Apple CarPlay brings Buick into the 21st century

GM tests the waters with its leading luxury car brand

Apple CarPlay Buick

Apple's ascent into the automotive atmosphere rages on. During this year's CE Week conference in New York City, General Motors announced Apple CarPlay will be available on the 2016 Buick LaCrosse and Regal models.

Found as an "app" on the Buick's existing IntelliLink in-dash infotainment system, GM's CarPlay integration includes all of the functions and services that we've already come to expect from Apple's solution for the connected car. Naturally, Apple's personal assistant, Siri, is at the center of the experience.

It's a small rollout in comparison to, say, GM's own Chevrolet seeing both CarPlay and Google's Android Auto on 14 models come 2016.

When asked why that is on the CE Week show floor, a representative cited the volume with which GM ships these two particular Buick models in comparison to the rest of the Buick lineup as the main reason.

Speaking of which, GM teased Android Auto integration will launch on these Buick models through an update to the IntelliLink system "later in the model year."

Apple CarPlay Buick
Sure, it's Apple Maps – but at least it's a map?

How does it work?

Frankly, CarPlay on a Buick works in much the same way it does on a Chevy, a Volkswagen, or any other compatible vehicle. Accessed through an app on the IntelliLink dashboard (after your iPhone is connected to the car's USB port), CarPlay presents all of the same options it does on any vehicle.

This includes access to Apple's apps for making phone calls, sending text messages, listening to local music or podcasts and accessing Apple Maps, among other functions. Of course, Buick's implementation of CarPlay will support all of the third-party apps that Apple's system does.

Beyond the odd tap of the 8-inch IntelliLink touchscreen to initiate an app or control music playback, CarPlay is all voice controlled through Siri. Since tapping the touchscreen all the time isn't an ideal solution for accessing all these features, Buick has allowed for access to CarPlay through its existing voice control button on the LaCrosse and Regal's steering wheels.

Sadly, it didn't work during my time inside an otherwise snazzy 2016 Buick LaCrosse on the CE Week show floor. Instead, it activated the Buick's default, IntelliLink-powered voice control and promptly told me to long press the button to initiate Siri instead. No such luck.

Apple CarPlay Buick
Messages appear like they would on your iPhone, only bigger

At any rate, the system worked as it should when accessed through the touchscreen, which then would prompt Siri. However, it became glaringly apparent that your experience with CarPlay will heavily rely on the strength of your LTE connection.

Since LTE signals were getting cut heavily through the walls and ceilings of the show floor, it took quite a while for CarPlay to summon directions to a nearby Chevy dealer – cute.

It's a stark reminder that CarPlay and Android Auto, at least for now, are only as strong and useful as the access you have to LTE. In other words, folks in the Midwest of the US will likely have a very different CarPlay experience from those driving throughout, say, the Northeast Corridor.

When asked whether CarPlay and Android Auto would come to the full lineup of Buick vehicles, a Buick representative said it will happen within the next 36 months. Clearly, GM is taking baby steps with Buick – maybe the demographic has something to do with that.

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