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Hands-on with Dodge Dart UConnect system, digital TFT dash

updated 05:15 pm EST, Fri January 13, 2012

We try out upcoming Dodge Dart's digital dash

We stopped by Chrysler's outdoor display at CES to check out the digital dashboard and UConnect system of the upcoming Dodge Dart compact sedan. While the car itself was nowhere to be found, as it was in Detroit after making its debut there earlier this week, we had a chance to play with the car's UConnect system as a dash mock-up was available in the trailer. The 7-inch TFT screen sits between an analog tachometer on the left and a traditional fuel gauge on the right and always shows the speedometer.

The screen can be customized, and will display redundant data such as as song info, temperature and navigation data. Background images can also be selected, and a messaging system for details like onboard diagnostics and whether the fuel cap is securely fastened are accessible from this screen. The screen is bright enough to be clearly legible on a bright, sunny day, though we wonder if it would wash out when direct sunlight hits it. Also, polarized sunglasses may blank it out somewhat, though we didn't have a pair onhand to check that. Chrysler likely took details such as these into account, however, considering the possible legal ramifications. The resolution is also subjectively very sharp.

The screen's functions are operated by the four buttons on the left spoke of the steering wheel, while Chrysler's audio system controls are located on the back of the two horizontal spokes.

The Dart demo dash was also sporting the automaker's 8.4-inch touchscreen UConnect system which allows for pairing Bluetooth phones or music players, offers navigation, Sirius satellite radio and Travel Link premium data feature, fuel prices that can be sorted by distance, brand or price, and climate controls settings as well as adjusting other vehicle paramaters. Whether the direct dialer feature is locked out when the vehicle is in motion isn't known, as it does require the driver to take his eyes on one hand off the wheel to aim for the buttons, which could have been made larger. The response time and sensitivity were pretty good, however.

The 7-inch dash screen won't be in all versions of the compact car, which starts at $15,995. We figure a model equipped with it will cost into the $20,000s. The top-of-the-line Limited version will get the screen, the Dart webpage reveals, but it's not likely the LCD will be available as a standalone option. Time will tell, as the Dart is due to arrive in showrooms in the spring.

by MacNN Staff



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