New cars now have entire multimedia centers built in. Those who drive a used car, on the other hand, have to put up with suction-cup radio extensions, suction-cup navigation systems and a spiral cable tangle on the steering wheel that endangers traffic. But there is another way.
Test of the Kenwood DNX4250DAB
It used to be that after buying a new (for most people used) car, the radio was replaced with a usable model. Sometimes the value of the vehicle doubled in one fell swoop…
Even new car buyers often had only a radio cable set and speakers installed and bought their desired car radio separately. Namely, the factory radios were not only completely overpriced, but also not efficient.
Since some years this is over, because the car manufacturers sabotage this: One is supposed to have the desired radio installed at the factory or not at all. For this, the radio is connected as strangely as possible – at VW with reversed power connections, at other manufacturers in such a way that without the factory radio on the CAN-BUS suddenly neither window lifters nor alarm system work. If one wants to retrofit DAB or USB, a suction cup solution or an additional unit is then necessary.
Although there are now also good car radios from the factory, these are still overpriced – especially because you have to buy a new car in addition to the new radio. If all you find in a used car is an old cucumber with a cassette player, you're out of luck; the same goes for anyone who, after 10 years of accident-free driving, doesn't want to buy a new car but wants a new radio because they want to connect their phone or iPod, or are tired of the navigation system and radio always jabbering away at each other.
Most brand suppliers of aftermarket car radios have capitulated in the meantime, only Kenwood is still active.
But Kenwood can't work miracles, in a BMW the radio exchange will fail. In the VW Polo, on the other hand, you certainly have a chance: in fact, like many cars, it even has a double DIN installation slot, even if most car owners are probably not even aware of this: The second half is filled with a CD drawer that you just have to pluck out. This means that instead of a pure car radio, a combination with a navigation device can also be installed.
Radio with touchscreen
The device class we're talking about here no longer comes under "car radio" at Kenwood, but under "multimedia". These are combination devices with a large touch screen that can be addressed analog and digital via HDMI to play the screen of a smartphone or the signals of a rearview camera. Dvds can also be watched – but for safety reasons only when the car is stationary. The screen is different in size on the various models.
So now the Kenwood DAB41U – together with the CD tray – was exchanged for the DNX4250DAB. This is very easy – unlike the installation of the DAB41U, there is enough space behind it for the inevitable cable tangle.
The advantage: Once such a screen is available, navigation and radio can also run on the device via appropriate software. So instead of many small buttons, there is a touch screen to control all functions. This pleases the programmers.
For the driver, however, a touch screen is not always safer. Having to tap a touchscreen instead of a volume knob that can be reached without looking would be dangerous for traffic. The rotary knob for the volume is thus retained. And this makes the DNX4250DAB easy to use, even for users who otherwise do not like touchscreens.
The advantage of such a combination device: Navigation system and rear view camera do not come with additional screens that have to be attached to the windshield with a suction cup and to the electrical system with a tangle of cables. The navigation system uses Garmin software and is easy to use, the announcements are easy to understand thanks to the use of the radio speakers. The only difference to a fixed installation ex works: there is no recording of the car's movement independent of the GPS, for example in a tunnel.
Sensitive and versatile
The DAB+ radio has become much more sensitive compared to the previous generation like the KDC-DAB41U and now reaches again the sensitivity of the former DAB systems without "+". Especially in the state-wide DAB network in Bavaria, which has been thinned out for a few months for cost reasons, reasonable reception is now possible again. With "seamless blending", which includes a digital buffer to get the sound in sync, the DNX4250DAB also fills DAB+ reception holes by receiving the same program on FM. However, if there is a stronger FM station of another program right next to the one in question, this can lead to acoustic mishmash if you don't deactivate the automatic fine tuning.
In addition, music can also be played from USB sticks, the iPod or smartphone, as well as via smartphone from the Internet. Similarly, the latter can be operated via the touch screen, although for safety reasons the available functions are reduced when the car is not stationary.
Noticeable are well thought out details. The brightness of the display can be linked either to the low beam – unfavorable, however, in countries where it is also necessary to drive with the lights on during the day – or to the time of day and season determined by the navigation system: This always works! Now the display automatically shifts down a gear in the dark so as not to dazzle anyone.
And what does the fun cost now? Around the 1.000 euros. That may be a lot when compared to a radio from the discount store, but it's little compared to a factory radio with such features, and even less compared to a new car. But now you have an installation without suction cups. Spiral cable on cigarette lighter. Only the microphone of the hands-free system, the GPS antenna of the navigation device and the USB port have to be installed somehow in addition to the cables of a standard car radio – and the cable to the handbrake if you want to watch DVDs.