Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Uconnect 5 is the latest update to one of the few native infotainment systems that is preferable to smartphone connections. Improvements to the system include five times faster processing power, larger touchscreens with three times better resolution, over-the-air updates for seamless patches to the system, and an interface that is familiar to Uconnect 4, FCA spokespeople said in a virtual demonstration of the system.
“We didn’t want to undo what we had, we wanted to take it to the next level,” Vince Galante, chief designer-user experience, said in the call. To do so, FCA tripled the size of the design team by adding people from myriad backgrounds, including video game design.
“It takes a new skill set into thinking and designing vehicles,” Galante explained.
Here are five key facts about Uconnect 5.
It arrives on the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica
Uconnect 5 will be rolled out in the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica this fall. The redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV and Ram 1500 pickup truck will be the next vehicles to get it, said Nick Cappa, communications manager for FCA. That represents the automotive group’s three key brands; the Fiat 500 EV will actually be the first to get the system, but that’s only in Europe.
It’s a flexible Android-based system
Uconnect 5 uses an Android operating system that enables flexibility and adaptability for the platform now and in the future. “Android as a system is the most widely developed worldwide, so we can integrate updates easier to the customer...and customize each brand,” Galante said.
Users will be able to update the software like a smartphone through seamless over-the-air updates for the latest map and system info. Along with upgraded hardware, the system is more responsive when users press a button.
Up to six user profiles
Multiple occupants can take advantage of distinct user profiles to set and store every preference, from seating and side mirror position to radio presets. Those radio presets can also mix AM, FM, and satellite radio stations. The customization continues with four different page layouts for the center touchscreen and a host of widgets to put your favorite or most-used apps front and center without having to scroll through other pages. The top menu bar can also be customized, so if you use the heated seat button a lot, you can drag the icon from the list of apps up into the top menu for one-touch access. The customized menu on top as well as the main menu on the bottom are both narrow so they may be hard to hit with a finger while driving. However, the system can be configured from an 8.4-inch touchscreen all the way up to FCA’s largest 12.3-inch touchscreen, so the narrow feel might be a matter of screen size.
It has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus Alexa on demand
Leave your key alongside your phone in your pocket. No need to tether your smartphone with a USB cord. Up to two devices can be connected simultaneously via Bluetooth. If your home runs on Alexa, you can condition your home or vehicle remotely, such as turning on the house lights before pulling into the driveway, or heating up the car before you leave. And if speaking to Siri feels like an act of infidelity, Uconnect 5’s natural voice capability lets you change the vehicle temperature without using your hands. Awake-up phrase unique to the brand—”Hey, Chrysler, find some donuts”—means you don’t even have to press the voice button anymore.
FCA's Uconnect 5
You’ll have to pay for some functionality
Uconnect 5 includes a three-month 4G wi-fi hotspot subscription, and users can connect up to eight devices. Sirius XM radio will likely follow with a free trial period followed by a subscription model. While the system is not yet compatible with nascent 5G cellular networks, Cappa said FCA is developing Uconnect 5 to work with 5G as the network becomes more prevalent.