New Car Technology
Published: May 2009
By Adam Baer
The latest multimedia systems for your car combine music, video, and navigation to make your next ride easier—and, best of all, entertaining.
Clarion VRX755VD iPod Media Unit WHAT IT DOES Displays video on its seven-inch flip-out monitor; also plays DVD's, CD's, Sirius satellite radio (with an optional $130 tuner), and MP3's (using a touch-screen iPod interface that mimics the iconic music player's scroll wheel). WHY YOU WANT IT To get rid of those unsightly audio cables sticking out of your stereo, as well as the static-ridden FM-radio iPod transmitters that do nothing but stream playlists. THE CATCH Requires professional installation. Also, at this price, satellite radio shouldn't be optional—it should be included. HIGHLIGHTS It has a grime-resistant touch screen, the ability to play two sound sources at once, and a detachable faceplate you can take with you when you lock up the car. There are also enough extra ports to hook up additional media components, such as surround-sound processors, TV tuners, and multidisc CD/DVD changers. 800/462-5274; www.clarion.com; $1,600 (iPod cable $60).
Audiovox Shuttle System WHAT IT DOES Plays DVD's, CD's, and MP3's and snaps into separately sold docks for the car and home. WHY YOU WANT IT You need something to entertain the kids in the backseat on those long summer drives. The portable unit—reminiscent of a tablet PC and available in 7-, 8.5-, and 10.2-inch screen sizes—comes fully equipped with speakers and a built-in multiformat disc player. THE CATCH The roof-mounted car docks require professional installation, and the budget option lacks an FM modulator (most cost around $40). HIGHLIGHTS The more expensive car dock streams media wirelessly over FM radio waves; the 10.2-inch monitor connects to video-game consoles for back-seat play. 800/229-1235; www.audiovox.com; from $500 for the seven-inch monitor and budget car dock.
TomTom GO 700 Car Navigation Unit WHAT IT DOES Provides turn-by-turn GPS navigation, real-time weather and traffic, and Bluetooth connectivity. WHY YOU WANT IT It's the best portable navigation system on the market. The 2.5 GB hard drive stores maps for the United States and Canada, and you can make hands-free calls from a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone through an integrated speaker and microphone. THE CATCH The four-hour travel battery (for use in rental cars) is inadequate for long trips. HIGHLIGHT Phone and navigation features work simultaneously. 978/287-9555; www.tomtom.com; $899.