People used to looking up an address on a smartphone can now do it right in their car’s dashboard, then save that address to the navigation system. Other apps that can come in handy on the road, as deemed by these automakers, bring up Internet radio, social networking and dinner reservations.
2012 Audi A6
4.5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding)
The good: Navigation enhanced by Google, a touch-pad cabin tech interface, a supercharged direct-injection engine, an eight-speed transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive combine to make the 2012 Audi A6 one of the most cutting-edge cars on the road.
The bad: Audi’s routing algorithm does not do a very good job of avoiding traffic jams. Only the top trim level offers branded audio systems.
The cost: $49,900
The bottom line: Despite some very slight issues, the car is a tech powerhouse, a comfortable sedan with a powerful, efficient engine and the most advanced navigation system available.
2012 BMW 328i
4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)
The good: The new four-cylinder engine delivers an excellent combination of power and economy, and handling is superb. BMW’s app integration brings in Pandora, MOG, Facebook and Twitter. Navigation shows rich maps and integrates Google local search.
The bad: Just about every tech feature is an option, quickly raising the price. The idle-stop feature causes an unpleasant shudder in the car when the engine kicks on. App integration is only available for the iPhone.
The cost: $34,900
The bottom line: BMW has managed to retain its driving virtues while drastically increasing fuel economy. Cabin technology stays on the cutting edge with app integration and other connected features.
2013 Lexus GS 450h
4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)
The good: A hybrid gas-electric power train reliably averages 30 mpg. An adaptive suspension gives it unexpectedly good cornering. The Enform system brings in apps such as Facebook, Yelp, OpenTablet and Bing search.
The bad: The joystick controller on the console feels plasticky, and it is difficult to accurately control t he onscreen pointer.
The cost: $58,950
The bottom line: This is a tech tour de force, getting outrageously good fuel economy for this class of car with its hybrid drive system, and giving drivers the convenience of popular apps integrated with the cabin electronics.
2012 Ford Fiesta
3.5 stars out of 5 (Very good)
The good: Sync in the offers voice command over music and Bluetooth phones, along with smartphone app integration. A rigid suspension makes the car feel very maneuverable.
The bad: The ride can feel a little harsh, and the engine makes a tortured whine at high rpms. Onboard navigation is not available.
The cost: $17,500
The bottom line: Sync and AppLink give the Fiesta an impressive techie edge, while the body design and decent fuel economy lend to overall practicality, but the car does not punch above its class in comfort.