2018 Jeep Compass 8.4-inch Uconnect Infotainment Review
Infotainment is growing in importance and complexity, this week, we review the Jeep Compass 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system.
IT WAS WHILE sifting through my BookFace feed that I stumbled across an auto site which, in the whole, offered good content, and I applaud people taking the leap to launch something with their hard-earned and watch it grow organically.
As good as the site was though, there was a thread running through the vehicle reviews every time infotainment was mentioned…and that was that the authors didn’t care about infotainment units in cars and wouldn’t report on it. This is dumb.
See, whether you like infotainment systems or not, whether you make full use of them, or not, cars are fast becoming expensive gadgets, some with tablet-sized infotainment screens with on-board systems that control everything from damper firmness to adjusting the temperature of the climate control, to the ability to find a parking space in the street you’re driving along.
Some in-car infotainment systems are incredibly basic and don’t warrant much of a poke or a prod, but as the systems are designed more and more to sync in with your life (although many of these systems can’t be called intuitive), via your smartphone (often with phone mirroring via Apple or Android systems) and the car company’s native app that you need to install, we figured it was worth taking a closer look at infotainment systems in cars. So, here we are.
Jeep Compass 8.4-inch Uconnect Infotainment
The Jeep Compass Limited and Trailhawk variants run Jeep’s latest-generation Uconnect infotainment system which is housed on a tablet-sized 8.4-inch screen that dominates the dashboard (the Sport and Longitude offer a 5.0-inch system which I haven’t tested). In generations gone by, Uconnect was a byword for ‘impossible to connect’. The system was clumsy and annoying.
Fast forward to now, and the system is one of the simpler and more intuitive infotainment systems on the market. Some might call it too simple, but I think that’s wrong. See, when you’re driving along and it’s easier to adjust the temperature of the climate control via the touch screen than use the hard controls beneath it, you want the interface to be simple and easy. And, so it is with Uconnect.
The display offers 1024×768 pixels which doesn’t mean much to me, other than to say the display is crisp and clear, and not all infotainment screens offer this – my rubbish photos don’t do it justice. You can change the colour of the display from either red to yellow lettering on a simple black background.
While Jeep doesn’t like to say what companies provides the back-end of its infotainment unit(s) a tear down by IHS revealed it’s a mixture of Panasonic, Toshiba and Texas Instruments, and others besides. It seems to be a grunty system and in my time with the vehicle I didn’t experience any lags or failure to connect, the screen responds well to fingertip touches even when rocking around on a dirt track.
The Uconnect controls are straightforward with a row, at the bottom of the screen, of virtual buttons offering Media, Climate, u apps, Settings, Phone, and Navigation (which is offered in 2D, 3D and full screen with pinch to zoom). You can also use the steering wheel mounted controls.
I connected my phone (iPhone 8) and had no problem via Bluetooth or USB. Music streamed easily and calls (so I’m told by the person at the other end) were clear, as they were at my end too.
The navigation works well and while the voice control isn’t quite as natural to use as your smartphone’s digital assistant, it still works well. You need to announce the command you want, like ‘play a song’ or ‘find address’ and then say either the song or address you want.
There’s a lot of stuff available to use via Uconnect but it’s all stuff you’re likely to use, rather than a raft of features you’ll never ever plumb the depths of, or need to load an app to access. It’s a very simple system to use that for most things only required two taps; one to access the feature you wanted and then one to adjust whatever it was that you wanted to adjust.
Uconnect offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which if you don’t know what that is…two of my soccer teammates had no idea what either one of those things was and one’s in his late 20s and the other in his early 30s. That was refreshing. I think. Basically, this phone mirroring shows a slimmed down version of your phone screen with only basic functions available.
For me, it’s frustrating that you can’t use Google Maps via Apple CarPlay because I think it’s superior to Apple Maps, and you can access Google Play via CarPlay, so…thankfully, you need to respond to texts via voice. I don’t have an Android phone but I understand it reveals a lot more practical information than connecting your iPhone which really offers very little in the way of anything other than accessing Apple Maps, texts and calls, and music, and podcasts, but not much else. In my time with the Compass, I didn’t have any issues with the USB connection, and found my phone charged every time it was connected and synced quickly to the car when it was fired up, taking me straight to the last track or point in the podcast I was at.
In the end, I found the Uconnect system one of the more feature-rich and usable of the infotainment systems. All the features were ones you would use, if not daily, then at least once a week. Indeed, it’s hard for me to say, but the hard controls for the climate system were a total waste of space. As I noted in my review of the Compass Trailhawk, the climate controls are way down at the bottom of the centre stack and push in towards the firewall meaning, to use them you’ve got to look away from the road and reach down to use them, and then look back up to the screen and see what’s going on. Hopeless. The touch screen controls are much better.
That Uconnect offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is good and more car makers, no matter how much better they think their infotainment system is, should bite the bullet and offer these phone mirroring apps. Uconnect is an infotainment and functionality system that anyone will be able to master in an afternoon with the car thanks to an intuitive yet feature-rich layout, and there aren’t many infotainment systems you can say that about.