2018 Toyota Entune 3.0 System Review: Holding out hope

Toyota Camry hero shot

The Pros

  • Wireless charging
  • Better than what Toyota had before
  • Siri and Google Assistant are compatible

The Cons

  • No CarPlay or Android Auto
  • No in-car Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Very limited third-party app integration

Toyota has finally brought its Entune infotainment system to Canada after years operating in other markets, including the United States. Now that it’s crossed the border, does it feel like a big upgrade?

More and more, Toyota (and by extension, Lexus) is something of an island in the world of automotive infotainment. It brought in Entune to some of its 2018 vehicles, but still refuses to support Apple’s CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto projection platforms.

Cutting those out could be viewed as a courageous move (pun intended), except it applies more pressure on Toyota’s engineers and Tier 1 suppliers to come up with a viable alternative. Entune isn’t something new. The 3.0 version is merely an evolution of an existing platform that had plenty of holes to fill.

I got to test drive it in a 2018 Toyota Camry XSE, which is a $37,000 vehicle with all the upgrades inside. Entune 3.0 is essentially standard on all trims, though embedded navigation isn’t on all of them.

The system is not backward-compatible, so if you already own a Toyota model from the last few years, you won’t be able to get it installed.

That gives it a form of exclusivity, but as I’ll demonstrate, it has a long way to go to drive past competitors.

The basics

Toyota infotainment screen

Entune is largely an app-based platform that works in tandem with a connected smartphone. The phone is necessary to pull in the data required to run apps on the platform itself. The in-car SIM has an exclusive data connection.

I say ‘exclusive’ for the simple reason that the SIM doesn’t do anything else for the driver. It’s easy to install system upgrades over the air, and in my one week of testing, I had to do it three times. That’s a good sign. At least it shows Toyota is trying to improve and tweak what it has.

The problem was I had no idea what the update was changing. The install alone could take several minutes, and no pop-up on the screen appeared to tell me what it was fixing. Was it a security update? A new feature? A basic tweak I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed? I never knew.

I point this out because, being new to the Canadian market, there is a learning curve involved in what Entune and the wider system can do.

In that respect, I would break down Entune and the infotainment system as two equal parts. Entune works within it, yet feels like it operates independently to some degree.

Toyota also packed the Camry with various safety features under its Safety Sense package, though I didn’t focus on those for this review. There are no autonomous driving features included in any 2018 Camry trim.

Connections and layout

Toyota steering wheel controls

Much of what Toyota put in the Camry XSE was standard fare. There is a dedicated USB port for smartphones under the dash beside an Aux-In port. There are two more USB ports with 2.1Amp power inside the centre console. These are only for charging, and do not interact with the system in any way. You also get a 12-volt socket in there as well.

Under the dash, and in front of the gearshift, is a Qi wireless charging pad. The pad is compatible with any phone supporting the standard, including the iPhone X and iPhone 8/8 Plus. I charged an iPhone X with a case on without fail. Other phones worked fine too. The pad doesn’t work as a physical input, meaning the system won’t see it as a device plugged in directly. Some other automakers have done this, but it’s not an option here.

Bluetooth works as expected, with both Siri Eyes Free and Google Assistant available when phones are paired. To avoid cutting off its own voice assistant, Toyota mapped Siri and Google Assistant to the call button on the steering wheel. The voice button always defaults to Toyota’s own. So, when paired, I pressed the call button and Siri or Assistant would pipe up waiting for a command.

Toyota texting screen

I mentioned the in-car SIM’s limitations, and will add that it also doesn’t do in-car Wi-Fi. It’s a passive data connection in the car serving the infotainment system, not any devices brought into the vehicle.

The 8-inch display (some trims have a 7-inch) is clear and bright. While capacitive, its touch sensitivity isn’t like a mobile device. It’s easier to get around by tapping arrows or navigation bars, rather than swiping. Pinch-to-zoom also didn’t work for me.

Physical buttons and dials flank the display, simplifying how to get to shortcuts or basic features, like volume.

Entune apps

Toyota Entune data screen

Entune’s app integration relies on what is already there, rather than what you have on your phone. There is one exception to that with navigation maps, which I’ll touch on later.

These apps are mostly proprietary, with the exception of Yelp, Slacker and NPR One. I noted the in-car SIM already, which clearly has a data connection to pull in updates over the air, but it doesn’t chip in for Entune. Without using the phone’s data connection, the apps wouldn’t pull in any information.

What’s in the app suite is almost entirely contextual. That’s great in theory, and results weren’t all that bad during my testing. Fuel listed the nearest gas stations. Traffic pointed out obstacles or incidents on the road. Weather showed me a forecast and current conditions. Sports gave me the latest scores from a variety of leagues. Stocks could show me how my portfolio was doing.

In the case of Fuel and Traffic, I could see where their respective locations were on the Scout GPS map. If need be, I could also initiate navigation to the gas station I selected.

They felt a little dated, but these basics apps weren’t that bad. The thing that struck me was that I was getting something visual on the screen when I could simply ask Siri or Google Assistant for some of the same information. If I wanted to know a score, I simply asked for it. Same with weather or traffic. Even the nearest gas station wasn’t hard to find, and I never had to cycle through a menu.

In one sense, Toyota is offering the best of both worlds. Those who want something to actually see can peruse the onscreen list. Other who can get around fine verbally have their phone’s voice assistant do the work.

Adding Yelp is definitely helpful, and it works well in Entune. Given that neither CarPlay or Android Auto have integrated it, this is a rare win for a factory infotainment system.

Scout GPS navigation map

Toyota GPS Scout Link

If you’ve never heard of Scout GPS Link, it’s not surprising. This is a dedicated navigation mapping app made for Toyota and Lexus vehicles. It was the only embedded nav option on the Camry XSE, and it ran off my phone.

The app is available for free on iOS and Android. It doesn’t require opening an account, but doing so does make the process of connecting in the car easier. Once registered, in-car connections are almost instant.

Telenav’s OpenStreetMap powers the app’s maps, with a decent enough interface, though not on par with the slick feel of Google Maps or Waze. Strangely, there was no way to send a destination from the phone to the car. This was odd, given the in-car SIM. Instead, I had to start the route on the phone first, which would then pick up once I connected in the car. Not terribly invasive, except I could hear the map’s voice awkwardly give instructions as I was walking in public toward the car.

As for actual performance, there were some inconsistencies. Initially, my iPhone X wouldn’t work when plugged in, even though it did over Bluetooth. I wasn’t able to play music when plugging in a Pixel 2 XL, yet ran Scout GPS Link without a problem.

It attempts to be dynamic by showing construction and certain points of interest on the map. It just lacks the texture and dynamism I’ve become accustomed to with Google Maps and Waze. Even Apple Maps looks considerably better.

Also worth noting is the map won’t work outside Canada. Cross the border into the U.S. and it won’t carry on. Having a backup ready with Google Maps, Waze, TomTom Go or something else, even if it works offline, is the only other option.

Music and calls

Toyota texting screen

Slacker is okay, but it felt like a consolation. Same with NPR One. I’d much rather have TuneIn built-in, with native support for Spotify. That combination would do wonders for Entune, but as is, the system feels like it integrates what was relevant in 2010.

Bluetooth audio streaming was fine, no matter what I played, but I wouldn’t expect any less. I could control playback through the physical buttons and steering wheel, or even moderately control things through voice (more with Assistant than Siri).

What I missed was the integration CarPlay and Android Auto enable. With Toyota’s system, I could never see playlists, or navigate to different streaming music apps. I needed to use my phone to do that, which defeats the purpose of hands-free operation.

Phone calls were pretty flawless, regardless of whether I used Toyota’s system, or the other voice platforms. Texting was initially problematic until I realized that Toyota developed its voice system to be precise. If I simply said, “Send a text to (name),” it would give me a puzzled response. If I said, “Messaging,” it would then ask me who to send it to, with a list of preloaded messages I could send. I was impressed there were 15 to choose from, including common quick ones, like “yes,” “I’m on my way,” and “LOL.”

If I wanted to recite my own message, I could do that instead. In those cases, though, I usually leaned on Siri or Assistant to do the job.

Wrap up

I can understand Toyota’s reluctance to cede some control of its dash to Apple and Google. I’ve already heard feedback from the company expressing concern over how Android Auto pulls in data. But Entune 3.0 doesn’t stand out as an alternative trumping those platforms. They have the kind of integration and flexibility Toyota hasn’t been able to keep up with.

The lack of in-car Wi-Fi can be offset by third-party devices that can do it. Siri and Google Assistant work reasonably well via Bluetooth. That leaves the apps. Comparing what Entune has to the likes of Spotify, Google Play Music, Waze, Google Maps, among others, indicates the divide. Drivers know and understand the apps on CarPlay and Android Auto, which generally leads to a better experience.

Toyota is less a renegade opposing the status quo, and more an established holdout buying time. It’s just not clear how much patience drivers will have when others are driving in unison towards something else.

"I can understand Toyota’s reluctance to cede some control of its dash to Apple and Google"

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Comments

  • Terry

    Those are some pretty big ‘cons’. No CarPlay. No Android Auto. No point. What makes automakers think they can build smartphones?

    • The Finder

      Lol they are huge cons. The least they can do is make them Android Auto and CarPlay compatible. I’ve got a Toyota RAV4 from 2013 with navigation built-in, and it’s the old entune which you can’t upgrade. It’s so slow and doesn’t include new roads and the user interface is like using a laggy 1990s cellphone lol. The only good thing about it is it connects to my phones Bluetooth so I can listen to Spotify and answer calls.

  • The Finder

    In today’s world, things like Android Auto and CarPlay arent just features, they’re necessities. Especially if you’re commuting back and forth to work, and doing other stuff with ur car, that’s alot of time in your day that you’re spending inside the car. They might as well make some progress on syncing your smartphone and car a little closer together. Toyota needs a huge reality check. Their entune software for 90% of cars is stuck in 1995 software.

  • deltatux

    Just the fact that it lacks Android Auto & Apple CarPlay automatically disqualifies them from my car purchasing list. Toyota does make very reliable car, but what’s the point of a super reliable car that fails to feature what’s considered pretty much standard these days?

    Toyota does have competitors that make reliable cars too, they might not be as reliable but enough that I’m willing to trade a bit of reliability for driving pleasure.

  • Billy joseph

    I have a 2016 Toyota rav4 with the JBL premium sound system and it’s the worst sound system ever. My wife’s 2013 Jetta has a standard system that puts it to shame. I love Toyota as a brand for its reliability but the infotainment situation is terrible…

  • JD

    If you want a reliable appliance get a Toyota and good car mount.
    Toyota will not join the rest of the world and I kinda admire them for it. Entune sucks and I give them 2 middle fingers up for not even giving Canada a chance at versions 1-2

  • Anaron

    No Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, no care. I’ve been eyeing the 2017 Toyota Corolla but I also want CarPlay. Seems like Honda is a better choice for me.

  • Ipse

    Good morning Toyota. 2006 called and they want their infotainment system back.

    Seriously, if you decide to forego Android Auto and Apple Carplay you better offer a kick a$$ alternative which INCLUDED navigation by default.
    Not sure what the thinking behind these poor marketing decisions is, but customers will vote with their wallets forcing Toyota to cave in. Give it another year.

  • Frank Dietzel

    I have a ‘17 XLE. Disappointed Entune cannot be back-dated.

  • caanda45

    I have a 2016 Kia Optima with Car play and Android auto and Siri eyes free. Unfortunately no Google assistant. I rarely us Car Play as it is glitchy and you need the physical connection with a usb lightening cable. I think Toyota is making a ok decision here, if I had it all (just add Google Assistant) I would almost never use Car Play or Android Auto, the Siri eyes free and I assume Google Assistant (haven`t had the opportunity to use it, but feel it has the same application and resources as Eyes Free) would meet almost all of my needs. And then if I wanted more I could use Car Play or Android Auto . So I almost have it all, just missing Google Assistant……Toyota I think made this decision based on real time users experience….imho

  • DubbingHammer

    I do understand some reluctance on manufacturers part on handing over control of the infotainment system to likes of Apple or Google. I’m sure it’s also affecting their bottom line as more people will not consider getting an optional navigation packages, often costing thousands of dollars initially and a few hundreds to update, now that more continent and optimized system is available for ‘free’. It’s supposed to a complimentary feature overlaying on a top of the existing system but you can’t really compete with apps being updated almost every week based on billions of user feedback.

  • Raphael Del Castillo

    According to Toyota, the reason as to why they have yet to add android auto and apple car play is due to the following:

    1. data and rights to their equipment. Yes by including Android auto and apple car play, they are allowing Google and apple to collect propriety data and driving information. As you know apple and google are in the self driving business now. As such what’s the best way to get free data from drivers? By integrating their system into existing cars. Millions of data to compile and get essential free information.

    2. According to some report which I have forgotten the name of, the average age of a car buyer is 47. Not everyone is a Millennial or cares about phone integration into their car. Maybe down the road, once those that care start to age and those other generations no longer buy vehicles then they will include it.

    Personally I had used android auto on a cadillac XTS and I found it to be okay. I am a heavy android user yet when plugged in, I was unable to use my phone to access other apps. Mind you when you are parked and listening to music, to even use other apps I have to unplug which would then disconnect the music. This was quite an inconvenience.

    So either way, once the older generations no longer purchase vehicles and more millennials purchase vehicles, then toyota will care.

    • TP

      I agree toyour points.
      I am a huge Android user. I’ve been using Android since 2011. I tried Android Auto. The ONLY thing I liked about it was to be able to use Google Maps with its integrated search & information (like, when the store closes, phone number popping up right in the search result, etc). But..that was about it. Most of the apps that I use on a daily basis are still not compatible with Android Auto. In the millions of Android apps, there are still less than 50 apps compatible. None of my main IM or music apps are supported (and they are quite popular ones too).

      I am rather much more comfortable with in-car navigation (as long as it’s regularly updated over the air with real-time traffic) and in-car audio system or bluetooth streaming.

    • Raphael Del Castillo

      Correct. The Maps was the only feature I had enjoyed. But had found that even with Apple Car play and Android Auto, your head up display unit will not display a path if not played through the built-in navigation. I had decided to move to Google play music after being on spotify for a year and i find it to be less intuitive but a bit better integrated which would make sense since it is a google product.

    • TP

      Exactly. The map, route, display path, direction were only displayed in the screen, and I’m just so used to look at head-up display or the display shown on my digital dashboard display.
      So it’s even less intuitive than the in-car navigation for me. As a map product as-is, Google Maps is probably the best…however the in-car integration is not perfect even in Android Auto. Combined with the limited compatibility, and actually no compatibility with my regular apps (PowerAmp, Line, etc), I didn’t understand why all the rave about Android Auto.

    • Raphael Del Castillo

      haha. Indeed. For me I prefer a wireless connection, it beats having to always plug it in and be tangled up with wires, but that is how they work. What I enjoy about the new scout gps entune system is that it works through wireless and chord which is good because if I don’t always need to charge up and use the system I can just use the basics through wireless connection. When google releases their own fully autonomous driving vehicles in the future, it will sure fulfill the gripes we have about integration now. But then again, that may be a decade or so from now. Haha

    • TP

      Got cha, we pretty much have the same view on Android Auto..
      Until Android Auto proves to be a superior and more convenient system than the combination of in-car navigation + wireless connection, I don’t see myself using it even if it’s available in my daily car.

    • Tony

      Well, I’m 63 and will buy a new car this year, but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto means I won’t be buying a Toyota. Many older people like me depend on an Apple or Android smartphone daily and don’t want to relearn some retrograde navigation app just for Toyota, so a new vehicle that doesn’t offer the mobile support for either OS is a non-starter.

  • Me Ted

    Sadly this will influence my decision when purchasing a new car next year. Even the base models from Honda, Kia and Hyundai have integrated Android Auto and Apple Car Play. I’ll be avoiding Toyota I guess.

  • Tony

    One of the reasons I want a new car is to have Google Maps on the dashboard or heads-up display. Toyota’s refusal to support smartphone integration would force me to revert to a phone holder stuck to the dashboard – unsafe and illegal here in B.C. so that’s not going to happen. In addition, Toyota only lets you use their inferior Scout GPS navigation system (read the horrible reviews) for the first three years – then they want you to pay to use it.