What is infotainment?

Infotainment explained: sat-nav, hands-free phone and radio in one

BuyaCar team
Jul 29, 2020

Infotainment is a word thrown around a lot whenever someone is talking about a new car. But what does it actually mean? Well, the word itself is a mash up of the words 'information' and 'entertainment' and is essentially used to describe any form of user-interface software present inside a car.

This could be the car's radio, a sat-nav or any other device used to display useful information about your car such as fuel economy. The most common format for infotainment software these days is a touchscreen, but there are other examples, which make use of touchpads or fancy scroll wheels or even voice control.

Quite why it's referred to as 'infotainment' is a bit of a mystery, as there's nothing overly entertaining about what it offers, so here at BuyaCar we tend to refer to any onboard software as a media system or media display. But, for the sake of this article, we'll continue to refer to it as good-old infotainment. Read on for more info...tainment.

Common features of infotainment systems

Some manufacturers like Mini and Ford offer systems that will read out text messages that you receive or even Facebook updates. You've got the option of replying or liking the updates by dictation, using voice control

Some infotainment systems recognise phone-pairing services such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which replicate your phone's display on the dashboard, so you can operate your phone easily. It also means you can use apps such as Spotify and Waze when driving.

Infotainment screens

Screen sizes and resolution differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, but naturally, the more you spend, the bigger, better and brighter a system you will generally get.

Moving away from the entertainment side, the amount of information a car will tell you these days is incredible. As mentioned above you can see and alter certain performance characteristics of a vehicle. Such as how firm the suspension is, allowing you to have soft comfy settings for cruising down a motorway, yet firmer, sporty suspension for when you decide to have a little fun on a twisty road.

Likewise, there are settings for how a carโ€™s engine will perform. Meaning you can select a lower power mode when you are driving at slow speeds, for example in town. When the going gets fast, you can then move up to a more potent mode.

Depending on the system, you will also be able to see data such as your fuel economy, how far you can drive until your fuel tank or battery is empty, whether your tyres need more air and the number of miles until your next service.

Controlling infotainment screens

Navigating through all the features listed above is no easy feat. Car makers have come up with many different ways to make it easy for motorists to use, one of the best systems is BMWโ€™s iDrive (as shown below) being one of the best on offer. It uses a rotating knob to help move through the system.

Other systems, use trackpads, gesture control, buttons and in Lexusโ€™ case, a mouse-like design.

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