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Navigation, Audi connect, And Phone Connectivity

2013 Audi A8L: Nvidia Graphics, Wi-Fi, LED Lights, And Google Earth
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Audi’s MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch offers good-looking maps and an intuitive user interface. You get 3D cartography with elevation data and three-dimensional buildings in major cities. Given the number of flat, 2D solutions we've tested, the A8L gave us one of the best navigation experiences we've ever had in a car.

The combination of handwriting recognition and an intuitive control knob made searching for addresses and points of interest easier than in competing solutions. Blindly writing whatever it was we were searching for turned out to be so much less distracting than trying to operate a touchscreen keyboard. Audi even leaves both inputs functional when the car is in motion (after displaying a warning screen); you don't get locked out. 

2013 Audi A8L Navigation

On its own, the MMI Navigation system is pretty plain, sporting standard 2D and 3D maps. Audi connect is what transforms the MMI into the paragon of awesome navigation solutions. Nothing else we've used comes close to rivaling Audi connect. Its secret is an always-on data connection. Using this communications channel, Audi's MMI Navigation downloads Google Earth 3D map overlays on the fly as you're driving. The maps are so beautifully detailed that I found myself leaving the navigation screen up most of the time. Google Earth overlays also make it easier to find your destination with Google Maps Street View images.

Audi connect adds additional functionality to the MMI system, including Google search, weather updates, gas prices, and travel information. The search feature lets you find points of interest using Google instead of the built-in POI list. Naturally, Google is a lot more up to date, since navigation data from the map makes is often a year behind. The weather updates, gas prices, and travel information are fairly standard. Most auto manufacturers facilitate similar data through SiriusXM. But we still don't see the appeal of integrating capabilities that are more conveniently accessed through a smartphone.

The A8L's Audi connect serves up one more great feature we have to mention: on-board Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity, which is perfect for working on the go or keeping a passenger productive. Driving a couple of toddlers around for a week, the Wi-Fi went unused. However, I've dreamed of a world where I could stay connected during a long road trip, and that's now possible.

As with any data connection, Audi connect isn’t free. But surprisingly, the data plans aren’t obscenely priced. The feature runs on T-Mobile in the U.S. and costs $30 if you want to pay month by month. There is no data cap for in-car use, and the price drops as low as $15 a month if you want to pre-pay for 30 months of service at $450. That is by far the best deal you're going to get, since the 24-month plan runs $600 and 12 months sells for $324.

Phone connectivity in the A8L works as expected. You can pair your Bluetooth-capable device and download its contact list and call history. Make and receive calls, and stream stereo sound via Bluetooth, too. The only function we missed was text messaging support.

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  • 3 Hide
    cypeq , January 24, 2014 12:34 AM
    Tom's add regular Refirgerator reviews they also get touchscreens built in.
  • 3 Hide
    vertexx , January 24, 2014 1:12 AM
    Aren't 2014 models out by now?
  • 3 Hide
    Zeh , January 24, 2014 2:08 AM
    One can always dream...
  • 1 Hide
    cozmium , January 24, 2014 3:02 AM
    Another prime example of how B&O are only made for big wallets and not discerning audio enthusiasts. Bowers and Wilkins, such as in the Jaguar XF, sound utterly fantastic. In a car you have a minefield of acoustic problems to overcome, and it takes more than slapping in fancy looking speakers.
  • 1 Hide
    Flicules , January 24, 2014 3:39 AM
    I would like to see an article about the new Infotainment system on the Mazda 3(MY14)
  • -3 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , January 24, 2014 3:39 AM
    *reads title*...so basically all the things Tesla already had in 2012?

    (wifi hardware was present but the software wasn't enabled since the first year of 3G was free)
  • 1 Hide
    vertexx , January 24, 2014 6:08 AM
    The 2014 A8 L features a Bose sound system, or perhaps that's the standard option.
  • -3 Hide
    Metalrenok , January 24, 2014 6:26 AM
    Car reviews? Seriously Tom's?
  • -7 Hide
    Metalrenok , January 24, 2014 6:44 AM
    Car reviews? Seriously Tom's?
  • 2 Hide
    bhaberle , January 24, 2014 7:07 AM
    So umm. It is important to know that even lower end Audi's like the S4 (standard) and the A4 (optional) have these features, such as wi-fi, etc. And yes the wifi hotspot was available in last year's versions of these cars (which actually is the 2013 ones.) The a4/s4 versions are not touch though, which is not really an issue.
  • 1 Hide
    user 18 , January 24, 2014 7:43 AM
    Kind of sad that such a nice car seems to only come with an auto transmission.
  • 1 Hide
    holmes4 , January 24, 2014 8:01 AM
    Regarding USB and audio inputs - Audi typically puts a connector for these in the glove compartment. You may need to buy a custom adapter cable depending on your device. At least on my 2013 A4, it can control an iPhone through the MMI this way, though I just use the Bluetooth integration.
  • 1 Hide
    tuanies , January 24, 2014 8:20 AM
    Quote:
    Another prime example of how B&O are only made for big wallets and not discerning audio enthusiasts. Bowers and Wilkins, such as in the Jaguar XF, sound utterly fantastic. In a car you have a minefield of acoustic problems to overcome, and it takes more than slapping in fancy looking speakers.


    I've never heard the B&W in the XF. The Meridian system in the XJL is quite good though. The Acura Krell system in the RLX is the best system I've heard so far.

    Quote:
    I would like to see an article about the new Infotainment system on the Mazda 3(MY14)


    It's on the list of vehicles to cover. It's a very good vehicle and the new system is a massive improvement over the terrible TomTom system in the 6 and CX5.

    Quote:
    *reads title*...so basically all the things Tesla already had in 2012?

    (wifi hardware was present but the software wasn't enabled since the first year of 3G was free)


    Audi had it in the A8 since 2011

    Quote:
    The 2014 A8 L features a Bose sound system, or perhaps that's the standard option.


    Bose is standard on Audi's. B&O is a $6300 option.

    Quote:
    Car reviews? Seriously Tom's?


    Yes
  • 2 Hide
    tuanies , January 24, 2014 8:23 AM
    Quote:
    So umm. It is important to know that even lower end Audi's like the S4 (standard) and the A4 (optional) have these features, such as wi-fi, etc. And yes the wifi hotspot was available in last year's versions of these cars (which actually is the 2013 ones.) The a4/s4 versions are not touch though, which is not really an issue.


    Yes the A4 has MMI as well, but the touch pad is quite excellent. Also the interior ergonomics and overall package are different. The next gen A4 will have touch. Audi has a combo touch / control knob that debuted in the A3. I imagine it will make its way to the next A4.

    Quote:
    Kind of sad that such a nice car seems to only come with an auto transmission.


    Unfortunately driving with a third pedal will be a forgotten art. However, the 8-speed ZF is a very good transmission. I love manuals and everything, but will gladly trade a third pedal for adaptive cruise control with stop and go and the 8-speed ZF for daily driving.

    Quote:
    Regarding USB and audio inputs - Audi typically puts a connector for these in the glove compartment. You may need to buy a custom adapter cable depending on your device. At least on my 2013 A4, it can control an iPhone through the MMI this way, though I just use the Bluetooth integration.


    You are correct. Ours only had the iPod connector, a 30-pin one at that. It's highway robbery that Audi sells the cables for about $70 to use a feature that should be standard by now.
  • 0 Hide
    xenol , January 24, 2014 9:40 AM
    I'm probably going to get downvoted for this but...I find it annoying people were all "make Google Glass illegal to wear while driving" because of the potential to distract the driver. And yet I see the smarts of this car having the same potential.
  • 1 Hide
    tuanies , January 24, 2014 9:48 AM
    Quote:
    I'm probably going to get downvoted for this but...I find it annoying people were all "make Google Glass illegal to wear while driving" because of the potential to distract the driver. And yet I see the smarts of this car having the same potential.


    People will always find ways to distract themselves if they aren't focused drivers. You can have all the electronic nannies and lock outs you want, but that doesn't stop a parent turning around to yell at their kids before plowing into the car in front of them IMO.
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , January 24, 2014 10:04 AM
    that is a lot of buttons... way too many buttons...Don't get me wrong, I love me some buttons to press, but if complicated games that have 100 different things going on can get by with using just a few of the 16 buttons and 2 sticks available on your average controller, then surely a car's navigation and infotainment system can make due with far less for a much simpler experience.Wake me up when cars get a proper HUD to control the car with rather than overly complicated center consoles that are needlessly complicated and difficult to operate while driving.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 24, 2014 10:27 AM
    I've never had 100 grand to drop on a vehicle, but I'd be satisfied with a car that doesn't require thousands of dollars in repairs after a few hundred thousand kilometers
  • 1 Hide
    3ogdy , January 24, 2014 2:37 PM
    Quote:
    Car reviews? Seriously Tom's?
    Upper part of the page, right under the Tom's Hardware logo:"The authority on TECH". So, what were you saying your problem was?
  • -1 Hide
    cypeq , January 24, 2014 3:18 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Car reviews? Seriously Tom's?
    Upper part of the page, right under the Tom's Hardware logo:"The authority on TECH". So, what were you saying your problem was?
    Nothing it's obvious sponsored advertisement article move a long nothing new.
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