Best and worst infotainment systems - Expensive optional systems
In the past, we were all reliant on manufacturers to supply the necessary hardware that would be integrated with our dashboards. However, that has changed in recent years, as smartphones have started to offer more than just the ability to talk to one another. A reasonable Apple or Android device incorporates a music player (which may store its files locally or stream them via the mobile phone network) and some form of navigation. Usually these options won't cost you a penny more than your monthly contract cost, either.
With that in mind, it's all the more frustrating that the availability and prices of car infotainment varies wildly between manufacturers - and even between individual models in one brand's line-up.
At one end of the scale, you can now get fully functional infotainment systems complete with Bluetooth, voice control, navigation and more for under £300. At the other, some car makers are still charging as much as that for just the Bluetooth connection, nearly £1000 for a TV tuner or several thousand pounds for a full navigation and media system.
You can add plenty more to those figures if you start to explore the depths of options lists and trim levels; keep your wits about you.
Part of the explanation for all this is that the car industry finds it harder to react to rapidly developing consumer electronics. Slick interfaces on smartphones, tablets and computers can make the kit we get in vehicles look old hat within 18 months - but while trendy phones come out every year, it can take a car manufacturer three or four years to fully upgrade the technology in a dashboard.