2013 Lexus ES 350
2013 Lexus ES 350Enlarge Photo
We're conflicted about this one, honestly. Perhaps in a nod to the older crowd that tends to consider the brand, Lexus has set up its Remote Touch system to be about as close to a simplified desktop computer as you'll find in a car. The screen uses a simple, understandable menu system, nice large fonts and boxes, and takes advantage of color. And several of our editorial team do appreciate how the system has haptic feedback, allowing you to feel a little pull (or click) as you go from one screen option or area to another. Yet several of us see this system as one of the most frustrating of all, because even after you 'learn' the system you still need to keep an eye on the screen—and off the road—whenever making a selection.
2012 Audi A8 L 4-door Sedan Audio SystemEnlarge Photo
An editor called the latest iteration of Audi's Multi-Media Controller (MMI), now used throughout much of the lineup, “half-brilliant, half-assed,” and much of our staff agrees. While we love the beautiful, very functional Google Earth maps and wide-screen displays, and the very cool scratch pad that lets you trace out letters for destination input, we find the structure of its menus—and how there aren't just easy, ever-present shortcuts, presets, or bookmarks for frequent tasks—frustrating once you get to use the system more.
“The Germans, as a group, have decided we're too dumb for touchscreens,” commented another editor. “There's physically no way to shortcut the knob interface and hard keys.”
2014 Mazda Mazda6Enlarge Photo
In an affordable car, the new Mazda system was the most frustrating system of any we've recently encountered. The top-level infotainment system in the new 2014 Mazda6 and CX-5 pairs TomTom navigation with integration for hands-free calling, media and satellite radio, and even Pandora music integration, provided you've installed the app on an iPhone or other approved handset. But maps and menus are laggy, voice controls are extremely limited, and the central-console controller, while it looks great, ends up feeling like an underdelivering iDrive knockoff.