Chrysler's Uconnect Infotainment System: Better Than Before
Our previous encounters with the Uconnect infotainment system were disappointing, to say the least. Chrysler's 430N (RHB) radio with Uconnect in our base 2011 VW Routan is a poorly thought-out solution when it comes to both navigation and Bluetooth connectivity. But the latest implementation does away with the double-DIN form factor and replaces it with a better-integrated display.
Chrysler eschews the common 16:9 display for a 4:3-ratio, 8.4-inch touchscreen LCD. It's mounted high and center, sporting a resolution of 640x480. That sounds somewhat low, but we didn't notice any text clarity issues. In fact, everything looked great from the driver’s seat. There is just a bit of glare with the sunroof open.
You probably wouldn't think it, but the 4:3 aspect ratio is a remarkable upgrade over typical 16:9 screens. It gives you more intuitive real estate for direct access to the Radio, Media, Controls (seat and steering wheel heat), Climate, Nav, Phone, and App sub-menus.
Although it sports a primarily touch-driven infotainment system tied in with the rest of the SUV's functions, the Grand Cherokee does maintain physical buttons and knobs for climate control and the stereo. As you've probably learned by now, we appreciate mechanical input for a lot of basic functionality. It cuts down on the amount of time we have to spend navigating menus and, over time, we can turn down the air conditioning or crank the volume without taking our eyes off the road. You do need to use the touchscreen for activating the seat heaters, ventilators, or triggering the heated steering wheel, however. On the bright side, the Uconnect Access system facilitates direct access to comfort amenities while the system boots, so you can warm your buns that much more quickly on a cold day.
New to Uconnect Access is integrated cellular connectivity through Sprint’s 3G network. The main reason you'd want this is for telematics services like 911 emergency calling, roadside assistance, vehicle theft assistance, theft alarm, and remote lock/unlock functionality. Cooler still, Uconnect Access also has integrated hot-spot capabilities for in-car mobile device usage. Turning the Jeep into a moving hot-spot will cost you, though. Chrysler thinks it's reasonable to charge $10 a day, $20 a week, or $35 a month for the service. We weren't able to test the in-vehicle hot-spot feature during our week with the Grand Cherokee, but we'd just as soon use the 4G functionality on our cell phones anyway.
The Uconnect Access system lets you adjust driving aids, set remote start options, change the headlight turn-off delay time, and control the auto door lock/unlock, among other settings. We applaud Chrysler for making these settings configurable, rather than forcing you to visit the dealership to alter its default programming.