I’ve been a little MIA lately and want to go ahead and apologize. Life has been a little upside down for me in a literal sense of the word. A couple of weeks ago my 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt hit a patch of ice and flipped into some trees. Luckily, I was perfectly fine but the Cobalt is dead. As I set about my search for a new car there was a myriad of options and features I considered. Then I realized none of the considerations matter because the 2011 GTI is all kinds of sexy at once. Now I know, we don’t typically review cars here at Mobility Digest but there is some very relevant stuff happening on this car’s interior. Let me show you what I mean. Just for fun, I’ll throw in a picture of the Cobalt.
VW has seen fit to equip some recent vehicles with Bluetooth audio packages. I’m not a huge fan of factory radios because they usually end up being rather short sighted, this was not an exception to that rule. I’ll explain more on that later. I’m going to break this down into two basic parts, call quality and user interface. This has taken me a while to do because I like to use stuff for a good while before offering my “Digested” opinion. Away we go.
Call quality is second to none. This was confirmed by my room mate who has installed custom and factory Bluetooth kits for dealerships and private owners for the past seven years. Audio from the speakers doesn’t bleed into the microphone at all, even at high volumes. The car has two microphones located above the shifter, one for the driver and the other for the passenger. The microphones have
fantastic voice pickup that doesn’t require yelling or placing your face a foot from the microphone with your mouth straight at it. It picks up road noise if the windows are down but the sunroof is different. In every other car I’ve owned, when you open the sunroof all sorts of crazy wind slaps you and whatever else is in your car wherever it desires. No so on the GTI. When you open the sunroof 3/4 of the way or less and there is no draft at all. Nice and quiet when you want to enjoy the weather but still need to make a phone call.
On to user interface (UI). First of all it’s a car, but VW has no excuse because they went so far as to put touch screen CD/DVD players in these things. The UI still seems a bit archaic. The driver information panel is a little bland but you also don’t want a Daft Punk music video (i.e. Tron: Legacy) going on in between your speed and tachometer. You have your main screen which shows you four things and then two useless symbols. It gives you signal strength so you know whether it’s you dropping the call or your loser friend holding his/her phone wrong. Second you get the broadcast name of your phone so you know exactly what you’re connected to followed by your carrier. The only remaining usefulness this main screen has to offer is battery life. The Bluetooth symbol is pretty redundant considering there isn’t any other way to connect a phone to this info panel. The other symbol lets you know you’ve got Advanced Audio Distribtuion Profile (A2DP) so you can blast whatever tunes may be residing on your handset.
The second picture shows you the access to your phone book and call history. Here is where things start to get shaky. I organize my phone book by first name. Apparently this organizational paradigm does not clash well with German automotive engineering and is thus reversed like every other bass-ackwards piece of wiring in that car (more on this later). The phone book navigation is a little slow to respond sometimes, making you skip one past the contact you were looking for. Also, when navigating through a long list you can hold up or down, which begins cycling through the first contact of every alphabetic character. An audible noise for each letter passed would have been nice so that my eyes can stay somewhat nearer the road while navigating a contact list of sometimes hundreds and a car of 40-80mph.
Third we have the Bluetooth panel which clearly shows a media player option. Playing music via A2DP was not an intuitive process. It required a quick RTFM session and figured out that the car does not always (and by this VW means “will never”) recognize the Bluetooth audio connection until you start playing music on your device. Another blow to the quick and easy category. The last thing that really hurts this is the lack of Bluetooth control. No audio video remote control (AVCRP) so you can not advance, rewind, pause, play, shuffle, stop, fist, nothing via the Bluetooth connection. How does this make it any better than the auxiliary connection? And don’t get all pissy about it being a digital versus an analog connection because 3.5mm has far more throughput than Bluetooth.
To sum up it’s a pretty awesome system for the call and voice quality alone. It’s phone book and music integration suffer. Despite its shortcomings I still think this is a good product and by that I mean the Bluetooth integration, because the GTI, as a whole, is like an orgasm with wheels. Look at this thing… (No I didn’t put JL in this car. She deserves better.) Join me next time when I’ll be reviewing the all new Kenwood eXcelon DDX896 and it’s Bluetooth integration.