What to make of the C5's entertainment system? The broad specification is moderately promising thanks to support for MP3 playback, CD ripping and 10GB of storage space among other features. But like much of the rest of the infotainment rig, frustration and confusion is never far away.
Before we get to our detailed complaints, first a quick breakdown of what the system offers. There's a single optical drive in the centre console capable of reading both standard RedBook CDs and MP3 CDs. Redbook CDs can be ripped for storage on the 10GB hard drive. The glovebox, meanwhile, houses an array of analogue RCA aux-input sockets including a composite video port, more on which in a moment. Note, however, that there is no digital connectivity, be that general USB or specific iPod support. Finally, there's also an RDS AM/FM radio tuner.
The problems start with the CD ripping. Without any kind of CD database, users must manual assign album, artist and track information. That's no small task given that the system lacks a touch-screen for text input. But our biggest complaint involves the onscreen interface. In short, it's completely baffling. Part of the problem is the fact that management of the MP3 jukebox's content has been completely separated from the playback controls. Often, therefore, you have track lists or albums displayed on the screen but no way of accessing them for playback.
However, pretty much all areas of the interface are hard to fathom. Despite having the manual to hand, for instance, it took us a good five minutes of hammering away at the console controls to work out how to do something as simple as changing the album being played. Admittedly, once learned most functions can be accessed pretty swiftly, but the curve is unnecessarily painful.
One other idiosyncrasy that we found particularly infuriating is the impatience of the interface. It's far too quick to give up if you fail to make an input and jump back to displaying the track being played, the navigation map or whatever the previous focus was. In other words, should you become momentarily distracted having drilled down through several layers of options, you'll be booted out of the menu and forced to start all over again. Maddening! Playlist creation isn't exactly world beating, either. It can only be done via the jukebox management menu and you can't add tracks on the fly during playback.
In that context, the multi-function steering wheel provides some welcome respite. The right-hand of the its two scroll wheels allows you to roll through the various on screen options, whether that's selecting tracks from the jukebox or stations from the RDS tuner. It's easily the most painless part of the experience.
As for the video playback function, it's limited to displaying composite analogue video piped through the aux socket in the glovebox. There's no support for DVDs or video file formats generally, nor a TV tuner. We didn't have a composite source to hand for quality testing, but frankly we can't imagine this feature will see a great deal of use.
Still, we can report that the audio quality packs plenty of power and betrays little evidence of distortion when you crank up the volume. That said, the soundstage is pretty muddy - clarity certainly isn't a strong point.