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The new Audi radio navigation system plus will be added to the A3’s optional extras programme early in 2004. Its DVD drive not only permits almost complete navigation on Western European roads, but also plays audio and MP3 CDs. The controls use the same clear logic as the Audi MMI already familiar from the A8. The integral double FM tuner ensures optimal radio reception, a convenient choice of stations and provision for dynamic navigation, using the TMC Traffic Message Channel even while listening to a different programme.
The speech-output route recommendations have been considerably extended and are now even more detailed. Together with the clear pictograms for visual route information on the central driver information system display, they form the highly praised basis for the Audi satellite navigation system first introduced in 1996.
The entire control concept is new, and uses the same consistent logic as the Audi MMI in the new Audi A8, to guarantee rapid, easy access. The system’s many new functions and possible settings can be selected intuitively in a user-friendly way. This reduces the risk of being distracted during the journey, avoids adding to the driver’s workload and enables him or her to concentrate as much as possible on the primary task of driving the car safely. A further advantage is that the driver does not have to study a lengthy set of operating instructions before being able to make use of all the systems’s varied functions.
The control panel, with the typical square MMI layout, is located to the right of the display screen. With its four control buttons and central control knob, it parallels the display that is actually seen on the screen. Farther down but equally easy to reach, the large ‘Return’ button displays the previous menu level when pressed. Eight well-placed function keys below the screen provide direct access to the principal functions.
The 6.5-inch colour screen displays the road map and the visual route description; the driver information system converts this information into pictograms and combines it with further distance and time-of-arrival information.
The high-quality image on the large screen resembles a conventional road map: it not only shows the name of the road or street on which the car is currently being driven, but also the names of adjacent roads, towns and villages. If preferred, the new system can show the map in perspective, as a ‘bird’s eye view’.
The split-screen function is also new. It enables the map to be seen on the left half of the screen, with the right half devoted to useful additional information. For example, the realistic or schematic pattern of roads at a motorway junction, or – particularly important in city traffic – an enlarged view of the route the car is actually following. In addition, the system supplies information on the next three route recommendations, to make it easier to choose the correct traffic lane. The automatic multi-stage ‘manoeuvre zoom’ also supplies the driver with precise, detailed information.
The new Audi navigation system plus offers the driver a selection of up to three different routes. The control knob can be used to select a short route, a fast route or an alternative route. These recommendations take traffic information messages, route length and estimated time of arrival into account. In addition to the final destination, up to three locations through which the route should pass can be chosen. Traffic messages received by the twin tuner are displayed, automatically evaluated and taken into account when a route is recommended, with an alternative route being worked out if necessary. In addition, by pressing a button the TMC messages can be shown directly on the map in text form.
Other convenient functions are full scope for direct destination input from the map display by means of the cursor, address input starting with the street, use of the address book and even the input of destinations as telephone numbers or post codes.
In addition to the time of arrival at the chosen destination, the new navigation system plus can also display special destinations on motorways when the split-screen mode is in use, for example filling stations, leisure areas or parking lots on the next section of the route. In addition to the distance, the driver is also informed of the calculated time to reach these intermediate destinations.
As the new data storage element for the navigation system, DVD has a memory ten times larger than the conventional CD-ROM, and distinctly faster access times. Almost the entire Western European road network can be accommodated on a single DVD disc, so that irritation of having to change the CD when crossing a national border is avoided. Another bonus is that routes are calculated very much faster than with CD-based sysems. This will be seen when the map image is built up, and also when the zoom function is used.
The DVD is also capable of memorising many more special navigation destinations (points of interest). Locating a destination is therefore more convenient and quicker if the street name is not known. Among the generous range of special destinations in the new Audi navigation system plus are airports, parking lots, exhibition and event centres, museums, theatres, cinemas and shopping centres.
Behind the flat screen, which folds away electro-mechanically, are the DVD drive and two additional memorised memory card readers (MMC or SD format) with MP3 compatibility. Having these located directly at the system makes it easier and quicker to change from one data and music source to another.
The new Audi navigation system plus supports Audi mobile phone preparation and the facilities provided on the multifunctional steering wheel, which is an optional extra. If required, the system can be upgraded by adding a CD changer, the BOSE sound system or an analog TV tuner.