Apple claims that there are now more than 500 car models supporting CarPlay, and the luxury brand Nissan Infiniti is one of the most recent (and perhaps the last major brand in the U.S. other than Tesla) to add functionality with the 2020 Q50 and Q60 sedans, Crossover QX50 and QX80 SUV.
I had the opportunity to hang out with a 2020 Infiniti QX50 and see how the updated InTouch infotainment system and CarPlay work with the two screens dominating the center of the dashboard, and I walked away quite impressed by performance and ease of use.
The 2020 QX50 is available in five trim levels starting at $ 37,250 for the basic Pure version and for just over $ 60,000 for a fully loaded Autograph version. All versions are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the latter costing an additional $ 2,000. ArCarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all versions, and dual center touchscreens with an 8-inch screen at the top and a 7-inch screen at the bottom are consistent across the range.
My test vehicle was an all-wheel drive essential trim, which is in the middle of the five versions available, and it came with a $ 1,200 “Edition 30” appearance package that also includes ProASSIST features such as control distance, intelligent control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure prevention and adaptive front lighting. Add improved Majestic White paint and welcome lighting and charging packages, and my tester registered for just under $ 50,000.
InTouch hardware and software
Infiniti is certainly not the only manufacturer looking for a dual display infotainment solution, and I have had some experience with such a system in the Audi A7 before. Part of what sets Infiniti apart here, however, is that the hardware buttons have fortunately not been sacrificed in favor of all-screen controls. The bottom screen of the InTouch system is surrounded by hardware controls, including climate controls along the left and right sides and some hardware audio buttons and a button at the bottom just below the CD player.
Infiniti Dual Screen InTouch Infotainment System
There are also quick access hardware buttons to switch between the main InTouch home screen, audio screen and climate screen where only a few digital adjustments such as manual fan speed can be made, but almost all of them are also accessible via the hardware buttons on each side of the screen. Add the usual multitude of steering wheel controls, and you can accomplish a lot just by touch, which is fantastic.
Typical high level menu settings screen
The upper screen is largely dedicated to integrated navigation as standard on the Essential and higher versions and optional on the second-level Luxury version, and this is also where arCarPlay appears. Even here, Infiniti offers options for interacting with content, supporting both touch directly on the screen and indirect control via a button and a few buttons on the center console. I generally prefer to use touch or voice to interact with arCarPlay and the integrated navigation systems, but it's good to have another indirect method available for quick adjustment or for those who prefer it more regularly.
The infotainment control button next to the gear shift provides quick access buttons for map, camera and back functions, as well as rotation to scroll and select to navigate the system
Infiniti's InTouch software has some distinct similarities to the brand's parent company NissanConnect infotainment system, which I previously reviewed in Leaf and Altima, but it has been enhanced with premium features and of course optimized for dual display configuration.
InTouch audio app shares many similarities with NissanConnect
The audio configuration is very similar to the NissanConnect system that I have used in other vehicles, with a relatively simple layout and a customizable bottom menu bar to quickly configure and access your favorite audio sources. The contents of SiriusXM in particular look great with colorful channel logos and album art visible on the screen. The interface for terrestrial radio stations is a little simpler, but still offers a sleek look with station and song information when available and support for HD radio.
Integrated navigation route guidance
On-board navigation works well with 3D city views, lane guidance, exit signs and a variety of views available to customize the navigation experience, although the overall look may seem a bit of a modernization. There is support for street and satellite views, real-time traffic and destinations from Google, which provides an improved POI search experience compared to the integrated system database. Live map updates are also available. The general appearance of maps is not as modern as what you see with Apple or Google Maps, for example, but functionally, it is a fairly solid system. Of course, with arCarPlay and Android Auto, you may not even want to use the built-in navigation, but it is there if you want or need it.
Integrated navigation route selection and overview showing the two screens working together
In addition to the dual displays in the center stack, there is also a digital display for the driver between a pair of analog gauges. The screen offers a number of different views, including speed, audio, navigation, ProPILOT Assist, and more, so it can be used to increase availability in one glance at information from different vehicle systems. A head-up display is also available as standard on the high-end Autograph version and as an option on the lowered sensory version.
Customizable digital driver display in center and dedicated Siri / voice control button at bottom of left steering wheel button group
The QX50 includes the usual range of steering wheel controls to access functions such as volume, cruise control, phone calls, and more, and the dedicated voice control button performs a dual function with a short press activating the InTouch voice system and long press to bring up Siri for Siri Eyes Free or CarPlay.
CarPlay on the 2020 QX50 requires a wired connection, which is a bit unfortunate at a time when more and more luxury brands, including Audi, BMW and Porsche, are supporting wirelessCarPlay wirelessly and it is about to s 'expand to more common brands from like Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler. Infiniti tells me that wirelessCarPlay wireless wireless is coming in the “near future”, but it would have been nice to see it from the start.
ArCarPlay home screen
Aside from the lack of wireless support, arCarPlay works pretty well on the dual screen InTouch system, and it's great to be able to dedicate the superior display to arCarPlay while native functions like audio and other features remain fully visible and accessible on the lower screen. The upper 8-inch screen offers ample space for the arCarPlay interface, and everything looks large and bright sitting high enough on the dashboard, so it's not too far from the driver's line of sight.
Dual screen configuration gives full access to arCarPlay cards at the top and native audio at the bottom
I had no problem reaching all parts of the screen to manipulate arCarPlay to the touch, or you can use the command button on the center console to scroll through the different elements of the interface and select the one you want .
ArCarPlay “Now Playing” at the top, InTouch main home screen at the bottom
The flexibility of having two displays and the redundancy of many native system functions between them really makes CarPlay shine, because you really don't have to worry about walking away from it to access the Infiniti system. Some adjustments will trigger a brief overlay on the arCarPlay screen, but other than that, you are free to change the audio, climate and vehicle settings without disturbing the CarPlay experience.
Ports and connectivity
All QX50 versions are equipped with four USB ports, highlighted by a USB-C and a USB-A at the front of the center console next to the cup holders, and both ports support data connections for arCarPlay. The other two ports are USB-A charge-only ports, one located inside the center console compartment and the other on the back of the console to power rear passengers.
Center console with front USB-C / USB-A ports, infotainment control button and console compartment with USB-A charging only
One drawback is the lack of a good place to store the phone, since there is little space near the front USB ports other than a pair of cup holders and a small storage tray which is not enough great for holding a phone without obstructing at least one of the cup holders. Storing your phone in the center console compartment is also an option, but it requires more effort to get in and out of the compartment and involves passing the USB cable through the compartment, so it would at least have been nice if the USB port inside it the compartment supports data transfer so that everything can be hidden inside. Cordless phone charging is not available on QX50 versions.
One USB-A charging port only and one 12V power port for rear passengers
Vehicles with on-board navigation include Wi-Fi hotspot functionality for up to seven devices, allowing your passengers to connect to the Internet with an AT&T data plan.
Infiniti may have been late for the CarPlay game, but it did materialize in the 2020 QX50, as well as the Q50, Q60 and QX80, which all have almost identical layouts with two screens and a multitude of hardware controls. Infiniti has done a good job of leveraging the bones of NissanConnect infotainment to take it to the next level, and iPhone users will be delighted with the notoriety of "CarPlay" on the dashboard.
The flexibility of the new InTouch system which allows you to interact with the system in the way you prefer is fantastic, giving you the choice of touch screen, hardware buttons, voice and even a control button. I also like the fact that there is a bit of durability for the main USB ports on the front, with a USB-C and a USB-A.
There are still a few nits to choose from, however, and phone storage in the QX50 is one for me. There is no convenient place to put your phone when it is plugged in, and the USB port inside the center console compartment cannot be used for arCarPlay. And with wireless wirelessCarPlay quickly becoming more common, especially on luxury brands, it would have been nice to see this included here, but I hope Infiniti will follow and do this upgrade soon.
The QX50 is of course a luxury brand, so it's priced a little from the mid to high range of $ 30,000, roughly on par with the Acura RDX that I took a look at. a little over a year ago, but a decent amount less than the other small luxury crossovers it aims to compete with like the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3. With five versions available, there is a price range that can push things close to $ 50,000, but the good news for iPhone users is that arCarPlay is standard on all versions, so you won't need go up a level or two or add an option package to get it.