Such is the immense loyalty of Porsche’s customer base, it’s tempting to restrict judgment of the latest version of the PCM infotainment platform to the context of previous iterations. Indeed, for those of you who are interested in how PCM 3.0 stacks up compared to its progenitors, our Porsche-aholic head honcho, Riyad, has it covered (see Riyad’s take on PCM 3.0 below).
However, one shouldn’t have to make excuses for Porsches when it comes to in-car technology. So, it’s the comparison with other more mainstream premium brands that really matters. For the most part, PCM 3.0 measures up reasonably well. It’s a touch-based system with a 6.5in LCD screen located in the centre console in the conventional fashion. It’s augmented by a secondary monochrome display in the driver’s instrument cluster, again much like the sort of setup you find in more mass market marques.
Features include a hard-drive navigation system with maps covering most European territories, audio entertainment, telephony and various additional in-car information. In terms of pricing, the basic PCM setup adds £1,904 to the cost of a Cayman. Our test car was also fitted with the Sound Package Plus (another £345), iPod and USB support (£217) and Bluetooth telephony (£512). Those are very hefty numbers, so you might be surprised to learn you’ll have to pay even more (£295) to add voice control, an option not fitted to our test car. We have some pretty serious beefs with this pricing scheme, but we’ll save our detailed complaints for the conclusion.
In terms of input, the touch-screen is backed up by a number of alternatives. First up, there’s a small selector knob on the lower right hand side of the main display. It operates a little like the larger wheels or pucks in systems such as BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI, allowing users to highlight and scroll through various on-screen options. The system also sports a range of direct short cut keys around the display which are used to move through the various parts of the interface: audio, navigation, trip computer, telephony and so forth.
There are also a few extra hardware keys with dedicated functions, such as buttons for accepting and ending voice calls, selecting audio sources and calibrating the sound system as well as option and back buttons that can be used anywhere in the interface. For the most part, where multiple input methods overlap the user may choose the method of preference. Just occasionally, however, this logic breaks down, leading to confusion. The best example of this is Bluetooth telephony, more on which in a moment.
Overall, PCM 3.0 looks and feels like a mature and sophisticated system from a big manufacturer. The various switches and rockers operate with precision and the touch-screen itself is responsive – false or inaccurate inputs are extremely rare. In short, it’s one of the better bits of the Cayman’s cabin. Likewise, the mix of touch, buttons and knobs works well for everything from address inputs to surfing radio stations. PCM 3.0 gets the job done without pandering to any particular interface method or metaphor such as wheel input.
However, its greatest weakness must be the visual quality of LCD screen in the main console. There’s nothing actually wrong with the quality of the on-screen graphics and screen furniture. The layout is logical and includes a handy status bar at the bottom showing phone connectivity, audio source and track name when available and the external temperature, among other options.
The problem is that the screen itself is low-resolution and consequently extremely coarse. As we’ll see, that doesn’t just spoil the aesthetic. It can lead to ergonomic problems when the system is attempting to relay large quantities of information – think split screen navigation. It simply lacks the fidelity to do so in a clear manner.
As for the secondary information screen located below the rev counter in the instrument panel, in our test car it’s controlled by a steering column lever. Porsche does offer a multi-function steering wheel as an alternative, but it was not fitted to our car. Anyhow, this mini display offers limited access to some parts of the overall PCM feature set, including navigation, audio, telephone and the Sport Chrono system as well as car status information such as oil level.
It’s a handy extra for re-selecting recent destinations from the navigation system or commonly called phone book contacts, even if the lever control is a little unwieldy at first. The multi-function steering wheel might just be worth the extra £341.