Inside Uconnect 5 in the Dodge Durango GT | cars

Fiat Chrysler, now Stellantis, unveiled an all-new infotainment system, Uconnect 5, last May, boasting faster processing, more designers and an Android-based operating system, customization and a host of other details in tech jargon that irritated adult eyes to gloat as a 13 year old if you tell them a different story about what cars were like “back in the day”. As with any other part of a vehicle, it’s not the specs that matter, but how the system works. So here’s a hands-on look at Uconnect 5, as found in the second vehicle to get it: the 2021 Dodge Durango GT.

It starts with a 10.1-inch screen in landscape orientation that appears larger than some other screens of similar numbers, being squarer and less widescreen. It means more usable space on a bright UltraHD panel that’s tilted just enough towards the driver to make it easier to use without making it inaccessible to the passenger.

The system supports a larger screen, up to 12.3-inches, Stellantis said at launch, and to see how many screens it can handle, check out the Grand Wagoneer with a digital dash as part of a total of seven screens that can all do their own thing independently with the same processor as this one.

Since the chip inside, which Dodge says is five times faster than the system it replaces, can handle that, you’ve probably guessed it works just fine in the Durango GT, which is probably the most basic application for the system, at least so far .

Ultra-fast and seamlessly smooth scrolling of the TomTom-powered built-in navigation is the most obvious benefit, and the system retains its smoothness even when you’ve switched to the configurable home screen that allows you to choose multiple panels and how many windows to choose ( up to four) you want on each screen panel. The stand in our tester had a three-screen layout with navigation on the left, with audio display info on the top right and phone call info on the bottom right. The factory layout worked fine for me and included impressive details such as displaying the satellite radio channel image on the audio screen and displaying podcast art when using the included wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality

The satnav gives you 3D-rendered buildings in the downtown area, useful for finding landmarks and hidden intersections, and it can even give you last-mile directions if you need to walk from your parked vehicle to your final destination, by the Uconnect phone app.

One of the best features of the multi-layout screen is that any vehicle with multiple drivers will benefit from it: user profiles.

Switching between profiles is a one-touch affair that does more than just switch the center screen to the desired graphics. Thanks to the integration of the system with the rest of the vehicle, Uconnect gives each profile its own audio presets, but, more impressively, seat settings, climate control settings and even the position of your side mirrors. I remember the fights between my six-foot dad and my six-foot mom in the days of manual seats and a passenger mirror that was only adjustable from the outside, and this level of profile settings feels like magic.

Usability, long an issue with many of the high-tech systems, is handled well here by Dodge and Stellantis. You can control almost every part of the climate control using clear, well-arranged and large buttons below the large screen. There’s a real volume knob plus one to tune, so you can do everything with your gloves on in winter.

If you want to do everything through the screens, there’s a really big climate button that takes you to full screen, but you can also tap a little icon in the top left or top right of the screen (one for driver, one for passenger) and get a large on-screen climate temperature slider, heated (and cooled if equipped) seats, heated wheels and a Sync button for the driver. All major controls are just a single touch away, rather than buried in menus as in older systems. The shortcut bars at the top of the screen are user-selectable, so you can drop the ones you don’t want for a simpler look.

If you have a surround-view camera, another hidden feature in the latest Uconnect (and most other brands), there’s a button at the top of the screen available for the feature, making it as easy as possible to use without just having to say out loud you want the screen to be on.

Which you can actually do for a lot of controls. New software and hardware for the speech recognition system can hear you better, even when the windows are down or you’re driving in the rain. It can also tell the difference between the driver and passenger speaking, which led to a lot of frustration until I opened the owner’s manual (I know, right?) only to find out that the button on the top right of the screen was for the passenger and mine was on the steering wheel, or I could have just used the “Hey Dodge” voice prompt. Once I got the hang of that part, it worked great with natural speech ability understanding a variety of commands like “I’m cold” to turn up the heat, “turn it up” to turn up the volume, or “find a gas station” to , well, find a gas station without the usual attempts to figure out the specific words the system needed. Those gas stations then came with prices hovering above them, useful if you’re in a place where a block can save you money, though it’s not clear how often the prices might be updated.

In-car infotainment systems can quickly improve a driving experience, or in the long run make purchasing an expensive new car a frustrating burden every time you get in, and you rarely even get a chance to start exercising during a normal drive . showroom test drive. Uconnect 5 makes itself one of the best on the market, not with fancy tricks (it lacks some of the latest and greatest like augmented reality, at least for now), but with ease of use, fluidity, responsiveness, and by managing to give you real buttons for those who want them, combined with making the virtual buttons easier to use and, more importantly, easier to find without taking your hands off the wheel. This is the first system I’ve experienced where I’d be willing to give up my buttons for screen only, and with OTA updates available, Stellantis is just getting started with this system. For more of what it’s capable of, check out the Jeep Wagoneer, which can stream multiple Fire TV feeds, with the front passenger even able to watch their own shows while the rear seat occupants don’t have to share them.

Story compiled using manufacturer information.

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