New In-Car Tech

Next-gen Volkswagen Car-Net gets new app integration, no-charge services

The Volkswagen Car-Net system is getting significant upgrades for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Easy-to-use infotainment operating systems with mobile capability are becoming standard for automakers in North America. Now, with the debut of their next-generation Car-Net system, Volkswagen, the world's second-largest automaker, is making the leap to the modern digital age.

New Mobile App

Car-Net Remote Access will give owners the ability to control some functionality of their vehicle via a mobile app. The app can control a vehicle's remote start and stop ability (where properly equipped), remotely lock and unlock doors, honk and flash the lights of the vehicle, show the last parked location, and give the owner a view of their fuel level, mileage, and door and window status. It is free to use for five years from the date of vehicle purchase.

Volkswagen Car-Net Remote Access The new Car-Net app allows owners to remotely access their vehicle.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The app's parking information feature is powered by Parkopedia, which helps users locate off-street parking information. Users can press the "P" icon on their screen and the app will show them available parking locations near their chosen point of interest. That information can then be pushed to the car's navigation system, located in the head unit.

Vehicle Health Reports are automatically generated monthly and are sent to a driver's email address. When service is required, Car-Net can notify the customer and allows them to schedule a dealer visit.

Volkswagen's Family Guardian software sends an alert the vehicle owner when the vehicle travels over a pre-determined maximum speed limit and outside of a designated boundary zone. It also alerts when the vehicle is driven outside of a curfew timeframe and when it travels more than two-tenths of a mile outside a valet drop-off location.

Volkswagen Car-Net Remote Access The new Car-Net app can help drivers find their car if they've misplaced it in a parking lot.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Roadside Call Assist can be activated by touching the wrench icon in the app.

New for 2020, the DriveView program allows enrollees to become eligible for a discount from their insurance company, should the company support the driver monitoring program. Based on typical drive behaviors, the app gives the driver a score, which can then be passed on to their insurance company.

Car-Net Remote is offered on most 2020 model year vehicles.

Car-Net Safe & Secure

Volkswagen's Car-Net Safe & Secure is a paid subscription service that features information and emergency assistance, crash notification, anti-theft alert, and stolen vehicle location assistance in the same manner that OnStar does. The service costs $99 annually and renews automatically at the end of each year's subscription term unless cancelled.

Volkswagen Car-Net Hotspot A Wi-Fi hot spot is available in most model year 2020 vehicles.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Car-Net Hotspot

The branded Car-Net Hotspot service is a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot that allows users to connect up to four devices simultaneously. It runs on the Verizon Wireless network and customers who use Verizon as their wireless provider can add their mobile data plan to their existing plan as another line. Non-Verizon customers can opt for a pre-paid plan that costs just $20 per month plus associated taxes and fees, however the rate may not be available in all states.

Car-Net Guide & Inform

Volkswagen's navigation system, which provides enhanced infotainment functionality, is called Car-Net Guide & Inform. Using the factory-installed system, owners can access traffic reports, fuel prices, sports scores, movie times, and weather data as part of the three-month SiriusXM Travel Link trial. Car-Net enrollment and subscription is not required.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is here.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

After years of development, test mules, and spy shots, Ford has finally pulled the wraps off its long-awaited Mach E all-electric crossover. Set to go on sale in late 2020 and early 2021, the Mach-E made its debut in Los Angeles just days before the 2019 L.A. Auto Show. Here's a quick look at everything you need to know.

There will be five variants (and lots of numbers).

Select: Available in early 2021, this base model will start at $43,895 (all prices exclude $1,100 destination and any state or federal tax incentives). The Select will come with rear-wheel-drive and 230 miles of range, while the AWD will have 210 miles of range. Both versions will have 255 horsepower; RWD will have 306 pound-feet of torque and AWD will have 417 pound-feet of torque. It's worth noting that this is the only Mach E variant that will not allow for 150kW DC fast-charging so beware if fast-charging is your jam.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E The rear of the Mustang Mach-E has some of the design hallmarks of the Mustang coupe.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Premium: This second-tier version will be available in late 2020 and will start at $50,600. It will come in standard range or extended range as well as RWD or AWD. Standard range will have 230 miles of range in RWD guise; 210 miles in AWD. Extended range will have 300 miles of range in RWD, 270 miles in AWD. Standard-range models will have 255 horsepower, extended-range RWD will have 282 horsepower and extended-range AWD will have 332 horsepower.

California Route 1: This trim level is essentially the Premium Extended Range RWD plus some added options, so its number line up: 300 miles of range and 282 pound-feet of torque. It will start at $52,400 when it goes on sale in early 2021.

First Edition: This limited-edition model starts at $59,900 and will be available in late 2020 (order soon). It features similar specs as the Premium Extended Range AWD: 270 miles of range and 332 horsepower. It also adds a variety of interior and exterior trim upgrades and limited availability to the mix.

GT: It's the big daddy of the Mustang coupe lineup (excluding Shelby versions) so it's the big daddy here. For $60,500 buyers get AWD, 235 miles of range and a healthy 459 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque, good for 0-60 runs in the mid-three-second range. This version adds the requisite 20-inch forged wheels, Brembo brakes, an adaptive Magnaride suspension, and exterior trim upgrades.

Gobs of tech will be standard.

This includes a 15.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system (ala Tesla) that will run Ford's Next-Generation Sync operating system and will feature over-the-air updates (also ala Tesla). Drivers will have the option of using their smartphone as a key; the Mach E will detect phones paired via its bluetooth system and unlock and adjust settings to that driver's preference.

The Mach E Premium and GT models also come pre-hardwired with a driver-monitoring system, which Ford will activate at a later date to provide a hands-free driving system. The system uses an infrared camera mounted on top of the steering column to watch the driver's attentiveness.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E The interior is sparse in design but full of high-tech features.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Three drive modes are included.

Here's another Tesla-inspired feature: three drive modes that alter the nature of the Mach E's performance. 'Whisper,' 'Engage' and 'Unbridled' will each allow increasingly aggressive performance and handling features. Not unlike Tesla's well-documented Ludicrous mode. Fun fact: the 'Unbridled' mode in the Mach E was originally to be called 'Stampede' and one of the test-mules we rode in on a media briefing in LA last week still had this setting name. Within each drive mode, numerous elements of the Mach E will be configurable, including regen levels for one-foot driving, if drivers so choose.

Yes, there's a Frunk.

Would it be an EV without one? But Ford says theirs is better since it has a drain plug at the bottom; apparently owners of other EVs told Ford researchers that they often found themselves wanting this.

Room for everyone.

The Mach E seats five adults comfortably, with plenty of legroom and headroom for the six-footers out there (we know since we've sat inside). This, despite the sloping, coupe-like profile of the crossover. Most models also come with a fixed panoramic glass roof that does wonders for opening up the cabin.

Volkswagen is making a significant donation to help the environment of Eastern Tennessee.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The Conservation Fund will be on the receiving end of a $1.25 million donation from Volkswagen. The monies will be used to buy, protect and donate hundreds of acres of land to the U.S. Forest Service. Any remaining money will be used to provide community grants in Eastern Tennessee.

Volkswagen's U.S. plant is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, near where these funds will be used.

Cherokee National Forest Tennessee The additional conservation efforts will allow visitors to enjoy the national habitats of wildlife in Tennessee.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

"We are excited about our partnership with Volkswagen and the opportunity to advance their commitment to corporate leadership around sustainability," said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund. "Volkswagen is taking real, measurable steps forward to help protect the environment, embrace sustainable business practices and support the communities in which they work."

Most of the funds will be used to increase the size of the Cherokee National Forest. The Forest was created in 1920 and currently stands at about 656,000 acres north and south of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Volkswagen's donation will help add 1,500 acres to the site. That new acreage will be used for public recreation and habitat protection for black bears and Indiana bats.

Cherokee National Forest sign Tennessee Volkswagen of America and The Conservation Fund are teaming up to increase the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

"Our work with The Conservation Fund will help strengthen the environment and help us give back to a community where more than 3,800 of our colleagues live," said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. "This collaboration in our own backyard underscores our 'Drive Bigger' goal of pursuing ideas bigger than ourselves and then taking action. We feel a responsibility to show how a major automaker can credibly contribute to the greater good."

In addition to the bears and bats, the Forest is home to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, several whitewater rivers, and 12 designated wildernesses.

The Conservation Fund is negotiating with private landowners to acquire properties that will be held until they can be transferred to the USDA Forest Service for long-term stewardship in 2020 and 2021.