iPod Champ or Chump? - 2008 Scion xB Long-Term Road Test

2008 Scion xB Long-Term Road Test

2008 Scion xB: iPod Champ or Chump?

September 07, 2007

I'm addicted to my iPod. I have music from over a 75 artists and a dozen episodic podcasts crammed into my 4-Gig Nano. Since our 2008 Scion xB boasts an all-singing, all-dancing true iPod connection, I made sure I had it for the long weekend. This car is marketed squarely at the iPod generation, so it had better be great, right?

Within 20-minutes of leaving the office, I was swearing at it. I disconnected from the integrated iPod jack and resorted to the generic "AUX" jack provided right next to it.

"You're crazy, Dan," you might be thinking, "The sound quality is much worse from the mini-jack and you have to use the iPod's own control interface instead." True on both counts. I'll take the hit on the first to get the second.

Yes, the iPod jack is fully integrated. I can choose from Albums, Artists, Genres, Songs, Playlist, etc., just like the menu choices on my iPod (except for Podcast, which is curiously AWOL). A few simple on-screen clicks allows me to drill down to find a selection of songs by, say, LCD Soundsystem.

When stationary, the level one music menu screen gives you these choices.

After making a selection, Artist in this case, its very quick to pade down to what you want. 5 clicks to LCD Soundsystem here.

And it is most excellent - but only when the car is sitting still. All of the rave reviews authored by Edmunds staffers must have been written after playing with the connection in a parking lot.

When moving, the first level choice throws you here, and begins playing the

As soon as the car moves, the deactivation of the all-important Music Menu button transforms the interface into little more than an expensive iPod shuffle. You'd better like what you were listening to when you started moving, because making a specifc choice while underway is difficult and tedious.

Now I choose Direct, which still provides the top-level choices of Artist, Album, Genre, Song, etc. To get to LCD Soundsystem, I choose Artist. But instead of displaying pages of five or six artists at a time, the display goes straight into play mode, starting with the first artist beginning with "A". To get to LCD Soundsystem, I have to push an up/down toggle 27 times (I counted) to get to "LCD". And the screen I monitor to do this is harder to read than the page view provided when stationary.

For a German language podcast I listen to, things are worse. Podcast isn't a choice, but hunting around reveals my selection listed under Album. But it takes 46 button presses to run through the alphabetical list the list to "My Daily Phrase German". And the default is Lesson 1, so I've got 17 more button presses to get to where I left off at Lesson 18. I give up.

The really frustrating part is this: The Music Menu command is probably grayed-out to satisfy those in the driver distraction lobby. But I can make a strong case that the work-around is much more time consuming and distracting. Logic goes out the window when 27 or 63 button clicks is considered less distracting than 6 or 8 from a logical sub-directory structure. And don't get me started on the distractionless pair of hands available to any passenger.

If it were me, I'd buy the cheapest radio available (or a radio delete option if they had it) and buy something from the aftermarket. Even when OE stereos seem good, they can be fraught with limitations.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,239 miles

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