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FCA's New Uconnect 5 System Is a Whole Lot Faster Than the Last One

Now with higher resolution and Alexa

Vehicles are evolving into glorified phone docking stations and infotainment delivery devices, forcing automakers to continuously invest in human-machine interface (HMI) systems like FCA's Uconnect. To do this, FCA has recently hired gamers and HMI specialists from Carnegie Melon University. This year the fruits of their labors will be rolling out in the fifth-generation Uconnect, which will be available in two versions, the fancier of which (Uconnect 5 Plus) is said to work five times faster than its predecessor, enabling unprecedented levels of connectivity and personalization. Here are some highlights of the new system:

Hellcat Power (in silicon)

Uconnect 5 Plus, produced by the Harman division of Samsung, runs on an Android automotive operating system with a new 50,000 MIPS (millions of instructions per second) chip. It now features 6 gigabytes of RAM (random-access memory) and 64 gigabytes of flash memory. All this high-power silicon reportedly reduces touchscreen response time to 0.05 second and keeps everything happening at the speed of impatient customer expectation. The more basic Uconnect 5, produced by Mitsubishi Electric, features a 20K MIPS, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of flash memory.

OTA Upgradable

Over-the-air updates are no longer just a Tesla thing. Both Uconnect 5 systems' operating system firmware can now be upgraded remotely, as can the Plus version's TomTom-based navigation map database. And speaking of navigation, it now includes TomTom's traffic, EV & connected services and can provide "last-mile" instructions from the vehicle's parking location to the destination.

2 Devices, No Waiting

Uconnect allows two devices to be connected—wired or wireless—via Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto. Both can contribute to the infotainment stream and make hands-free telephone calls, and their home screens can be summoned by pressing the CarPlay or Android Auto icon along the bottom of the screen.

Ultra-HD

Uconnect 5 Plus can power up to four display screens, generating up to 15 million pixels—that's three times the resolution that was possible with Uconnect 4. So fonts now display with higher resolution and are easier to read. Expect to see some camera upgrades rolling out to support this newfound resolution. Basic Uconnect is good for 2 million pixels.

Sirius XM 360L

Introduced in the 2019 Ram 1500, Uconnect 5 Plus extends the Sirius XM 360L service by providing 200 channels of listening, the ability to pause and restart programming and hand off to other devices, personalized stations powered by Pandora, recommendations based on your listening preferences, and on-demand access to myriad recorded shows, interviews, and events. To enhance the audio experience, this up-level system also includes Harman's latest active noise cancellation software.

Designed to Match

The design team collaborated with the interior and color and material folks to ensure the new technology's overall look and color scheme fits not only the three available screen styles—portrait, square, and landscape—but also the brand image and interior design aesthetic of each brand and model the system will be used in, from Ram to Maserati.

Tablet-like Control

Information is displayed in "cards" that can be square or rectangular and arranged on the screen as desired, by dragging them, and screens can be selected by swiping. The driver's- and passenger-side climate-control temperature settings remain in the upper corners of the screen, and just touching either of them wakes the HVAC control screen with seat heating/cooling, steering wheel heating, etc. Apps are organized by type, but users can star favorites and display all favorites on a page. And five different driver profiles can be arranged and saved (along with a Valet profile).

Alexa Onboard

Amazonians can wake their e-wench by touching the voice button on the steering wheel and making most of the same requests. (Without touching a button, "Hey Chrysler" will wake the system to input HVAC requests, nav destinations, etc.) Voice commands are typically powered by the cloud when the 4G modem has a signal, but when out of range, an onboard Nuance voice analyzer does its best to keep things working. Anyone in the car can ask Alexa to play music, podcasts, or audiobooks; add items to their to-do list; check news, weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information; and access the thousands of Alexa skills. Uconnect 5 is forward-compatible to work with 5G modems when 5G service becomes ubiquitous.

Subscription Required

When Uconnect rolls out later in 2020, it will come with a 12-month connectivity subscription that must be maintained thereafter in order to enjoy all of the features. The standard 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity subscription is for three months and supports up to eight connected devices.