We piled into the 2015 Audi A3: four friends and me, along with their devices—two iPads and two MacBooks. While I pulled up a Google Earth map on the car's display, they punched in the network name and password for the car's 4G LTE hotspot. Off we went, and all our online services came with us: music, videos, email, the works.
This is the car of the future, one that accommodates your tech as just another passenger. Some current cars might have 3G connectivity, but the 2015 Audi A3 is the first car available with 4G LTE. It won't be alone for long: General Motors will have it on most 2015 models as well.
Ain't connectivity cool?
The connected-car experience is amazing, even with hiccups. The A3's hotspot claims to accommodate up to eight devices, but when just our four devices were online, the connection could be slow.
Here's a snapshot of one speed test we took during our drive:
"I got 13MB down before you guys started using it," complained one passenger. In our brief experience, however, it seemed that once data was buffered on the device, things ran smoothly from there.
As the driver, I wasn't using any devices, but I could still enjoy the A3's Multi Media Interface infotainment system, or MMI, which is the most advanced version available through the automaker. That's right, more-expensive Audi models don't have it as good as this little car, at least not yet.
The A3's MMI system includes a 7-inch color display that rises out of the dashboard when you start the car and tucks itself away neatly when you leave. You control the system using a large dial and surrounding buttons on the lower part of the center console, near the gearshift. The dial has a touchpad on top, so you can actually write a letter using your finger to enter addresses, for instance.
The best way to test these interfaces is to recruit an impatient person to try them out. That's what I did, and I was impressed by how quickly he took to it (and I think he was, too).
There's a set of toggle switches for moving among the main functions of navigation, telephone, radio, and media (such as streaming from your phone).
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