There is a lot to love about Audi’s new infotainment system! It’s got great graphics, is fast and allows for deep control of the cars features. The system is identical to the one found in 2019 Audi A8 and has slowly been making its way into Audi’s new line up of vehicles.
The infotainment system of the 2020 Audi A4 is a 10.1 inch tablet which is up from 8.3″ in last years edition. It works along side the virtual cockpit, which offers the same luxury look and feel as Audi’s competition. The display feels big yet some how it does not feel very futuristic. The display just sits atop the dashboard, just above the air-conditioning vents and not integrated into the center console itself. It’s worth noting, too, that the A4 does not have the secondary touchscreen that replaces the conventional climate control buttons. You can actually see that the latter is still present in the A4, integrated into the carbon fiber-trimmed dashboard.
The display has the feeling that it has been placed in the center and rightfully so, the Audi A4 is a much smaller car than the A7 or A8 in which we’ve seen Audi’s new MMI. Unlike it’s bigger brothers the cockpit does not have as much room so Audi was not able to add in the additional display’s because they didn’t have the room. What we’ve seen from Audi’s system in the past feels planned for multiple display’s and though the navigation of the system is nearly the same it seems to be more compact and more structured. It would be easy enough to get used to, however, after using the other systems it leaves me asking:
How could Audi get rid of the rotary knob?
The previous generation of Audi’s infotainment system in the A4 did not have a touch screen but a rotary knob down by the gear shift. You used the knob to interact with the system, you never had to look at it because you could use it by muscle memory and it was easy enough to initially figure out where everything was.
Here is a look at the cockpit of the 2019 A4, you can see the knob just above the gear shift.
In 2020 the 10.1 touchscreen and voice are now the main methods of interacting with the MMI. After some time I could see how you might be able to start to use the MMI without looking at it. First off, we recognize that you should not be using the MMI while driving, but I’m not convinced the voice recognition is strong enough to completely replace physical interaction. To be clear, I realize that it sounds like I’m being a little hard on Audi, but this is true of all car’s I’ve tried. No one has very intuitive voice interaction, even if they claim they do.
What I don’t like about the new infotainment system set up is that my arm is in the air when I’m interacting with the system. This might seem normal, and it is for many systems. However, the knob allowed you to have your hand on the gear shift, a very normal and natural location to rest your hand. From there you could interact with the infotainment system.
Simplicity is Key
I have really been hammering on the flaws, using Audi’s MMI is still a solid experience dispite all the flaws. You can drag and drop icons after a long push to rearrange them. Clever haptic technology confirms you’ve pressed an icon with a short impulse, and the system also emits a discreet clicking sound. In our experience, the tactile and audible confirmations reduce driver distraction. Audi notes customers can turn both functions off. Most of the menus are shallow. For example, changing the driving mode with the touch screen takes three taps. One to enter the “car” menu, a second to access “Audi Drive Select,” and a third to select the desired driving mode.
The software normally responds to input immediately, though we noted a perceptible (but acceptable) amount of lag at start-up as it loads. It’s not as bad as some competitors, like Jaguar’s, which notably takes more time to load.
MMI Touch Response is also smartphone-like in the sense that regularly using the system inevitably leaves an impressive collection of fingerprints on the screen. They’re easy to wipe off, but plan on carrying a microfiber cloth in your car if you want to keep the screen clean on a regular basis.
MMI Touch Response offers vibrant colors and an excellent resolution thanks in part to powerful graphics processors Audi sourced from partner Nvidia. Google Earth and Google Street View compatibility facilitates the task of finding a destination, especially in big cities.
The Tests: Connectivity, Navigation & Voice
When it comes to connectivity the A4 performed admirably! We were able to easily connect our phones and we have the ability to connect by USB cable or Bluetooth directly. The A4 is able to handle multiple Bluetooth connections which is great since you’re likely to have multiple phones in the car.
Navigation worked very well, while driving the A4 was accurate with the GPS directions. When the car said turn right in 200m it was in fact 200m. One of our issues with budget cars is the GPS signal is often subpar and if we’re told to turn right 2 seconds to late, we’ll miss the turn.
Entering address manually was tedious, voice input was touch and go for if it got the address right. We’re going to be testing out Audi’s app next month and put it up against the competition. Being able to sync you calendar with the car and sending your address automatically is always a good feature to have. Like we mentioned above, we didn’t like our arm in the air while writing. We also acknowledge that the driver won’t be writing while driving, but things happen and with out a strong voice companion you’re left with your arm in the air writing or typing addresses.
We tested voice in German in the video and english in a different car. It could be a matter of needing to train the system to our voice but we found that we had to ask a few times.
We also wished that it asked more questions to help narrow the choices offered. If we told it that we were hungry and it suggested a restaurant, it simply suggests the closest one. Would you like to eat Italian? There is a greek restaurant further down the route with a good rating on Google. We wished that the MMI would go one step further to be useful rather than just basic and functional.