Hyundai Genesis Coupe navigation system prototype – Click above for high-res image gallery

When Hyundai's sparkling Genesis Coupe debuted earlier this year, we heard from many of you who were excited about the rear-drive model's performance prospects. More than a few we spoke with, however, expressed disappointment that it did not arrive in showrooms with an optional in-dash navigation unit, particularly since Hyundai was plainly targeting premium competitors like the Infiniti G37. Well, we've just returned from the company's HATCI facility (Hyundai-Kia American Technical Center, Inc.) in Ann Arbor, and we're happy to report that we've been given an in-depth look at a prototype of the company's next-generation system that will find its way into the Genesis Coupe beginning later this summer.

Fair Warning: The accompanying photographs are of a rough engineering prototype unit, but we thought our readers would appreciate the early look. As is typical of such mules, the instrument panel is more than a bit tired looking from having its "head unit swapped out more often than you change your underwear" (so says Dan Bedore, Hyundai's quick-witted P.R. manager).

Click on the jump to get the full skinny.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Chris Paukert / Weblogs, Inc.

Somewhat unimaginatively dubbed 'AVN' (Audio-Video Navigation) internally, the new system is actually built on the bones of the current nav employed in other Hyundai products, but it sports a new interface and a brace of new features including Bluetooth phone and streaming audio capability.

In our one-on-one in-car session with John Robb, Hyundai's manager of electronics engineering (pictured above), we received a comprehensive walk-through of the new flash memory-based system. Our take? This is a pretty straightforward, easy-to-manipulate unit whose functions are controlled through either the 6.5-inch touchscreen (640 x 480 resolution) or through the voice activated features accessed using the headliner-mounted microphone.

The system comes matched with the company's premium ten-speaker, 360-watt Infinity sound system, which can play compact discs (via a single-slot in-dash unit), access your digital music files employing the aforementioned Bluetooth streaming audio, or by making use of the center console-mounted USB or aux input.

In our limited tinkering time, we found the system to be intuitive to use, walking through everything from the XM satellite radio interface (which now displays each channel's logo iconography) to the nav itself. The latter offers XM real-time NavTraffic, plus features like way-point input and points-of-interest that are linked to both the map and a Bluetooth-connected phone (e.g. you can look up a local restaurant and call for reservations before plotting out the route), although it lacks a 'breadcrumb' feature present on many newer systems (it's being looked at, we were told).

Perhaps the nav system's best feature of all is that it doesn't inhibit the accessing of higher functions just because the car is on the move. Many competing systems disable some of the more keystroke-intense features like address entry – ostensibly for safety reasons – but such electronic nannies can be annoying when your passenger is perfectly capable of responsibly tinkering while you drive.

Worth noting is the simple phone pairing operation, always a particularly critical process for in-car electronics engineers like Robb. While most consumers expect for a given Bluetooth phone to work with any Bluetooth-enabled system, the reality is that Bluetooth is less of a 'standard' and more a set of ever-changing guidelines, with the result being that the Bluetooth protocols employed vary not just from phone manufacturer to phone manufacturer, but from model-to-model, and even model generation to model generation. Thus, universal Bluetooth compatibility is a very tough nut to crack, so most automakers have baskets and baskets of mobile phones that they must tediously hand test against their prototype systems. Anyone who has ever attempted to sync their mobile with a recalcitrant Bluetooth system will appreciate the importance of this routine.

For its part, Robb says that Hyundai's validating process is evolving toward a point where they rotate through 100 phones per year (50 phones every six months) obtained from different brands and different carriers. Some automakers actually have portions of their websites to help prospective owners discern whether their phones have been certified for use with the automaker's vehicles, and Robb says that Hyundai is planning to bring such functionality online soon.

Given that this is a new system, we couldn't help but ask why the Korean automaker declined to add hard-drive-based storage capability for users to rip their music libraries to the car's audio system, as there is with other systems coming on the market (think: Chrysler U-Connect). Robb's answer was twofold, in effect posing the question as to whether such an addition was really a benefit or a redundancy, as most owners have their music already stored on their MP3 players and/or their mobile phones (both of which the AVN accomodates). Fair enough. His second point was that hard drives have durability issues in a mobile environment, where temperatures vary, shocks and jolts are a way of life, and so on. Point taken.

Given that nav system technologies (and the digitized road maps they employ) are constantly evolving, the fact that the system is easily updatable via CD or the USB port is good to know, and conceivably not just maps can be updated going forward, but also new features added (think: breadcrumb) and bug-fixes.

In any case, the new infotainment system headed for the Genesis Coupe promises to be a good, simple unit. Other than Bluetooth streaming audio, it's perhaps light on the cutting-edge frills and frosting employed in some other systems (photo wallpapers, DVD viewing in park, etc.), but we're glad it has a gimmick-free interface and the right features.

Availability has yet to be determined, but we were told that the unit ought to begin appearing in Genesis Coupes this summer. Pricing also has yet to be finalized, although it is likely to be bundled with other options and not be offered as a stand-alone.

For those of you interested in getting navigation in other Hyundai products, we were told that there is a 'rollout map' for other models, but sadly, company representatives wouldn't tell us when and where the AVN will show up next.

Photos Copyright ©2009 Chris Paukert / Weblogs, Inc.

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