No matter how new your car might appear on the outside, the technology inside is constantly racing towards obsolescence.
Sadly we live in a world where perfectly good devices become useless– not because they don’t work– but because their media, protocol, firmware or format is no longer in vogue. Examples might be the DVD player that won’t play Blue Ray discs; or my phone doesn’t work on 5G; I can’t get ink cartridges for my printer, etc. Your car is the latest addition to this growing obsolescence list. Why are you selling it? A common question, in days gone by the answers often had something to do with reliability or engines or tires or gas mileage. Today a common answer might involve your user interface. It doesn’t have Bluetooth. I can’t mirror my phone. The map is outdated. We rely on smartphones for so much now, it’s difficult to own a car that doesn’t interact with our Android or iPhone. You need to upgrade your car.
The newest addition to our garage is an Audi A7 Sportback. It’s a low-mileage example that was sold and serviced by our local dealer since new. While it’s super clean and drives like new, it’s still a six year old car. Nowhere is this more apparent than the dashboard display interface, or “Infotainment System.” That’s the cringe-worthy term that refers to the array of electronics, screens, pads and buttons we use to interact with our cars, and allows our cars to interact with our smartphones. Audi calls their particular system of infotaining the Multimedia Interface (or MMI).
So, back to the A7.
It has a perfectly adequate 8″ screen that rises up out of the dash like something from Star Trek. Turning off the car sends it silently gliding back into it’s receptacle. It’s only visible when you’re using it, there’s even a button to retract the screen entirely while driving, in case you want to go full Luddite. Indeed, it is from a time when designers believed a tablet glued to the front of the dashboard looked like… well, a tablet glued to the front of the dashboard. Seems quaint now when compared to current vehicles with what seems like a TV mounted on the center console. This cute display isn’t even a touchscreen, and the most advanced content it can muster is the factory-installed navigation.
There are ways to upgrade infotainment systems so a car interacts with a connected smartphone and can provide Google Maps or streaming music, etc. Usually these involve a piece of hardware— some as simple as a box that splices into the factory wiring, others a full-on touchscreen that essentially replaces the original screen with an Android tablet. But sometimes there is a non-hardware fix that can add connectivity, a downloadable update for the system’s software (or firmware as it’s called).
Volkswagen and Audi vehicles often have an interface that allows updates to be transferred to the vehicle through a USB or SD card (I think later models can also use the data connection if available). If your MMI is a compatible version this update can add some really beneficial features! Specifically, it adds a new menu item for smartphone interaction. Now to be clear- this is for wired connectivity. This does not add wireless Carplay or wireless Android Auto to the system. That still requires a hardware solution as mentioned earlier (or buy a 2019 or newer Audi).
Here’s a video that explains what I was able to do, and the new features it added, which makes it possible for our A7 to display Android Auto or Apple Carplay on the factory display screen.