In-Car Tech

Volvo rolling out its new Android-powered infotainment system to more models

Volvo and Google have partnered on a new infotainment system.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

Volvo's new Android-powered infotainment technology, which was built in partnership with Google, will begin making its way into new Volvo cars and SUVs from 2022.

That date is important. It's the beginning of the company's broader portfolio update, which includes the new Volvo XC90. Volvo says that the tech will eventually make it into the XC60 and S90 as well, signaling the company's commitment to those nameplates.

The Android system has Google apps and services built in. It's designed to give users the same experience that they get from using an Android phone, only hands-free. The Volvo XC40 Recharge was the first Volvo to carry the system. The new C40 Recharge will have it as well.

Volvo's Android infotainment system

Volvo Android infotainment interface

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

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Volvo's Digital Services package includes access to Google apps and services (including Google Maps), the Volvo On Call app, and wireless phone charger. The package also gives users all the data required to run the services. Some of these features vary based on market.

Last year, Volvo announced an expansion of its Volvo On Call app, adding Digital Service Booking and Roadside Assistance to the portfolio. The booking services allows users to schedule service with their dealership via app. The Roadside Assistance allows users to request assistance and then track the service vehicle's progress much like Uber users can track their arriving ride.

The new infotainment system uses Google Assistant to control the car's temperature, set a destination in the navigation system, play music and podcasts, and send messages. Owers can manage their music and media apps by utilizing the Google Play store.

In addition to the new infotainment system, the XC60, S90, and V90 are also equipped with Volvo's lates advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). There are also new exterior paint color and interior upholstery options for the coming model years, including a leather-free option in all 60 series models.

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge
Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA
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Volvo recently announced its intent to become an all-electric vehicle company by 2030. They also have a plan to sell vehicles exclusively online and slim down their product options.

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The CX-50 is surpsingly capable off-road.

Mazda

I have driven all of the Mazda vehicles that have been sold in the US market over the past three decades. On everyday roads and on racetracks. I’ve appreciated their “zoom-zoom”. Good power. Punchy torque just where it was needed. Well-balanced and sporty handling. A bit of growl for the versions that called for it. Plus, tasteful-but-modest styling and more or less elbow room, depending on the model. Mazda’s have been made for sports-car enthusiasts and to ferry families. But, I had never known a Mazda called an “overlander”. Until now.

2023 Mazda CX-50Towing capacity extends to 2,000 pounds.Mazda

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 moves this traction-sophisticated automaker into the lands where the pavement ends and now takes the brand ‘off-track’. Although it’s not a new thing for many of today’s carmakers to add a backcountry model or two to their lineup, it’s new for Mazda. I traveled to Santa Barbara, California to check out this all-new crossover built on Mazda’s seventh-generation small SUV platform that is shared with the smaller CX-30. This 5-passenger utility is longer, lower and wider than the CX-5 that rides on the previous generation’s underpinnings. The CX-50 has been crafted with a roomier second row and more cargo room for the goods and gear that weekend warriors and adventurers want to carry.

The CX-50 comes with a choice of two engines: a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation that gets 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter turbo-charged powerplant with 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque; both shift through a six-speed automatic transmission. The sport ute can tow up to 2,000 lbs. with the naturally aspirated motor and up to 3,500 lbs. with the turbo-charged mill and Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive) that brings a tow mode as well as Normal, Sport and Off-Road. The newest Mazda model has been made for North America only and is built in Alabama. It is the first Mazda vehicle with auto start/stop that can be deactivated.

2023 Mazda CX-50Mazda is a master of upscale interiors. Mazda

The new crossover starts at $26,800 and comes in S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium, and S Premium Plus with the base motor. Turb-charged versions come in Turbo, Turbo Premium, and Turbo Premium Plus that tops out at close to $42,000. A long list of technology and safety features are standard or available. Mazda says that Meridian, a fourth turbo trim will arrive soon with even more off-road cred; it will be set up with 18-inch black wheels AT, hood graphics and other backcountry goodies.

When you look at the CX-50, the first thing you’ll notice is exterior styling that speaks to its adventure-ready mission. Muscular bodywork, such as extra cladding, wide fender flairs and larger, more aggressive tires mean that this crossover has been designed not only to give a nod to the looks of a rugged crossover but to provide enhanced traction and a tad more suspension stretch for motoring over uneven terrain and along bumpy dirt roads. Planted on its haunches with functional air vents, it eschews minivan styling with a low and wide footprint that allows owners to have easy access to high-strength roof rails for loading gear on top; the roof has been made stronger than other Mazda crossovers to accommodate heavier loads, such as a roof-top tent. A panoramic moonroof- a first for Mazda- and attractive antiglare hood graphics and are tasteful additions.

The interior is attractive and roomy, with horizontal lines and “cleanable” surfaces as a nod to outdoor endeavors. Our Turbo Premium Plus model had bright orange reverse stitching that popped the cabin that has been crafted with uplevel trims and materials and brought heads-up display. A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard, while the top models get a 10.25-inch version. A wireless charging pad and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims. Of note, is the rear power and programmable liftgate to the wide and deep rear cargo compartment, with a load floor that flush with the liftgate opening to help slide heavy items in and out of the back. An available line of cargo accessories makes stowage easier.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 is family roadtrip ready.Mazda

How did it handle over the 200-plus miles of our ride and drive? The Turbo Premium Plus CX-50 offers a lot like; many of its driving attributes are consistent with Mazda’s tuning and handling priorities across its product line. Traveling along coastal highways, carving mountainous twisties with tight turns and accelerating on flat and straight well-graded pavement, it has great Mazda manners: i.e., there is enough power and torque in the right bandwidth to move it well; precise steering with a slightly heavily-weighted leather-wrapped steering wheel and well-modulated brakes, especially with towing a 3,500-lb. load. We enjoyed using Sport mode for carving corners, as it brings elongated shifts from the six-speed automatic; a crisp response comes when sport shifting in “manual mode” and provides a quick throttle response.

We tried out the Off-Road mode on a course that included flat and uneven dirt roads, as well as hill climb and descent. Although there is no downhill descent control system, the brakes worked well, along with manual gearing. Of note, Mazda would be wide to add downhill descent engineering for steeper and slicker terrain. We were able to test the difference between Normal and Off-Road over a special section of the course with sandy corners and a winding track at a speed of 30 mph showing the improved traction in the Off-Road programming and the aid of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control that brings a bit of magic to transfer torque to the wheels where it is needed to keep the intended track-think of it like an enhanced traction control program that helps with steering and yaw control.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 comes with off-road driving modes. Mazda

Other aids for off-road and backcountry travel are: the i-Activ All-Wheel Drive system that is standard equipment on all CX-50s, with a 50/50ish power transfer front to back; 8.6 inches of ground clearance; an 18-degree approach angle and a 24-degree departure angle; and an optional 360-degree camera system.

*EPA reports: base motor fuel economy 24 city/30 highway mpg, while the turbo option gets 23/29 mpg and can run on regular or premium fuel.

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Lincoln updated the flagship Navigator SUV for 2022.

Lincoln

Evie was smitten at first glance. If my ‘mini-me’ granddaughter who loves cars could have whistled through her teeth, I’m sure she would have. Eve Marion Judge, aka “Evie” was 7 when she first saw a Lincoln Navigator. It was clear that the exterior bling caught her ‘crow eyes’. The large and luscious grille. The bejeweled trim elements. The bulbous tires beset with wheels that twinkled. Paint that sparkled and invited a palm swipe. Evie was already a discriminating auto enthusiast who was in the habit of seeing a new car parked in my driveway each week. It wasn’t simply about things that glitter—for her, the rubber would meet the road when she climbed aboard her car seat and took stock of the second-seat passenger roominess and amenities. A monitor to access technology? Check! Window and illumination controls within easy reach-check. Her own climate and audio controls-double check!! And, now, the cherry on top: “how many of my friends can ride in here?”, she asked. “Seven riders total,” I said. “Fine, will you buy this for me when I get my driver’s license?! Now, this is my favorite car ever!

That was last year. I took Evie to the Chicago Auto Show recently. Now 8, she was already aware from some television commercials that the 2022 Lincoln Navigator had some upgrades and made a beeline to the updated Navigator on the show floor. She visited repeatedly during our time at the CAS and sampled the second-row massaging seats and learned how to use audio commands to obtain directions and other useful information. She was thrilled at the 10-inch rear screen that features live streaming provided by Fire TV. Her love interest held steady!

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe three-row Navigator shares quite a bit with the Ford Expedition underneath.Lincoln

I had the opportunity to drive the updated version of Lincoln’s crown jewel on a ride and drive program in Arizona recently and to speak with Lincoln engineers and designers. I was enamored with this full-sized luxury yacht that won the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury’s top award as the Car of the Year in 2018 and I share many of the same passion points as Evie. But, I too was looking forward to sampling what is new. Let’s take a closer look at the 2022 Navigator, plus a couple of new concepts that Lincoln has developed to stand apart in the ever-growing premium segment where the Navigator competes. Although Lincoln considers the Cadillac Escalade its only true rival, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, Range Rover, BMW X7, and a couple of Mercedes vehicles sit in this class.

We started the day at the first Lincoln Boutique in the country, Sanderson Lincoln in Scottsdale. This new concept will give customers a unique experience by visiting an upscale, quiet space to have a latte and light snack as well as learn more about this luxury automaker that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, plus have a new kind of dealership experience. The luxury automaker is also developing its new Lincoln Loyalty and Access Rewards programs that let buyers and lessees earn points redeemable for service, maintenance and purchases and also participate in “world class experiences”, such as the new pilot for a new Mobile Vehicle Spa Service!

While the 2022 Lincoln Navigator shares its mechanicals with the Ford Expedition, its sheet metal is unique from the front door forward and the flagship sport ute boasts a sumptuous cabin that is beset with exclusive, high-end materials and a lengthy list of standard comfort, convenience and technology features. New styling updates bring a refashioned grille and new exterior lighting elements. Interior enhancements include a new infotainment display with updated Sync 4 software, and two new Black Label design themes: Central Park sports a tasteful and clever laser-etched map of the park's pathways on the IP while Invitation adds an open-pore Kai wood trim with an overlayed geometric motif as well as black leather upholstery with brandy-colored stitching.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorLincoln fitted a new infotainment system for 2022. Lincoln

Also new is Active Glide, a hands-free, semi-autonomous driving mode, along with other updates that include improved massaging seats and an option for second-row massaging seats; new interior chimes and alerts recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; a larger 13.2-inch display; and an adaptive suspension that is programmed to react to a forward-facing camera to read bumps in the road and prepare the suspension to minimize impact and improve ride comfort.

The Navigator comes in a standard wheelbase or a “L” long wheel-based version and has seating for up to 7 or 8. It’s available with 2WD (rear-drive) or 4WD (AWD) and can tow up to 8,700 lbs. Trims include Navigator, Reserve, and Black Label. Pricing starts at $76,710 and tops out above $105,000.

I sampled different trims on a drive of close to 200 miles, with stretches of city traffic and twisting two-lanes that ascended to Payson, situated at an altitude above 5,000 ft. Slipping inside posh cockpits, my drive partner and I found supple leather, high-end wood trims, knurled metal knobs, 30-way power-adjustable front seats that make the Navigator easy to tailor for drivers and passengers of varying sizes. As a short-statured tester, I particularly appreciated the power-retracting running boards, adjustable pedals, and power-adjustable steering wheel and loved the heated/ventilated seats. I also liked the ease of access to the third-row seat and the overall comfort, roominess of the cabin, and the good stowage, with the third-row seat folded.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe Navigator offers great space across all three rows of seating.Lincoln

The Navigator is powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and has quick acceleration with 440 hp and 510 ft.-lbs. of torque. The 10-speed tranny works seamlessly on up and down-shifting duties and aids in the fuel economy of this nearly 6.000-lb. SUV. Despite its heft weight and wheelbase, it drives more lightly on its feet than I imagined and has well-weighted steering and good brakes. We tried out the hands-free driving and found it reliable on the bustling freeways in the Phoenix environs.

The Navigator is set up to be a mobile technology hub with a standard 13.2-inch touchscreen, standard Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with standard over-the-air software updates. There are USB ports in every row and it is a rolling 5G Wi-Fi hotspot. Standard is a 14-speaker Revel stereo system, with an optional 28-speaker Revel Ultima 3D system that also comes standard on uplevel trims and with the Luxury Package.

Standard safety features with Lincoln’s Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist technologies bring blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection among other features. Of note are adaptive projector headlights and active park assist 2.0.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorActive Glide, a new semi-autonomous driving assistant, is available for 2022. Lincoln

**EPA fuel economy ratings: rear-wheel-drive 17 city/ 23 mpg highway/ 19 combined; 4WD 16 city/22 highway/18 combined.

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