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Car Talk: Built-in GPS can't hold a candle to Google Maps

By: Ray Magliozzi
June 24, 2016 Updated: June 24, 2016 at 9:01 am
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Dear Car Talk: I don't believe I've seen this addressed in your column before. I'm wondering if you can update the GPS in any older-model cars that have built-in displays. Is there an updated map you can buy from a dealer, or download to a laptop and then install on your vehicle? Specifically, I have an '05 Jaguar XKR. But I bet others have the same question about their cars.

Off topic: Since you guys know everything, if you freeze a zombie and then defrost it, will it still be "alive," since you didn't shoot it in the head? Love reading your column every week!

-- Phil

I'm going pass your zombie question over to the guys who write Corpse Talk, Phil.

The answer to your mapping question is yes: The companies that make the software for built-in GPS systems do sell updates.

But unfortunately, they're horrific rip-offs for most people -- they cost several hundreds of dollars. And even then, they can't match Google Maps for instantaneous traffic data and re-routing.

There are some reasons we prefer built-in GPS systems: The screens are bigger, the information often is duplicated on the dashboard or even in a heads-up display if the car has one (which is great). And the radio audio is automatically lowered when a navigation instruction comes on.

But the truth is that these built-in systems have fallen far behind what you can get on your phone ... for free. They often can be purchased only as part of a multi-thousand-dollar technology package; they're archaic to program (as opposed to speaking the destination into your phone and having it understand you the first time); the traffic data isn't as good; and they get out of date.

So, unless you feel very strongly about some of the advantages of the built-in system, you should buy one of those iPhone mounts that clips to an air vent and use Google Maps instead. Just be sure to choose the privacy setting that says "track my location only while I'm using the app." Otherwise, Google will be tracking you when you go to the bathroom.

You want a car mount that puts the phone high up, so you don't have to take your eyes off the road to see it. ProClip makes a particularly sturdy one.

If you still have a flip-phone, or need the bigger screen, have your dealer put you in touch with the company that provides and updates Jaguar's mapping software. I'm sure it has updates available, and will be happy to sell you one. They'll probably send you a CD, with instructions on how to spend your afternoon trying to update the thing. Or you can pay your dealer to do it for you.

But consider changing with the times, Phil. Built-in navigation systems are way behind smartphone technology, at the moment.

 

Got a question about cars? Write to Car Talk in care of this newspaper, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.

(c) 2016 by Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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