Tag Archives: SUVs

Less is more with the new-generation Chevrolet MyLink system

Everything about the MyLink software reminds me of the old Zune interface; this is a good thing.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

You may already be familiar with the maxim, “Less is more.” Clearly the infotainment engineers over at General Motors are, because it seems that they’ve taken this approach to designing the dashboard of the 2013 Chevrolet Spark LT.

The Chevrolet Spark LT is available is a variety of questionable colors.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

There are only four buttons for volume up and down, power, and home below the 7-inch touch screen. There are only three knobs for the basic climate control system. There isn’t even a CD player — GM’s betting that you probably won’t even notice that last bit, because its target market carries music around on phones and in the cloud. When powered down, the Spark’s dashboard is overwhelmingly simple. Turn the key and you’ll find, as I did, that this is a case of less being more.

The aforementioned 7-inch LCD is home to the newest generation of Chevrolet’s MyLink software. Aside from looking like a love letter to the old
Zune interface with its large text white text on a black background and fluorescent highlights, this software also gives the driver access to AM/FM radio, USB MP3 playback,
iPod/iPhone connectivity, and Bluetooth for
hands-free calling and audio streaming. There’s also an auxiliary analog input for those who want to simply plug in a device that’s not compatible with the Bluetooth/USB/iPod digital audio triumvirate.

Hands-on: Chevrolet MyLink in the 2013 Spark (pictures)

On its own, this would be a fairly simple entry-level infotainment system–on par with the Hyundai Accents and Scion iQs that it competes with. However, Chevy MyLink gains a few tricks when paired with an Android smartphone or Apple iPhone. Under the Smartphone Link option, you’ll find connectivity hooks into a few apps, such as Pandora Internet Radio, Stitcher Radio, and BringGo. Pandora and Stitcher should be familiar, but BringGo is a new navigation app developed for the Spark (and other future GM vehicles to boast smartphone link).

BringGo allows users to search for destinations, save and retrieve favorite locations, get traffic updates, and navigate from point A to B with turn-by-turn directions on a live-updating map. Users interact with BringGo on their Spark’s touch screen just like they would with any other OEM navigation option, but the software and processing happens on the connected smartphone like an app. BringGo will be available to MyLink users in the Google Play store and iTunes for about $50 — a pretty penny among the variety of free and cheap navigation apps in both markets, but almost nothing when compared with the alternative of a thousand-dollar OEM navigation option.

Additionally, GM has announced that it is adding TuneIn Radio app support in a future software update and is courting more app developers to help flesh out its offerings. A partnership with app developer and car-to-app connectivity hardware pioneer Livio should help get that ball rolling.

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Five free and mostly free iPhone navigation apps

Although there was much anticipation of Apple’s native navigation app for
iOS 6, reports of its performance revealed many flaws. If Apple Maps is not everything you had hoped, fear not, there are alternatives. Other companies have been doing navigation a lot longer than Apple, and their apps show much more refinement. Most are basically free, but you will need to pay a little for features such as voice prompts, traffic data, and downloadable maps.

Here are five free, or mostly free,
iPhone navigation apps.


A completely free app, Waze has proven popular. Launched initially as a means for users to report traffic conditions for the benefit of others, it has become a full-blown navigation app, completely with free voice prompts. The maps, which get updated by members, have proven accurate in our testing. Along with traffic, the social aspect leads to reporting speed traps and gas prices. The only drawback to Waze is that maps cannot be downloaded, so it only works in an area with a data connection.

Best feature: Social navigation

Scout by Telenav

Telenav has been providing navigation services on cell phones for over 10 years. Scout is the company’s latest navigation app, and is a free download. However, an in-app purchase upgrades the app to Scout Plus for $10 per year, providing voice prompts and the option to download maps. For route guidance, which takes into account traffic conditions, Scout is one of the best we have tested. The new map download feature extends Scout’s usefulness to areas without a data connection, but these maps only cover the U.S. Telenav recently added voice search for destinations to Scout, which worked exceedingly well in our testing. And the company announced the app will work with Ford’s Sync AppLink service, integrating phone navigation with some Ford models.

Best feature: Route guidance

CoPilot GPS

ALK, which offers CoPilot GPS, has been in the navigation business since 1979. Its forays into consumer navigation have lead to a series of apps under the CoPilot name with maps stored on the device instead of online. CoPilot GPS takes a similar tack. After installing the free app, you will be guided to download maps for the U.S. or Canada. In this form, the app does basic route guidance, but to really use the app for navigation, you will need to pay the one-time $20 upgrade fee, which adds voice prompts and the ability to recalculate routes automatically when you get off course. CoPilot GPS does a good job helping find destinations through a combination of points of interest and even geo-tagged locations of photos stored on the phone.

Best feature: Downloaded maps

Motion X Drive

Unlike many of these apps, Motion X Drive has an up-front cost, but it is only 99 cents. For that little bit of money you get an online navigation app with the ability to preload a map of your route. Motion X Drive can recalculate a route even when it gets off track. To make it really useful for navigation, you will need to buy the voice prompt upgrade, which costs $9.99 per year. Motion X Drive stands out for its integration with Bing and Google local search, Wikipedia locations, Facebook, and Twitter.

Best feature: Integration with other Web services


MapQuest was one of the original online mapping Web sites, useful for calculating directions you could print out and consult while driving. MapQuest’s app takes that original functionality and modernizes it. Just like the original MapQuest site, the app is completely free, as are its voice prompts for route navigation. The MapQuest app’s format is similar to Apple Maps, in that it gives you a basic search box for looking up destinations online. MapQuest also does not offer any sort of offline mapping.

Best feature: Free voice prompts

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McLaren’s Paris concept a high-tech supercar

McLaren P1 concept

McLaren pulls the wraps off its P1 concept at the Paris Motor Show next week.


At next week’s Paris Motor Show, McLaren Automotive will show off the P1 concept, a
car that will do little to increase McLaren’s model range. The P1 concept heralds a new production car to be launched next year.

Just like its only current model, the MP4-12C, which comes in hard-top and convertible formats, the P1 is a two-seat low slung hyper sport car. Those in the market for a sedan or SUV must continue to look elsewhere.

McLaren released no details about the new concept, and merely said it will slot in above the MP4-12C in the company’s limited model line-up.

However, expect the P1 concept to use many of the construction techniques that McLaren employed on the MP4-12C, such as an aluminum tub and suspension pieces clad in carbon fiber panels. Engines for the MP4-12C come from Ricardo, an engineering company. As Ricardo maintains a major factory practically next door to the McLaren plant in Woking, UK, engines for the P1 will likely come from the same source.

As for design, the P1 shows a curvier body than the MP4-12C. The beltline dips down from the front fender, while the driver cell bubbles up in the center. A single, large exhaust port is integrated with the rear panel of the P1, positioned up high, while diffusers mark the lower rear of the car.

McLaren P1 concept

McLaren says the production car based off the P1 will have higher performance than its current MP4-12C model.


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Ford CTO on New Ford Fusion

2013 Ford Fusion (Credit: Ford Motor Company))

Paul Mascarenas, Ford’s chief technology and VP of research, was in San Francisco showing off the new Ford Fusion, which now comes with a choice of engines including a 47mpg hybrid and a gasoline engine that shuts the engine off when stopped at a light or a traffic jam. CNET’s Wayne Cunningham got a brief test drive and wrote some “
fun facts” about the

In a telephone interview (scroll down to listen) Mascarenas talked about the fuel efficiency features including a “start/stop system” in its 1.6 litre “EcoBoost” gasoline engine, “which actually stops the engine when the vehicle comes to a stand still for example in a traffic jam.” That model gets 37 mpg, but there is also a hybrid model which, according to Mascarenas, gets 47 mpg in both the city and highway driving, which is very close the the EPA mileage estimates for the Toyota Prius.

As you might expect from a modern car, there is plenty of new technology packed into the Fusion, including some safety features (some are optional) that “assist the driver and help them avoid having an accident in the first place.” One example of Ford’s active safety technologies includes sensors on the vehicle including forward looking cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors that warn you if you drift in your lane. There is also forward collision warning that detects if you’re likely to run into a vehicle up ahead and adaptive cruise control that uses radar to disable cruise control if you’re approaching a vehicle. My favorite is blind spot monitoring that uses radar in the rear of the car to detect if another vehicle is moving into your mirror’s blind spots.

Click below for the full 14-minute interview with Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas.

Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas, photographed at the IFA tech trade show in Berlin in September 2011 (Credit: Larry Magid/CNET)

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New site helps, educates California EV owners

Public vehicle charging stations

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) launched a site dedicated to the education of current and prospective electric vehicle owners in the San Francisco Bay Area. The site, called Bay Area PEV Ready, aggregates information useful to those electric vehicle owners.

For new buyers, the BAAQMD offers help to offset the high initial cost of owning an electric vehicle. Through available public funds, BAAQMD gives out grants to owners to help install charging stations at home. For those existing owners, the BAAQMD is fighting to secure more public EV charging stations. Already BAAQMD has allocated more than $6.3 million in funding to develop the charging infrastructure in the Bay Area to support widespread EV use. That funding will pay for installation of more than 50 DC fast chargers and 250 Level 2 charging stations in public locations throughout the region, and will provide rebates for installation of 3,000 Level 2 home charging stations.

“There is a lot of information out there about plug-in electric vehicles but it is often difficult to navigate,” said Jack Broadbent, the Air District’s executive officer. “This new Web site puts all the Bay Area electric vehicle information in one place for current owners and buyers.”

The San Francisco Bay Area ranks as the highest in PEV sales, making resources such as this extremely valuable.

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IndyCar technology under a hood near you: CNET On Cars Episode 2

This episode took us to the tortuous Sonoma Raceway for a sphincter-tightening run in the new IndyCar formula. The demo
cars seat you tandem behind the driver in a sort of sadistic arrangement that has all the dynamics of full bore racing without the visual cues that let you know if you’re still right side up. Breathtaking.

We shot much of this episode at Canepa, a real gem of a place about 20 mins up in the mountains from the heart of Silicon Valley. Bruce Canepa races vintages cars and restores everything interesting, both for himself and a long list of Pebble Beach show denizens. He spills it all out on two floors of museum and opens the doors without an admission fee or single velvet rope between you and the cars. It’s one of the most engaging car culture experiences you can have and if you bump into their marketing guy, John Ficarra, try to stump him with a car question. You won’t. I didn’t.

As we worked on the Smarter Driver episode about deer collisions, the State Farm team reminded me that moose and elk are a huge part of the problem. I yield to their experience and believe that the entire range of cervidae are the best reason for car night vision tech, which I otherwise find distracting. With deer avoidance, it finds its mandate to be and to evolve.

Top 5 this week is something of a controversial one. I take to task a number of the technologies I share with you in our car tech videos. After cataloging them for the last seven years or so, I think I know which ones are a rat hole for your dollars and attention. I almost put Bluetooth handsfree on the list. Seriously. Not because it doesn’t work but because it doesn’t help. We are rapidly coming to the awareness than distraction in cars comes from “inattention blindness“, regardless of what your hands are doing. More on that in a future episode.

Our next episode will have an extensive look at the Tesla Model S, which I thoroughly enjoyed recently. I came away with questions about their ability to change driving expectations fast enough, and whether a 17″ touch screen is more or less work! More on September 28.

Remember to leave me your feedback on the show. This is the time when we are soaking up feedback like sponges; A year from now I’ll be ignoring your screeds 😉

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