The Uconnect 8.4AN infotainment system in the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 isn't all that new, itself. The system, with its 8.4-inch touch screen, was first introduced in 2011 and at the time was the largest touch screen on the market, pre-Tesla Model S and its massive 17-inch in-dash display. But even though it's a bit long in the tooth by tech standards (though updated by a recent software refresh), the Uconnect 8.4AN system in the 2015 Chrysler 200C that we tested (and that comes as part of the $1,395 Navigation and Sound Group option) is still one of the best available and our Editors' Choice, thanks to its large screen, intuitive interface, and useful features.
The Uconnect 8.4AN infotainment system makes good use of its ample screen by keeping the display uncluttered. Arrayed along the bottom are small icons for the seven main functions: Radio, Menu, Controls, Climate, Navigation, Phone, and Apps, while at the top are even smaller tiles for inside and outside temperature, audio and navigation info, and time.
Press one of the function icons at the bottom and the interface for that function takes over the center portion of the screen, allowing the features to be discerned and accessed with only a glance. For example, when the navigation function is being used, the center of the screen displays a various features as large icons, a map or info such as lane guidance. Even the app screen, the most cluttered of the menus, is logically laid out. The only screen that seems a bit overwhelming is the Settings submenu of the Controls screen, which presents a staggering list of choices that are best scrolled through while parked.
The in-dash display is complemented by an almost-as-large 7-inch LCD instrument panel (IP) in front of the driver that provides pertinent info from upcoming nav maneuvers to driver assistance status. The IP display is controlled by steering wheel buttons that, unlike the touch screen, take time to get used to and can distract from the road ahead.
In addition to the simplicity and intuitiveness of the Uconnect 8.4AN interface, the 2015 200C (like all Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles) has one of the best voice recognition systems on the market. While several automakers claim "one-shot" destination VR entry for navigation (the ability to say the building number, street name, city, and state all at once rather than in individual segments) Chrysler vehicles are one of the few that can actually consistently accomplish this.
Embedded and Brought-in Connectivity
The Uconnect 8.4AN infotainment system in the 200C comes with a 12-month trial of the Uconnect Advantage service, Chrysler's brand of embedded connectivity (a subscription costs $14.99 a month after the 12-month trial). Uconnect Advantage includes traditional telematics services like automatic crash notification, emergency assistance, stolen-vehicle location, plus a companion smartphone app that allows remote features such as door lock/unlock and engine starting. However, it only supports one app: Yelp for local search.
But as part of the free Uconnect Access Via Mobile, the system is compatible with four apps for streaming music and other content: Aha, Pandora, Slacker, and iHeartRadio. These use a Bluetooth- or USB-connected phone—and the data plan on the device—for access to the cloud instead the car's embedded 3G modem. Through the modem, an owner can also choose to add Wi-Fi hot spot capability to the car for $9.99 a day, $19.99 a week, or $34.99 a month.
While I've never seen much need for this feature, or paying for data when I already have it on my phone, it came in useful when I was test-driving the Chrysler 200. I had family traveling in Europe, and was looking for a Starbucks so that I could connect my iPhone to Wi-Fi to use the Skype app to call them. I then realized that I could connect my phone to the 200's Uconnect Wi-Fi system to make the call. I didn't even have to pull over to have the conversation, since the call was routed through the car's Bluetooth hands-free system. This points to another Chrysler technology advantage: From initial device pairing to its long list of features, the automaker's Bluetooth phone system has for years been one of the best.
The Uconnect 8.4AN infotainment system's combination of a touch screen and semi-configurable IP display is similar in some ways to the ill-fated MyFord Touch that's available on the Fusion, a strong competitor to the 200 in the midsize sedan segment. But, where MyFord Touch can be confusing and caused backlash from consumers and the press, the Uconnect 8.4 system is a rare example of simplicity and intuitiveness in infotainment. And with technology becoming a bigger selling point, the Editors' Choice Uconnect 8.4AN infotainment system could tip help the scales for some buyers.
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