Nearly every new car on the market now has some method of connecting with the iPhone. Some come as standard, others are expensive systems that add all sorts of clevel bells and whistles.
No drive is complete without a decent selection of music and most people carry all their favourite songs on their iPhone or iPod. Getting it to play nicely with your car can be easier said than done, but some manufacturers have definitely got it right. So which one is best?
Ford has developed a highly intricate in-car entertainment system called Sync. Combining everything from Bluetooth to GPS and voice control, it is designed to give you all sorts of added enjoyment over your standard drive.
At its core, Sync is all about voice recognition, but it can do much more in terms of playing with your iPod. There are four levels of Sync, at its most basic the system connects with your iPhone, lets you make calls and can even call the emergency services from your phone in the event of an accident.
Next comes Sync with voice activated navigation, that does exactly what it says on the tin. Then there is Sync with myFord, which is where things get interesting. MyFord adds a screen to the dash that lets you control things such as navigation, phone and your media player. MyFord Touch is the top-spec setup which includes a touch screen and even lets you turn your phone into an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot.
Next up is Volkswagen. Traditionally slightly more tame in its interiors but with legendary build quality, VW takes a simple yet very functional approach. What you get is an iPod connector lead built into the car, usually in the glove box or arm rest.
Connect your iPhone and you are pretty much away. Songs will be displayed on the dash or on your car’s satnav screen if you have gone for the option. The screen even follows a similar design approach to the iPod.
Most VWs even have built-in steering wheel controls to allow you to skip and select different songs on your iPod. BMW was first to the fore with in-car iPod connectivity and it has repeated this with the iPhone. Bluetooth calling comes as standard, and cars fitted with BMW’s i-Drive system can take things a lot further.
Like pretty much all the other cars here, there is a 30-pin dock connector and USB port fitted to most all new BMWs. The built-in iPod interface is then mimicked on the steering wheel and can also be controlled using BMW’s i-Drive click wheel.
You get a slick centre console screen that shows things like track information, artists and songs. All of which will be pulled straight off your iPod. BMW’s system has been well received by most, making it one of the systems of choice.
Audi has a nice touch over some of the other competitors in that it makes a specially designed cradle for the iPhone, which will charge and connect it to the car. Other than that, everything works very much in the same way as the competition.
You get the usual car steering wheel controls and a BMW-style click wheel that lets you scroll through artists and song names mounted on a screen on the centre console. Bluetooth calling and all the rest is also included.
Just announced with the new A3 is a high-tech MMI system that shows iPod artwork as well as lets you use the top of the click wheel a bit like a mouse cursor so you can control other such operations as the in-car sat nav.
Fiat uses Microsoft’s Blue and Me system for iPhone connectivity. Earlier-generation models required a special adapter to work with your Apple kit if they had been formatted via Mac. Newer ones work just like the rest of the competition, with a 30-pin connector, Bluetooth control and connectivity as well as steering wheel controls.
Not all this comes as standard with Fiat though and the controls - as well as most of Blue and Me - are optional extras on all of Fiat's cars.
Like most of the high-end audio manufacturers, Mercedes Benz has a specially made UI in the centre console which connects with your iPhone. Again, the steering wheel has dedicated music controls on nearly every new car and you can make calls via Bluetooth.
It costs an extra £240 to have the BMW offering fitted, although admittedly a lot of the competition also charges. The difference is that only a few letters of songs can be shown on the car’s dash. Mercedes makes up for this shortcoming with a custom iPhone charge cradle that can fit into the glovebox.
The more expensive it is, the better it gets with Peugeot. Naturally some of the more budget cars lack a lot of the niceties of iPod integration. Go higher up the price scale however and things start to become interesting.
Some of the top-spec 308 cars, for example, will let you connect your iPhone or iPod via Bluetooth or wired connection, although there have been reports of this being a less than smooth process. There is also the option to connect via USB or, if you prefer, with a SD card. Peugeot can also supply a box to create a Wi-Fi network in your car using a SIM card.
Renault might just claim victory when it comes to in-car iPhone connectivity, particularly with its budget Twingo cars. Why? Because not only has the manufacturer paired up with Copilot Live, but it has also built a stereo with a dedicated iPhone cradle.
The iPhone docks into the centre console of the car, charging it and allowing you to route the audio from the CoPilot Live app, for example, through your car’s audio system. A specially made e-Renault app combined with a dealer-fitted Oxygen Audio O Series system looks to be the easiest way to connect your iPhone to the car. If not the easiest, then certainly the best looking.
Having done a pretty wacky job with the design of its DS range of cars as well as some of the C-series interiors, it wouldn’t be right if Citroen didn’t offer something unique with its cars. Top-of-the-line options include pairing the C3 with your iPhone and giving access to phone controls via Bluetooth.
Naturally there are steering wheel controls, but its the actual interface which really shines out, being styled like the rest of the C3’s interior. Good fun and it works pretty well, too.