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Infotainment is a big deal in the modern-day vehicle, especially if it’s the family mule. Regardless of how a car drives, rides and steers, an infotainment unit can easily make or break a vehicle.
With that in mind, let’s have a closer look at the infotainment system in our long-termer Volvo XC90 in D5 R-Design flavour.
The main element is the portrait-style touchscreen display, which measures in at 9.3 inches of size. It has only one home button hidden amongst the piano-black bezel.
Below sit another seven buttons, along with a volume dial in what is a very minimalist design. It’s worth noting that bezel does show up smudge marks a little bit.
In this screen you’ll find the majority of your controls and functions through slick swiping across to additional screens.
Overall, it’s a system that’s designed to be clean and minimalist (notice a theme here?), providing everything you need without overburdening you with information at the same time.
In terms of technology boxes to tick, you’ve got Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, native navigation, 360-degree camera, digital radio, flash user handbook, internet connectivity and a handful of built-in apps.
Special mention must go to the 360-degree reversing camera running through cameras fore and aft, along with one under each wing mirror. It’s one of the best I have used, with great detail and perspective for those tighter moves.
Combined with a good turning circle and decent visibility, it’s one of the easiest large SUVs I’ve parked. What’s more, if you’re finding it tricky to park, you can opt for the car to do the hard work with self-park.
Each camera is individually selectable as well, and handy for when you really want to know what’s going on. Or, when you’re paranoid about grinding up those 22-inch wheels...
Navigation feels a bit more natural on the XC90's portrait screen as well, which continues the trend of minimalism. You sometimes might crave a little bit more information about your surroundings, and at times it takes a little while to boot up.
Otherwise, it’s straightforward and easy to use.
The XC90 can connect to the internet via Bluetooth, WiFi or its own sim card connection, which then powers up some apps: Spotify, weather, location sharing, Google and Wikipedia as well as Yelp.
I thought these might have been a bit gimmicky, but were actually quite handy to have up your sleeve.
Folks regularly use smartphone mirroring for their phone calls, navigation and music these days. How well these systems integrate with the car is important. Android Auto (I’m one of those wierdos that doesn’t have an iPhone) uses half of the portrait screen.
But unlike other portrait infotainment screens, the Volvo unit doesn’t simply revert unused space to black. The phone mirroring drops to the bottom of the screen, and you can use the other half for native functions. It works really well.
Assisting the screen is the 12-inch digital instrument binnacle, which also has a head-up display. There is a risk of too much information, but the minimalist design of the Volvo experience keeps it all pretty nice.
The head-up display gives you only the basics of speed and follow-distance warning.
The digital binnacle doesn’t give you a flash full-screen navigation system à la VAG products, but it’s good nonetheless.
Additional controls come through a menu system that takes a little bit of time to navigate, but once you get your bearings it’s pretty good.
The infotainment experience is an exercise in restrained design, where they have spent more time determining what to leave out instead of what to include. And it works overall.
It’s pleasing to look at, without the massacre of buttons and displays to assault your senses. There is everything that you need, however. And once you get your bearings with the system, you’ll find it fast and easy to use.