With the 2014 Chevrolet Impala on hand at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, representatives from the automaker are giving demos of its new MyLink infotainment system, which is unlike anything that’s come before it. MyLink has been around since 2011, giving Chevrolet drivers a touchscreen interface to rival MyFord Touch in many ways. But whereas MyFord Touch is pretty much the same thing across all models it’s in, differing only in screen size and a few vehicle-specific applications, not all MyLink systems are created equal.
In the 2014 Impala, Chevrolet has instilled the car with a modular touchscreen interface that works nearly identically to the high-line Cadillac CUE. Chevrolet engineers cited the praise for CUE–short for Cadillac User Experience–as to why they went ahead and designed the next-gen system to work the way it does. Compared to MyFord Touch, it in some ways appears to be more readable, with larger, more centralized “buttons” from our initial impressions.
Instead of permanent buttons, there are a few presets on its main screen that are saved at the top for things like radio controls, and users can scroll through different screens with swiping as they would with their smartphones. Icons are large and can be moved around the screen, also just like a smartphone. The Impala is the first vehicle to use this new MyLink, with the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado being the second vehicle to get it, albeit with some redundant buttons for your average glove-wearing, construction-working ruffian who may not have the precision to swipe with his or her hands across the screen.
The new MyLink also uses more natural voice commands than the rigid word structures of the first-gen MyLink. The new MyLink, much as the original one, will turn down the HVAC system’s fan when you press the talk button to make sure the microphone hears what you have to say. Call it the gentle, caring side of Chevrolet. But that original MyLink is still in use. Chevrolet even put it in the heavily revised 2013 Traverse. While some functions can be added in or taken out–the Traverse doesn’t have the Chevrolet Volt’s energy use functions, for instance, and many do not come equipped with navigation–it’s a fairly straightforward system whose text on the screen appears too small at times, at least when compared to some newer systems. That includes the MyLink that’s available in the Chevrolet Spark and Sonic. While not as sophisticated as either of the aforementioned units, its interface is newer and more smartphone-like, too.
Chevrolet makes up the difference with the Spark and Sonic’s MyLink in that it has downloadable apps, like BringGo navigation in place of a traditional in-car GPS. It streams through your phone but integrates seamlessly with the car. Chevrolet made many of its functions into downloadable phone apps to keep costs down for the young buyers it anticipates buying the cars.
So what’s next for Chevrolet MyLink? Besides eventually moving all its models up to the more modern interfaces of the Sonic, Spark, and Impala, adding more apps to better compete with Ford’s Sync AppLink would make sense. Chevrolet has not made any announcements of partnerships it may have in the future with third-party developers. But General Motors has to look longingly at Ford’s infotainment system integration and think to itself that it needs to follow suit before it gets left behind.