High-Tech Hits High Speed
The Bose media system in the Ferrari 612 sets new standards, and someday you won't have to spend $300K to enjoy the same benefits.
When driving a supercar such as the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti at speed, the road comes at you fast. The last thing you want is to be distracted while charting a course on the nav system, or searching for a radio station, CD or MP3 track. You need quick access to your tunes or info on your route. That's the idea behind the Bose media system developed specifically for the 612, one that performs on par with a $300,000 supercar.
Few people will ever get the chance to zip down a deserted road in a 540-horsepower Ferrari, as I did on a recent loop from Phoenix to the mountaintop town of Jerome, Arizona. But the Bose brand is available in daily drivers at one-tenth the cost of the 612. My Ferrari experience convinced me that several of the Bose media system's innovations could make a mundane commute in a more common car safer and more entertaining.
Sleight of Hand
Though some Prancing Horse purists may argue that the only sound you need in a Ferrari is the signature exhaust note, the luxurious four-passenger 612 Scaglietti is a perfect platform for Bose's first full "infotainment" system. Standard equipment on the 2007 612, the Bose media system offers extensive entertainment options, plus GPS navigation and hands-free connectivity in a GT car that's equally at home on the turnpike as it is in the twisties.
In the same way that the 612 borrows exterior design cues from the famous 1954 Ferrari 375 MM, the Bose media system employs a retro radio layout using just two knobs and a few buttons — in contrast to many of today's high-tech and overly complex "head units" found in high-end vehicle. But there's nothing old fashioned about this setup.
The knob on the right, for example, incorporates a proximity sensor that detects when a hand comes within four inches of it, anticipating your commands. When listening to AM, FM or XM radio, as your hand approaches the knob the current station information is enlarged and highlighted on the system's vivid 6.5-inch screen, and related tuner options pop up so that you don't have to access a separate menu to view your choices.
In addition, radio station formats are coded with easily discernable icons, such as a cowboy hat for country and a guitar for rock. Likewise, when listening to a disc, the titles of the tracks adjacent to the one that's currently playing appear. The navigation screen is the default view and always displayed, so there's no shuffling through multiple menus to see where you're going.
This straightforward layout makes the Bose media system remarkably easy to use given its comprehensive list of features. You can load just about any type of disc into the in-dash slot, including all forms of CDs and DVDs, and even Sony's ill-fated SACD. With high-rez, multichannel discs such as DVD-Audio and SACD, the system removes the guesswork by automatically selecting the highest resolution and appropriate number of channels so that you don't have to mess around with confusing menus and settings.
It's with these 5.1-channel recordings that the system — which consists of 11 speakers, including a subwoofer in the passenger-side foot well — really sings. But the CD sound was also one of the best I've heard in any vehicle. Plus, a new proprietary radio tuner pulled in weak radio signals from distant Phoenix stations even while driving through the mountains an hour or so outside the city.
Since discs are slowly going the way of eight-tracks, the Bose media system packs plenty of other digital music options. Full iPod integration is included, and Ferrari even provides a posh leather pouch in the glove box to slip the player into, where it docks and charges. This allows full access to the iPod's functions and features on the Bose media system's in-dash display.
Other MP3 players can also be jacked into the system using a USB port hidden behind a small cover at the right corner of the radio, and USB "thumb drives" loaded with tunes can be added. The Bose media system also incorporates a 30-gig hard drive, with half its capacity dedicated to music storage. The hard drive is combined with Bose's UMusic Intelligent Playback System (found on the company's home audio offerings), which analyzes your listening habits and organizes music stored on the hard drive accordingly.
All of this can be controlled by the aforementioned knobs and buttons on the radio, or more safely while on the road with switches on the back on the steering wheel or via voice commands. In fact, the Bose media system has effortless voice-activation for entertainment, navigation and Bluetooth phone functions.
When making hands-free phone calls in the 612, it was possible to speak in a conversational tone and have the system successfully respond — the first time. With certain phones the system also automatically loads the phone book. A Bose representative on hand for our test mentioned that Bluetooth A2DP wireless music streaming would be easy enough to add on future versions of the system.
Speaking of the future, perhaps you won't have to cash in your 401K to get a system like to the one in the 612. While a spokesperson confirmed that the Bose media system isn't officially slated for other vehicle makes and models, as I prodded about the return on investment companies like Bose expect to see on such cutting edge technology — and given the limited number of Ferraris that will be sold — it was easy to deduce that we'll be seeing some of these features, if not the same system, in more affordable vehicles at some point down the road.
Doug Newcomb has been writing about car electronics since 1988, as editor of Car Audio and Electronics, Car Stereo Review, Mobile Entertainment, Road & Track Road Gear and as a freelance writer. He lives in Hood River, Oregon.
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