If you have an iPod and if you drive, chances are the thought of trying to listen to your iPod in your car has crossed your mind. There's nothing unusual about this.
And if you have, you'll find that it is fairly easy to hook your iPod to your car's stereo. If you car's audio system supports the iPod, all you need is the connector cable. Alternatively, you could get one of those transmitters that broadcasts your iPod on an FM or AM frequency and then you tune into your own iPod with the car's radio.
However, if you have done so, you'll then find that it's not so easy trying to scroll through your collection of songs whilst driving. Some systems allow you to control directly via the iPod itself, which means you only have one hand on the wheel. That's dangerous but nonetheless fine if you drive an automatic. Those driving a manual will have to look elsewhere.
And then there are systems that only let you navigate through your iPod's vast library of songs through the head unit. This is terrible especially if your's happen to be of the single-DIN variety and your screen can only display one line of text - there's no telling what song is before or after. Also, I've seen double-DIN units with such an implementation, and frankly, even if they are operated by a touchscreen, they aren't any better. It's still distracting and therefore dangerous to use.
The best integration of the iPod into a car's stereo system that I've seen thus far has to be Audi's Multi-Media Interface. It's available on most of their better specced cars and what it does that no other aftermarket solution can, is display all the relevant information on the instrument cluster, in between your tacho and speedometer. What's more, on the steering wheel is a wheel that works kind of like the iPod's very own click wheel. It is all very well thought out and very clever. And while I was test-driving, I found that it was relatively easy to find whatever song it is I want to play.
I hear Mercedes-Benz has a similar implementation, but having had bad experiences with Mercs in the past, I've never gone anywhere near one to actually find out for myself.
So it seems that if you want an intuitive and clever way to enjoy your iPod music while driving, you got to have an Audi. And I'm afraid my pocket just ain't deep enough.
Kenny Yeo / Associate Editor
Specifications are not everything. It's what you do with what you have that matters.