2014 Impala to get customizable MyLink system; Spark, Sonic add Siri
Chevy's next-generation infotainment system mimics Cadillac Cue. Plus, Apple’s 'virtual assistant' can be added for free.
We’ve said that more touch-based car infotainment systems like MyFord Touch and Cadillac Cue are on the way. Here’s proof: The 2014 Chevrolet Impala, which will go on sale next spring, will include the next generation of Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system.
After getting a hands-on demo of the system at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show (see the video below), we came away with the impression that it looks and feels very much like Cue.
The big difference is that MyLink combines an 8-inch, semi-configurable touch-screen that’s similar to Cue's but with real knobs and buttons below it, instead of touch-capacitive switches.
As with Cue, the screen lifts away to reveal a large storage compartment for a portable device and a USB port. But it rises, as in the Cadillac CTS, whereas Cue's screen hinges at the top. MyLink allows the driver to move icons around on various “pages,” as on a smartphone or tablet, while smaller, frequently used favorite icons can be added to a “tray” at the top of the screen. The new MyLink system also allows storing up to 60 favorites, and not just AM/FM/XM radio stations, but also contacts, destinations, music and other media.
MyLink also borrows Cue's “natural language” voice recognition, which allows the driver to give conversational commands to make a call, enter a navigation destination, access media and control other functions, without having to remember specific phrases. Many features of MyLink can also be accessed via steering-wheel controls.
The big difference from Cue is its graphical customization. Impala owners can change the look of the 8-inch touch-screen, as well as a small screen in the instrument cluster, with one of four different themes: Contemporary, Edge, Velocity and Main Street. “This allows the system to be customized for different users," Nina Mital, MyLink program manager, told MSN Autos. “A younger driver may want the Edge theme, while a more performance-oriented driver may like the Velocity theme."
The MyLink system with the 8-inch screen will be available on the top and middle trim lines, while the entry-level Impala will feature a 4.2-inch screen. The next-generation MyLink system also will appear in other 2014 Chevrolets, including upcoming full-size trucks, SUVs and the 2014 Corvette.
Chevy’s other big tech reveal at the 2012 LA Auto Show was the first integration of Apple’s Siri Eyes Free feature in a 2013 Spark. In June, Apple said it was working with nine car companies to integrate the Siri “virtual assistant” voice-activation feature into vehicles. Chevrolet will be the first to market this feature in both Spark and Sonic models equipped with MyLink.
MyLink is an ideal platform for Siri, because the system -- save for an embedded AM/FM tuner -- is basically a pass-through that gets all of its content from a connected smartphone. (However, Chevy isn't the first manufacturer to use Siri. In February, Mercedes developed a Siri-enabled in-car application for its subcompact A-Class, which isn't sold in the U.S.)
A driver can use Siri Eyes Free to have text messages read aloud as well as reply, check weather conditions or get other information, all without taking his hands off the wheel or eyes off the road. Siri won’t give a reply, however; that requires it to display a Web page, as with many queries.
“We’re limiting that because driver distraction was our No. 1 concern,” said Sarah LeBlanc, a GM engineer.
LeBlanc added that Siri Eyes Free will be available in the first quarter of 2013. Customers who have already purchased a Chevy Spark or Sonic with MyLink can return it the dealer to get Siri capability added for free.
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