If you’ve ever used Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you know that this technology is a life-changer. Not only can it actually save a life by keeping your eyes on the road and off your phone, but it can also make using your phone more intuitive, whether from the driver or passenger seat. If you’re looking for an operating system specifically made for smartphone integration and in-car use, let us introduce you to the Car and Driver Intellidash+.
Intellidash+: More Functional Than a Phone Mount
There is a difference between simply mounting your phone and using a native operating system, specifically one that is made for in-car use. To illustrate my point, open your favorite music streaming app on your phone and turn your phone sideways. I’ll bet the app doesn’t rotate.
This makes it a pain to use the app if you like mounting your phone horizontally for navigation apps, like Waze or Google Maps. And it can be downright dangerous if you have to grab/rotate your phone any time you want to change the music. You may find that switching between apps causes the same issue.
However, with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, your most common apps have shortcut icons so you shouldn’t have to swipe, search, or mess with your phone from the driver’s seat. You can switch from Maps, to Spotify or Messages with a single tap. Additionally, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay utilize specific versions of your favorite apps to make them compatible with the screen you are using. This user-friendly interface and improved app layout make it easier for you to access and use your apps on the road.
In many modern vehicles, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. But for older cars, up until very recently, you only had one option to get CarPlay or Android Auto — replace the entire radio head unit. And this was assuming that a replacement unit was available for your particular make/model, which wasn’t always the case.
My personal car, a 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth has a very strangely shaped radio with air conditioning vents right above it. Though CarPlay radios are available for the Abarth, installing them requiress changing the A/C vents. But thanks to this recent release from Car and Driver, I now have CarPlay and my standard A/C setup. Let me tell you how!
Meet The Car and Driver Intellidash+
Simply put, the Intellidash+ is a standalone unit that mounts inside your car and is powered by the cigarette lighter outlet (12V). It integrates with your smartphone and allows you to add Carplay or Android Auto to your vehicle without the expensive installation of a new radio head unit.
The Intellidash+ is designed to give you all the functionality of a standard Carplay or Android Auto unit. With it, you can add playlists and stream music, find a gas station via your navigation app, and make a phone call. Even sending texts with voice control is easy. Not only are the operating systems easier to use, but the actual display is larger. For reference, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch touchscreen; the Intellidash has a 7-inch IPS display.
There are some design quirks that we’ll get to soon, but overall the Car and Driver Intellidash+ is an extremely easy-to-use system. It takes 3 minutes to set up, and as long you have a 12V plug available, it’ll work! No aux port is required, as the Intellidash has a built-in FM transmitter to route the audio from your favorite music app to your vehicle’s speakers.
Intellidash+: What’s in The Box?
- 12V power cord — very long and easy to tuck away
- Adjustable mount
- 3M adhesive disk — essentially a sticky, puck-shaped adhesive to suction mount to the dash
- USB cable for USB-C phones
Intellidash+: What’s Missing From The Box?
- iPhone or Android cable
- 3.5mm auxiliary cable
Intellidash+ Installation: Quick & Easy
Remember 15 years ago when we had suction cup mounted navigation systems? Installing the Intellidash display utilized the same concept. If you’ve ever mounted a cell phone holder or GoPro or other navigation systems to your windshield or dashboard, you’re already trained!
The included 3M adhesive disk is sticky on one side and glasslike on the other. Using it, you can mount the Intellidash+ pretty much anywhere in the vehicle, even from the ceiling if you wanted (though remember suction cup windshield mounts are not legal in all 50 states, so check your state regulations). The included mounting arm is adjustable, allowing you to set the arm length, vertical mount tilt, and screen angle.
Once mounted, plug the power cord, USB cable, and 3.5mm aux cable (if you have one) on the left side. We recommend using right-angle cables to make the display less of an eye-sore. Here’s a 3.5mm right-angle aux cord and a right-angle iPhone cable that we’d recommend.
You’ll notice that the Intellidash also has a MicroSD card slot. You can use this to view photos, listen to music, or even watch a movie. This actually comes in handy if, for example, you have a GoPro and want to preview your action cam footage on a larger screen.
If Car and Driver were to make a second generation of the Intellidash+, I would recommend a single plug system where you plug your phone and the 3.5mm cable closer to the 12V port so it’s out of sight and then just tuck one cable up to the back of the Intellidash.
If the thought of three additional cables triggers your OCD, we recommend getting longer auxiliary and phone cables so you can run them behind the display and tuck them down the side of the car. I have mine running from the Intellidash+ down the back of the dash and under the passenger seat floor mat to keep things tidy.
Display Quality & Responsiveness
Right off the bat, the display’s high resolution is noticeable. It’s crystal clear and looks better than most factory Carplay or Android Auto screens I’ve seen. Overall, it’s very responsive, though you may get some lag when using the tablet’s own OS for things like settings or the media viewer.
The screen is bright enough to be clearly seen during the day, but can be distractingly bright at night. Thankfully, you can fix this with a quick tap in the top right corner to switch the display into “night” mode for a lower brightness. However, you can’t preset this brightness level. I found it still on the bright side after sunset.
Is The Intellidash+ Right For You?
Overall, I do recommend the Car and Driver Intellidash+ system. One of my concerns was that the display would block part of my view of the road when installed. The screen is large, and the device itself is about an inch thick.
I have found this to only be a slight issue on tight, twisty two-lane roads where the display makes it hard to see the lane divider. For those instances, I could remove the entire Intellidash+ as CarPlay is not something I care for when on a spirited drive. So far, I haven’t found that necessary.
Without a doubt, there’s no easier way to add Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to your vehicle than the Intellidash+. However, if your car has an easy-to-swap CarPlay unit such as the Volkswagens from 2008-2015, I’d probably opt for that route — it’ll look better and cost about the same. If that isn’t an option for your vehicle, you can’t go wrong with this easy-to-install option.