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Our cars: VW Amarok – ‘Rok This town

The XCAR long termer continues to do it’s duty but how does it stack up against its predecessors?

CNET Car Tech

Unlock full Android app mirroring on your dashboard with this AppRadio hack

With the help of a modified app, we were able to open AppRadio mirroring of the entire Android interface.

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

The Pioneer AppRadio is one of our favorite car stereos thanks to its ability to display and control certain car-centric apps with its 7-inch touchscreen in your dashboard. While the list of supported apps is long, it’s far from all-inclusive. The AppRadio app on your smartphone powers the on-screen interface for the car stereo and acts as the gatekeeper, deciding what apps on your phone can be displayed. But what if you want to use a navigation app that isn’t on the supported list? If you’re an Android user and don’t mind tinkering with your phone’s software, you’re in luck.

AppRadio Unchained is a modified version of the default app that throws that gate wide open and (for better or worse) allows users to access any app on the paired phone via the AppRadio’s touchscreen controls, greatly increasing the usefulness and user-friendliness of this already great hardware.

Beware, here be dragons: The steps described below involve installing modified software on your handset to unlock questionably legal and unsupported operation of the Pioneer AppRadio hardware. Exercise caution before proceeding at your own risk.

Here’s what you’ll… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

This SE model is not the VW Jetta you’re looking for

I’ve driven some gorgeous rides and some hideous ones, but this is probably the most boring-looking car that I’ve reviewed all year. Call it “understated” or “timeless” all that you want, Volkswagen, but even in Tornado Red, the the slab-sided VW Jetta just looks like a lump on wheels with headlamps.

I’m of a similar mind when it comes to this 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE’s performance: it’s not bad, it’s not great. It’s just competent. If the SE were a flavor of ice cream, it would be vanilla. Most people don’t really get excited about vanilla ice cream, but it’s still ice cream, so it’s not like anyone complains much, either.

As a lover of both cars and ice cream, I was determined not to judge this scoop by its plain flavor — after all, vanilla can be downright delicious when done right. However, after living with the 2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE with Connectivity for a bit, I’m convinced that there are more flavorful trim levels to be found farther up the Jetta’s line.

Basic techOur SE model doesn’t feature navigation or advanced infotainment, just a single-line, monochrome RCD 310 standard audio system. Audio from its six speakers sounded merely OK. A-pillar-mounted tweeters give this system better clarity than the four-speaker rigs that you’ll find in many vehicles in this price range, but only just so. If you really care about what the music coming out of the stereo sounds like, you’ll want to look upmarket. VW’s own amazing Fender audio system, for … [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

This SUV wants to drive itself, but needs your help

As much as we’d like for every car that we review to be as exciting as the Jaguar F-Type that recently graced the Car Tech garage, the reality is that most of the time I’m driving regular sedans and dull SUVs. So, while there was a lot to look forward to with the 2014 Acura MDX’s arrival — it’s handsome new design, jewel-like full LED headlamps, and the promise of updated tech, for example — the reality was that I was fully prepared to be just a bit bored this week.

And then I hit the road, curiously tapped the button for the Lane Keeping Assist system, and was met with one of the weirdest drives of my life.

Advanced, awkward, awesomeThe MDX’s midtier Technology package adds a number of passive driver aid technologies, such as a blind-spot-monitoring system, a forward collision warning system, and a lane departure warning system. Each of these systems will chide you with visual and audible alerts, letting you know that there’s potential danger — such as merging into a lane that’s currently occupied or drifting out of your current lane because of inattentiveness — but they don’t actively intervene in any way.

However, the MDX’s top-tier option package and trim level, the MDX Advance, adds active intervention abilities to the passive driver aid features of the Technology package. Forward collision alert becomes a Collision Mitigation Braking System tha… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

This USB car charger juices phones, tablets without blocking the outlet

The PowerUp 3P features two USB ports and a 12-volt pass-through.

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

Accessory Power’s ReVive Series PowerUp 3P is a 12-volt car charger for your USB devices. These things are usually pretty simple affairs: power goes into one end, gets converted to a usable level, and comes out of the USB port at other end. The PowerUp 3P is no exception to this formula, but does feature a few clever design elements that make it worth a small spot in your car’s center console.

At one end of the ReVive Series PowerUp 3P, you’ll find a standard automotive 12-volt power plug that connects to your car’s power point, aka the cigarette lighter. This plug sits at the end of a short (approximately 2-inch) arm that has a bit of articulation at a hinge where it meets the body. The arm can be swung through 180 degrees of rotation, allowing the 3P to stretch out, bend around some corners, and fold up into a more compact package for storage when not in use.

Remove the tip of the power connector and you’ll find a replaceable fuse, which protects you car and your accessories from overload.

The 3P's connector folds in, shrinking the charger's footprint when not in use.

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

It’s safe to assume that the “3P” at the end of the PowerUp 3P’s moniker refers to the three por… [Read more]


Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

Does this great car stereo really need an app mode?

Back in the days of the Car Tech Live podcast, I was often (ahem, every week) asked, “What’s the best way to add a lot of tech to my car without spending a lot of money?”

The answer I most often gave was, “Check out Sony’s MEX line of single-DIN car stereos. For about two Benjamins, you’ll add Bluetooth hands-free calling, wireless audio streaming, USB and auxiliary inputs, and upgrade the audio quality of your car’s wimpy car stereo.”

The Sony MEX-GS600BT is one of the latest units in the MEX line, keeping intact everything that I love about its family. This new receiver also brings an interesting, but rudimentary sort of two-way smartphone app integration to the table that had me “ooh’ing and ahh’ing,” even as I scratched my head at the usefulness of this new feature.

Design The Sony MEX-GS600BT uses the familiar and basic single-DIN design and proportions. The unit features a removable faceplate on which you’ll find a control knob, a bunch of button, and an LCD.

The Sony MEX-GS600BT doesn't deviate from the standard volume-knob-on-the-left, single-DIN design.

(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

The control knob wears many hats. Usually, it is a volume control knob that twists freely with a nice, bumpy detents along its rotation that give a low-tech haptic feedback of how quickly you’re cranking the volume. Tapping the center of the knob like a button enters the S… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

This Android traffic app starts fast, but eventually leaves you stranded

The latest update to the Inrix Traffic app for Android is a fairly large one. The app gets a visual refresh that makes use of Android’s Holo design language. An updated and clearer Places screen makes it easier for drivers to estimate travel times and share those times with others.

Inrix is, simply, a traffic app. It will let you know how much traffic you’ll encounter on your way home and to work, but it won’t actually give you directions as to how you’ll get there. Can such an app be useful? Let’s take a closer look at Inrix Traffic for Android and find out.

What does it do? When you fire up the Inrix app, you’ll be taken to the Places screen. Here you’ll find estimated drive times for preset Home and Work destinations that can be set in one of the app’s settings menus. Each of the destinations has two estimates for the arrival time and driving time for two potential routes.

The Places screen is where you'll find travel time estimates for Home and Work.

(Credit: Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET)

Clicking a Share icon to the left of each drive time allows the users to share the route and travel estimate with any of their contacts via e-mail or text message. Additionally, users can set a favorite e-mail or phone number for messaging for sharing to via the resulting Share menu.

At the bottom of the Places screen are icons that take the user to a Scorecard scre… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET

If Batman drove a Kia, it would look like this

(Credit: Kia Motors/RIDES Magazine )

The Batmobile (in all of its various incarnations) is probably as famous as the Batman who pilots it. However, if you should happen to find yourself in New York this week (perhaps for some sort of comic book convention), you’ll be able to get a peek at the car that Kia Motors would like to see as the Caped Crusader’s next set of wheels: a top-of-the-line Kia Optima SX Limited. Well, they at least got the color right.

Personally, I’d like to think that if Batman were to drive a front-wheel-drive, Korean sports car, he’d be behind the wheel of the 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo in ultimate black or matte gray. Maybe he’d pilot a blacked-out Hyundai Genesis R-Spec Coupe or Sedan. Mr. Wayne could also probably afford to have a Kia Concept GT built and painted black, billionaire playboy that he is.

To be fair, this is no ordinary Optima and it is only “inspired by” the Batman comics. The vehicle has been heavily modified, although the… [Read more]

Car Tech: An automotive blog from CNET