Five years after the launch of CarPlay, there are still very few car manufacturers supporting Apple's in-car platform wirelessly. The main benefit of wireless CarPlay is a nearly seamless experience of having much of your phone's core functionality available just a fingertip or voice command away on your car's infotainment system while your phone remains in your pocket.
So far, wireless CarPlay support is largely limited to some premium brands, and Porsche is one of those brands that recently rolled out support for it.
For a taste of that experience, Porsche invited me down to Atlanta for a day to take a look at how wireless CarPlay works hand-in-hand with the native infotainment system on the 2019 Macan S crossover. I also got to spend some time behind the wheel of the Macan S on the track at the Porsche Experience Center and check out the Heritage Gallery, a frequently changing display of some of the most important and collectible vehicles in Porsche's storied history.
While the Macan is certainly a fun crossover to drive and I had a great time putting it through its paces on the track and the other elements in the Porsche Experience Center, the primary purpose of my trip was to check out the infotainment system and how it works with CarPlay.
Porsche's infotainment system is known as Porsche Communication Management (PCM), and as on most cars, it's the hub for much of the technology you need to interact with on a regular basis. The Macan comes with a 10.9-inch widescreen infotainment display, which allows for terrific integration between CarPlay and the tile-based PCM system.
When active, CarPlay takes over a significant portion of the display, but a top status bar, left-side shortcuts bar, and multiple right-side app tiles remain visible at all times, making it easy to manage both systems simultaneously.
All of the home screen tiles on PCM are configurable, so you can customize things just the way you want, and support for multiple layouts makes it easy to switch between tile sets.
The Macan offers a relatively clean center stack dominated by the widescreen display, with a handy set of hardware buttons and a couple of knobs thankfully making for quick access to a number of important functions merely by feel.
The simplicity of the center stack is made possible due to Porsche's decision to move the vast majority of hardware controls down to the center console clustered around the gearshift. There are over 30 buttons and switches located down on the center console, including climate control, heated/ventilated seat controls, and various driving mode options. It's an overwhelming experience when you first sit down in the cockpit, but you quickly discover that many of the important ones should become familiar to find by feel while others are used infrequently enough that their location isn't an issue for everyday driving.
With available built-in navigation capable of taking over nearly the entire widescreen display, you certainly get an expansive view of what's around you. The display sits a little lower on the dash than I prefer for visibility, but I'd say it's about average in this regard.
The persistent top and left status/navigation bars and the hardware buttons make it easy to jump between functions even while enjoying a wide fullscreen experience. A small digital display on the driver's dashboard can also serve as a configurable supplemental screen for navigation to make it easier to see directions and other vehicle information like audio, phone, settings, and more at a glance.
While CarPlay is available on all Macan models, it is not a standard feature. CarPlay support is priced at $360 as a standalone option, or it's available as part of several premium packages.
The 2019 Macan doesn't offer wireless charging, but the recently launched 2020 model does include it as an option, allowing for an even more seamless experience. The wireless charger is included in an optional $690 smartphone compartment located in the center console, with the compartment also able to serve as an antenna booster for improved signal strength.
If you don't opt for the wireless charger or just want to plug in your phone, you'll have two available USB-A ports inside that center console. Two more USB-A charging ports are located on the rear of the console to serve passengers in the back.
Wired CarPlay is available across the Porsche lineup, and the company is working on rolling out wireless CarPlay on a number of its models as the infotainment systems get refreshed, and for the 2020 model year, the Macan, Taycan Turbo/Turbo S, and all 911 Carrera variants will offer wireless CarPlay.
One of the major points of difficulty with CarPlay is frequently integration with a vehicle's native infotainment system, as swapping between the two systems or seeing what's going one while using the other one can be difficult, but Porsche has done a great job making multitasking across PCM and CarPlay nearly seamless. The widescreen display offers plenty of room to show a traditionally sized CarPlay screen while still giving you access to all sorts of menus and information tiles from PCM, all visible at the same time.
To me, this is the best way to take advantage of widescreen displays with CarPlay, rather than going to a wide fullscreen CarPlay interface that forces you to exit CarPlay in order to access native infotainment functions. On systems like this whether both CarPlay and the native interface are available simultaneously, you can sometimes run into conflicts where certain native functions like phone and messages are unavailable because they're currently being handled by CarPlay, but with the extensive home screen tile customization available in PCM it's easy to configure things in just the way you like.
Wireless CarPlay is an extra bonus that really needs to start trickling its way down beyond a small handful of luxury car manufacturers at this point. For short trips where you don't need or want to bother plugging in your phone, it's super convenient for CarPlay to simply pop up on the dash even with your phone still in your pocket. The growing prevalence of wireless phone charging in vehicles even lets you top off your phone without needing to worry about cables.
The one major downside with all of this is cost, and CarPlay doesn't exactly come cheaply on the Macan. As noted above, CarPlay is a $360 option on its own, or it comes as part of some other packages. And if you want wireless phone charging as well, that's another significant cash outlay since it comes bundled as with the antenna-boosting smartphone compartment. It may not make a huge amount of difference to luxury car buyers already laying out quite a bit of cash for their purchases, but the ability to have your phone's functions and data conveniently accessible on your car's dashboard is such a benefit that I can only hope we see a trend toward CarPlay (and Android Auto) support being included standard on an increasing number of vehicles.