To go completely hands-free, simply initiate voice commands through Siri via the button found on the steering wheel.
Return to the main menu by tapping the white “home” button in the bottom left-hand corner–just like the tactile button on your iPhone.
Apple CarPlay can also handle your text messages without requiring you to type or read while piloting the 2016 Passat.
Simply select the Messages icon and Siri will ask you what you’d like her to do — read messages or compose a message. Here, we’re composing a text message through voice commands. The sound wave shows that Siri is gathering your dictation.
The voice recognition, and even Siri’s cadence when reading back to you, are impressively accurate. Finally, a safe way to communicate via text as the driver of the vehicle.
Stored music and podcasts are right at your fingertips, too.
Select the Spotify app and instantly have access to your personalized music collection.
Each step remains straightforward for the user, greatly reducing the chances of driving distracted while using Apple CarPlay.
As you can see, the display includes extra large buttons that catch the driver’s eye and don’t require him to remove his eyes from the road in order to search for the correct icon to choose.
Head back to the main menu to use Apple Maps, not Google Maps (it’s not currently supported by CarPlay), in place of the manufacturer’s navigation system (if you opted to purchase it).
Apple Maps successfully got us to and from our destinations without trouble. While not terribly different from the Google Maps interface you likely use on your iPhone, we agree with Engadget that Apple CarPlay would be even better if it supported Google Maps.
Making our selections in Apple Maps was easy and the directions kept us on course. We liked the options for different courses to take and the simplicity of interacting with the navigation software.
That concludes our step-by-step demo of Apple CarPlay in the 2016 Volkswagen Passat. Questions about this integration? Comments? Let me know!
Updated 12/16/15 10:35AM: Correction made to earlier statement that Android Auto was not available on the car at the time of our demo. Android Auto is readily available on all 2016 Passat models with App-Connect.