What is it?
Honda’s infotainment software controls features like navigation, audio, phone, and vehicle settings. It is available in a variety of the company’s vehicles and runs on various screen sizes. The system’s core functions change slightly depending on the vehicle’s features, so those equipped with navigation and other functions may look different than those without.
How Does It Work?
Honda’s infotainment systems have evolved in the last few years to offer a much more smartphone-like experience than before. There’s a home screen with app tiles to launch or control various functions in the infotainment system, and each one is conveniently color-coded to denote its purpose. System and settings apps are yellow, audio and input apps are blue, and more.
To make navigating the system faster, Honda added shortcut buttons to the top of the screen that appear no matter what you’re doing. While listening to the radio, you can quickly tap the navigation button (if available) or switch between XM and FM bands without having to search through a menu or app launcher.
The screens in most vehicles have taken over much of the space that once included physical buttons. There’s a volume/power knob and capacitive (touch sensitive) buttons for “home” and “back” functions, but no tuner knob or dedicated buttons for other functions like phone or maps. The result is that the screen looks cleaner in the vehicle’s cabin, but the downside is that it takes considerably more effort to change radio stations and other settings.
Digital Gauge Cluster
In some Honda models like the Passport, an available digital display inside the gauge cluster mirrors the larger infotainment display for certain functions. The smaller screen can display navigation directions, music and media information, and phone functions like recent calls and favorite contacts.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Most Honda infotainment units now come with the ability to connect a smartphone to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. This brings many popular apps like Waze and Spotify, and adds maps or navigation to vehicles that wouldn’t otherwise have it.
Select Honda vehicles come with the ability to install apps, both on a connected smartphone and in the infotainment unit itself. The smartphone app from Honda can display vehicle information like oil change intervals and fuel economy, notify the owner of service issues, and send navigation directions from the phone to the vehicle. The smartphone app also allows the owner to remotely wipe vehicle data like stored navigation routes and phone numbers.
HondaLink also has the ability to remotely start the vehicle and set climate controls, track the vehicle’s location and speed, and can notify the owner if the vehicle leaves a specified area. Amazon Prime members can have packages delivered to their vehicles using Key by Amazon. It’s worth noting that these features aren’t free. New Hondas come with a trial period, and once that has expired there is an annual subscription charge. This cost is separate from any Wi-Fi hotspot data plans.
What’s It Like to Use?
Newer versions of Honda’s infotainment system are simple and straightforward in everyday use, and its responsive interface looks and feels almost like a dash-mounted tablet or smartphone. Having a home screen with an app launcher is key here, because it makes navigating the system much less distracting when the vehicle is on the move. The icons are large and have symbols that accompany each app to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. This also means that Honda can pack their infotainment system with features and not overwhelm with menus, lists, and buttons.
Speaking of buttons, we now have a knob for volume but not one for tuning radio stations. This is a change for vehicles like the Pilot that had no physical buttons for a few years. It’s true that the number of people listening to the actual radio or satellite radio isn’t what it once was, but on the occasions that the radio is in use the lack of a tuner knob is a real hassle. Honda at least does an incredible job at making their steering wheel buttons intuitive and easy to use. After a couple of days in a new Honda vehicle, the steering wheel-mounted controls become second nature and can be operated without much thought at all.
The screens themselves are bright, colorful, and offer clear views from most angles. Beyond seeing navigation directions or picking the right song, the screens’ visibility makes maneuvering the vehicle much easier, especially in larger vehicles like the Passport, Pilot, and Odyssey, where having a clear view of the backup or surround-view camera is key. Touch inputs are quick and the screen’s movements are fluid, making the whole thing feel like you’re using an iPad or iPhone. Swiping between menus and zooming in and out on maps is intuitive, as most of us have become accustomed to using the same motions on our mobile devices.
Like most things that Honda makes, the infotainment systems that live in their vehicles just works. The company has shown themselves to be responsive to feedback, fixing issues with future product releases (cough, cough, volume knob). Their no-nonsense approach to infotainment is refreshing at a time when many other manufacturers try to jam as many features and settings into their systems as possible.