Best Navigation System
When evaluating navigation systems, we always look for a number of key characteristics. First, the interface must be intuitive and easy to use: you don't want to have to fiddle around with controls and menus in those precious few seconds before the stoplight changes. Seconds, maps have to be clearly laid out: this doesn't always mean that the graphics should be high-resolution (although it often helps), but that streets and points of interest should be easy to read at a glance. Third, turn-by-turn directions should be accurate and timely, and avoid being too chatty--many of the more advanced systems have settings to adjust the frequency of voice guidance, and a button to get guidance on demand. A related function is processor speed: navigation systems that refresh quickly and that can recalculate routes within a couple of seconds are best. A comprehensive points-of-interest database is also key to a well-designed unit.
In addition to these core functions, there are a number of additional features that differentiate the most sophisticated navigation systems from the rest. These include text-to-voice technology, that enables voice guidance to call out specific street names; voice-recognition capabilities for both general functions (such as zoom and map view) as well as for destination entry; and real-time traffic information that overlays updated data with color-coded graphics to inform drivers of congestion areas and relative traffic speeds. In short, the best navigation system is the one that gets you from A to B with the minimum of BS.
The navigation system in the 2007 RDX is top-notch. It's easy to enter desinations, and its points-of-interest database goes beyond restaurants, gas stations, and ATMs to include all sorts of retails stores. It's like having a yellow pages in the car. The navigation system also does a good job with route guidance, showing a split screen with a graphic to indicate upcoming turns. Best of all, the RDX has the same live traffic reporting found on the RL. The sytem shows icons for traffic incidents, such as construction or crashes, as well as traffic speed on freeways and major roadways.
The GPS navigation in the Honda Civic Si comes with a truly usable voice-command feature that gives fast and accurate route calculations and has a large database of businesses, which makes running weekend errands a snap. Entering destinations is easy, whether you use the map, the onscreen keyboard, or voice prompts. Multiple route options are calculated quickly, and processing power is adequate to make zooming smooth. Rerouting is similarly rapid, and the system speaks both street and city names.
The Jaguar XK's navigation system has been overhauled and updated for the 2007 model year. We found its high-resolution maps (in full or split-screen) and turn-by-turn voice guidance accurate and quick to help us when we missed our highway exit. Destinations can be programmed by all of the usual means (address/point or interest/coordinates) as well as by a neat feature in the touch screen that enables navigators to use directional arrows to scroll through an overhead map of the immediate area. The integration of Macromedia Flash, which makes menu screens appear and disappear using animated graphics, is another nice feature, although sometimes we found that the animation took up some valuable programming time when stopped at traffic lights.
Mercedes-Benz's quick and accurate GPS navigation system is standard on the S550 and includes its own 20GB hard drive. Along with the stereo and telephone systems, navigation can be controlled by voice, as well as via the COMAND knob or two five-way pads on the steering wheel. The system understood our voice commands with no problem, and programming destinations using the COMAND knob worked just as effectively. While in full-screen map mode, the system also displays the scale, the compass heading, the current latitude and longitude, and the number of available satellites.
The Camry Hybrid's GPS system supports voice commands as well as touch screen programming. When possible, we preferred to program destinations by hand using the touch screen, which we found the more user-friendly option, and the ability to find destinations by entering a phone number was a feature we particularly liked. When fully programmed, the navigation system works well, showing high-resolution maps and accurate turn by-turn directions, with an impressive refresh/recalibration speed. Voice-command programming is a nice touch, but we found that a list of specific voice prompts must be learned and used in conjunction with the correct screen for the system to be mastered.