Back in 2007 when I was speccing up my Porsche 911 I was surprised to find there was no option for Bluetooth. The only telephone option available was to insert a SIM into the head unit itself, which was hardly the most convenient of solutions. This meant that if I opted for the Telephone Module, I would have to remove the SIM from my phone every time I got into the car (not easy with an iPhone), or have a completely separate phone number for the car. Consequently, I refrained from opting for the Telephone Module.
I was similarly surprised to find that there was also no option to connect an iPod or any other external MP3 player to the car. And even though the option for an iPod dock did appear before I took delivery, it turned out to be nothing more than a glorified FM transmitter, so, once again I decided to live without that particular option. After all, I wasn’t really buying a 911 for the infotainment system!
The second generation Porsche Communications Management (PCM) system that came with my car isn’t the most user friendly or intuitive installation that I’ve used, and as I’ve already mentioned, a few desirable features are conspicuous by their absence. The question therefore, is how does the new third generation PCM found in this Cayman compare, and improve on the old system that I use every day?
”’(centre)The second generation PCM has a plethora of small buttons, making it tricky to operate.(/centre)”’
The first thing that I noticed about the new PCM is that it’s not as cluttered as the old version. Gone is the numeric keypad that ran down the left side of the screen, which instantly makes the whole system look less busy. The reason that Porsche has managed to do away with the keypad is that the third generation PCM incorporates a touch-screen interface.
For me, there’s no doubt that touch-screen is the way to go for in-car entertainment and navigation systems. It’s so much easier just tapping options on a screen rather than turning dials and moving joysticks around before you can select the option you’re after. With the previous PCM you have to turn the right dial to navigate and press it to make your selection. As always this makes entering addresses into the navigation system something of a chore. So with regards to the interface and usability, the new system is far more simple and intuitive to use than the one it replaces.
As well as having a touch interface, the screen on the new PCM is also larger at 6.5in, compared to 5.8in on the old system. The screen also now sports a widescreen aspect ratio, as opposed to the more traditional shape of the previous model. Whether the screen is better quality, however, is another matter altogether. To me the new PCM screen doesn’t seem as vivid as the one in my own car, although this could well be due to its touch-screen nature.
A definite advantage is the option for a proper iPod dock with the new PCM, and the system works very well indeed. You can search by artist or album, while also accessing all the playlists resident on your iPod. Having played with this Cayman for a while I have to say that this is one option that I’d quite like in my car, but as always with Porsche, it doesn’t come cheap.
”’(centre)The third gen PCM is a definite improvement aesthetically and the touch-screen makes it far simpler to interact with.(/centre)”’
The inclusion of Bluetooth support is also welcome, but this particular feature would be of little use to me, since it’s not compatible with the iPhone. For some reason Porsche has chosen not to use a standard hands-free Bluetooth profile, which means that mobile phone support is somewhat limited. In fact, the only handset that we could get working was a Nokia 6301, with Windows Mobile and Motorola handsets joining the iPhone on the incompatibility list.
The satellite navigation portion of the new PCM has also been updated and is now hard disk based, as opposed to the version that I have, which reads all its map data from DVD. On the down side though, there’s still no seven-digit postcode support, leaving you with the same five-digit input as the older unit that I have. To be fair, we’re yet to look at an in-car navigation system that has full seven-digit postcode support, but they do exist.
I also would have liked to have seen some of that hard disk space used for storing music, as was the case with the system in the VW Scirocco that I looked at recently. It seems a waste to go to the trouble of installing a hard disk and not allowing the user access to any of that storage. Surely capacity isn’t an issue, since all the European maps fit on one DVD in my car, so even a very modest 20GB drive, would still leave you with half free for music.
All that said, you don’t see too many Porsches without a full PCM system installed, mainly because as a percentage of the overall cost of the car, it’s actually not that expensive. Also, if you’re buying, say, a 911 Carrera S instead of the base level Cayman seen here, the PCM system comes as standard. The problem is that you’ll still have to pay extra for the navigation module, the iPod dock, the Bluetooth support and even Voice Control. But that has always been the scary part of buying a Porsche – ticking those option boxes can get worryingly addictive!