iPod interface for cars, Dension fitted iPod system

I recently changed my car, leaving my trusted Audi A3 and therefore the Alpine N333RRS head unit, sat nav system and iPod interface. I didn’t let the car go with that system in place – I took it out and put back the Audi Chorus radio and tape player.

The new car, an Audi A3 Cabrio (yes, yes, I know… still an A3) came with no sat nav, but I did get a dealer fitted iPod interface. Guess what? It turns out to be a Dension device – either a gateway or ICE>Link – I don’t know which (it is hidden behind the centre console). The clues I had were obvious – the track name doesn’t show, the track number doesn’t advance and there was a leaflet left in the glove box with the Dension name all over it!

And in that nutshell you have it – the Dension systems are working, just, but there are obvious ommissions in functionality still. It must be three years or more since I stopped using the Dension system because of these shortcomings, and here I am right back where I was.

The iPod or the head unit can be used to change the track, but also so can the multi-function steering wheel. What is rather nice is that the phone system in the car works as it should, muting the playback to allow incoming or outgoing calls easily, but I fail to see why after all this time Dension kit still can’t show ID3 tags… specifically, the name of the song playing.

What also causes a wry smile is that a car maker as prestigious as Audi sees fit to install a 3rd party device in their cars. If Alpine can make a system that works as you want it to, showing track names, switching between play lists and folders, etc, then why on earth haven’t the major manufacturers put some R&D into creating their own systems yet? I suppose the argument is that the Dension kit does the job, but I have to say that is less than true. The Dension kit does half the job…

Since it was fitted by the dealership (or rather the local audio specialists) I have no idea what firmware has been installed, what would constitute an update or when I can expect better functionality.

So on the one hand I am delighted to have my iPod working, my phone working and have all the controlls at my fingertips whilst driving, I am disappointed that the old issues have remained for such a long time. I am bemused as to why Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Ford, Mazda… heck, anyone, hasn’t done this properly yet. As far as gadgets go the iPod is the ‘big one’, so what is taking the manufacturers so long to get a decent interface in their vehicles?