Product Tested: Pioneer AVIC-Z110BT In-Dash Navigation Receiver
Pros: Sharp display; swift interface; useable voice control; customizable desktop; impressive audio quality.
Cons: Steep price that gets steeper with options; limited map scales; live traffic not visible on all map views.
The AVIC-Z110BT in-dash navigation receiver is the latest in Pioneer's range-topping Z line, taking the flagship mantle from the previously lauded Z1, Z2 and Z3. A touchscreen multi-media juggernaut for your dashboard, the Z110 comes out of the box with voice controlled navigation and Bluetooth functions, dual-zone A/V capability, and single-disc/flash-media based functions. Capable of serving as a hub for a whole-car entertainment system, optional features include HD Radio, satellite radio, back-up camera, live traffic/travel info via MSN Direct, and full iPod/iPhone integration via a proprietary cable.
The Z110's slickest new feature is a Windows-esque Shortcut page that lets you customize which icons reside on the display. Also new is AVIC Feeds software for your home PC that lets you track driving and fuel-economy habits, and an iPhone appto wirelessly stream destinations you've found on your iPhone to the navigation system.
Combined with some serious audio quality, this wealth of capabilities does not come cheap. The AVIC-Z110BT is $1,800 before you start to ladle on the options, but in terms of capabilities and entertainment for your car, the new Z is at the top of the class.
The Pioneer AVIC-Z110BT is designed to fit in double-DIN sized dashboard openings, and uses a bright, high-resolution 7-inch touchscreen display that reacts swiftly to inputs with just a light touch.
The Z110 presents a clean face that is nearly all screen with just a thin, gloss-black bezel along the bottom edge, on which lives an illuminated stripe of "hard" buttons. These include the voice control prompt, volume, track/skip, and eject (which flops the motorized screen down for disc and/or flashcard swaps). A Home button switches between the standard and customizable Shortcut page, and Mode alternates the screen between the navigation map and whatever source you are watching or listening to.
Thanks to new processors, the bright and colorful touchscreen menus can be navigated swiftly, with almost no lag between functions. You can add your own photo as a custom start-up screen, and the Z110's illumination color can be tuned to match nearly any interior scheme. Though simple hacks are available online, from the factory several navigation and cellphone functions are blacked out once moving, but nearly all are accessible via voice control.
We installed the Z110 in a 2007 Subaru Impreza, and to test the seriously potent audio capabilities of the Z110, used it to drive two pairs of Kicker RS-Series component speakers in the front and rear doors, and a trunk mounted JL Audio Stealthbox subwoofer. We tapped the remarkably clean and potent 4-volt outputs from the Z110 to feed a pair of Kicker ZX amplifiers: a 90-watt, 4-channel 350.4 for the component sets; and a mono, 1000-watt 1000.1 for the JL sub.
Slotting right into the double-DIN opening previously occupied by a Pioneer AVIC-F90BT, the Z110's larger screen and swift interface made setup a snap, and the standard 7-band graphic equalizer made for easy and subtle acoustic tuning. To the Z110, we added the optional CD-IU50V iPod cable ($50), ND-MDT10 MSN Direct tuner ($110.00), ND-BC2 backup camera ($250), GEX-P920 XM satellite radio tuner ($100), and the GEX-P20HD HD-Radio tuner ($100). Nearly plug-and-play installations, these additions integrate seamlessly, with new icons simply lighting up in the source menu.
On the Road
Especially when paired with its full complement of options, the AVIC-Z110BT is chock full of capabilities, easily accessed through a clean and peppy interface. The navigation display is crystal sharp and includes a regular map view plus a 3D view of local landmarks in major cities. With the optional MSN Direct tuner installed, live traffic status is overlaid on major roads. Though you can pan the map with a finger swipe at any zoom level, the traffic overlay only kicks in on a limited number of tighter zoom scales (1-mile or tighter). The Z110 could also use more map views (currently 5-, 1-, 0.5-, and .01-miles) at the zoomed-in end of the map scale.
Audio options are legion, and when decked out, you can choose to listen to CD/DVD, satellite radio, HD-Radio, AM/FM, music files (.mp3, .wav, etc.) from the SD flash card reader, your iPod cache, or music streamed wirelessly from your Bluetooth compatible phone. The Z110 gives full control of your iPod via the optional cable, allowing you to sort and access your media via simple onscreen menus, while displaying colorful cover art.
The Z110's bright 7-inch display makes DVD playback a worthwhile consideration, and will also display your iPod videos and even H.264/MPEG-4 video files stored on an SD card. Thanks to an upgraded pre-amp section and new audio processors, the Z110 provides CD-quality sound for all uncompressed iPod formats, and audio quality in general from all sources was impressive — significantly improved from previous-gen Pioneer navigation units.
Bluetooth functions performed smartly, easily paring with a number of phones. Dialing by voice was hit or miss, as it requires you say the name as it's listed in your phone's contact list (though you can just say "John" and it'll bring up all those listed). Intelligibility with the included microphone was excellent, and voice control for navigation proved wildly useful ("...find the nearest Starbucks"). The optional backup camera provided a discernable and bright rear view even at night, and can be used in combination with the navigation map screen while rolling if needed to keep an eye on a trailer.
With so many different sources and capabilities, one of the sweetest new features is the Z110's customizable Shortcut page. Accessible from the Home button on the chin of the Z110, this screen lets you drag and drop 15 of your favorite icons from the audio, communication and POI menus. It'd be hard to overstate how useful this is, letting you put the features you use and want most often literally at your fingertips. Families will especially appreciate being able to put the Call Home and Return Home icons front and center.
Why You Want It
If the budget allows and you're looking to get the latest in-car tech seamlessly integrated through one sharp display, the AVIC-Z110 should be on your short list. The intuitive and swift interface combined with real-world usable voice-control features make this A/V powerhouse a powder-puff for anyone in the family to use. The custom Shortcut page function alone should put it high on your consideration list.
The real surprise with the AVIC-Z110 was the seriously potent and clean sound it delivered through its revamped audio architecture. When paired with quality aftermarket speakers and amplifiers, the Z110 will give dedicated audio setups a run for their money, only adding to the Z110's wide appeal. Cost is the only road bump here — $2,410 before a near requisite professional installation for our fully optioned-out setup.
Others to Consider:
Alpine IVA-W505/P1, Eclipse AVN726E, Kenwood DNX9140
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided Edmunds this product for the purposes of evaluation.
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