2016 VW Passat | Apple CarPlay step-by-step demo

Volkswagen has made syncing your smartphone with its redesigned, Tennessee-built Passat as easy as pie. During a first drive event at VW’s headquarters in Herndon, Va., we experienced the 2016 Passat and its plethora of technology.

Image credit: VW

Image credit: VW

VW piqued my curiosity with the installation of Apple CarPlay in this vehicle. It is the first opportunity I personally have had to take the technology for a test drive. As expected, I was impressed with Apple’s CarPlay interface and how seamless and easy it is to use. I wasn’t able to test Android Auto at the time, but I suspect that if CarPlay is any indication, particularly given the 6.3-inch display screen on the SEL Premium model we tested, Android Auto will function just as effortlessly. You can watch a video demo of Android Auto on the new Passat over at Forbes.com.

The all-new Passat is incredibly user-friendly—from the layout of the dash and center stack to the navigation touch screen to the easy-to-reach tactile buttons.

Image credit: VW

Image credit: VW

Here at Be Car Chic, we drive dozens of cars every year and trust us that this process only underlines the lack of understanding some automakers have for the importance of a seamless “user experience” for the driver and his or her smartphone once entering the car. I mean, I could spend anywhere from five to 10 minutes simply trying to navigate a head unit and infotainment system, not to mention Bluetooth phone connection, steering wheel controls and the seemingly endless menus to control each and every technology feature. But, I digress.

The reality is few mainstream brands have been successful at creating an environment that welcomes, even encourages, the integration of external technology; and while there is still a long way to go before we’re completely seamless, the advent of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink are helping to make the transition a more effortless one.

Step-by-step visual demonstration of Apple CarPlay inside the 2016 VW Passat, courtesy of Volkswagen:

Go to “App-Connect” in the VW Passat main menu

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Welcome

Select your device. The 2016 VW Passat supports devices via Google’s Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. We’ve selected an Apple iPhone to demo Apple CarPlay.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Connect

Plug in, or connect your device via Bluetooth, to go completely hands-free with Apple CarPlay.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Connected

A familiar iPhone-like menu will display on the Passat’s infotainment touchscreen. We appreciate the large icons for easy selections while driving.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Main Menu

Upon connecting, your contacts will be uploaded and your phone’s latest activities synced. It’s like using a giant version of your iPhone. To make a call, you can select the appropriate icon. To go completely hands-free, simply initiate voice commands through Siri via the button found on the steering wheel.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Phone Call

Return to the main menu by tapping the white “home” button in the bottom left-hand corner–just like the tactile button on your iPhone.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Contacts

Apple CarPlay can also handle your text messages without requiring you to type or read while piloting the 2016 Passat.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Voice to Text

Simply select the Messages icon and Siri will ask you what you’d like her to do — read messages or compose a message. Here, we’re composing a text message through voice commands. The sound wave shows that Siri is gathering your dictation.

The voice recognition, and even Siri’s cadence when reading back to you, are impressively accurate. Finally, a safe way to communicate via text as the driver of the vehicle.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Siri send Text

Stored music and podcasts are right at your fingertips, too.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Main Menu 2 Music

Select the Spotify app and instantly have access to your personalized music collection.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Radio Stations

Each step remains straightforward for the user, greatly reducing the chances of driving distracted while using Apple CarPlay.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Now Playing

As you can see, the display includes extra large buttons that catch the driver’s eye and don’t require him to remove his eyes from the road in order to search for the correct icon to choose.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Main Menu Maps

Head back to the main menu to use Apple Maps, not Google Maps (it’s not currently supported by CarPlay), in place of the manufacturer’s navigation system (if you opted to purchase it).

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Google Maps

Apple Maps successfully got us to and from our destinations without trouble. While not terribly different from the Google Maps interface you likely use on your iPhone, we agree with Engadget that Apple CarPlay would be even better if it supported Google Maps.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Google Maps Destinations

Making our selections in Apple Maps was easy and the directions kept us on course. We liked the options for different courses to take and the simplicity of interacting with the navigation software.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - Google Maps Route Preview

That concludes our step-by-step demo of Apple CarPlay in the 2016 Volkswagen Passat. Questions about this integration? Comments? Let me know!

Updated 12/16/15 10:35AM: Correction made to earlier statement that Android Auto was not available on the car at the time of our demo. Android Auto is readily available on all 2016 Passat models with App-Connect.

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Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.