2009 Audi S5: Audi Music Interface
June 15, 2009
It wasn't that long ago that VW and Audi iPod connections were the most frustrating interfaces on the planet. But our 2009 Audi S5 has the new Audi Music Interface (AMI), which improves things dramatically, especially if your MP3 player of choice is an actual iPod or iPhone.
There's a short cord in the glove compartment, into which you plug your iPod. At this point you can shut the lid and forget it, as all further music menu selections are done from either the MMI control wheel and nav screen, or the steering wheel thumbwheels and instrument panel information screen.
The system recognizes podcasts and audiobooks as their own "thing" and every menu level has a back button. The system never throws you all the way back to the top-level menu indiscriminately, as our Honda Fit does, and the MMI wheel is a much better way to scroll through 500 artists than a touch screen that can disply only 5 per page. As an iPod interface, this is now one of the best.
But what if you don't have an iPod?
Never fear. There are 4 cords, here. In addition to the iPod cord, you can get cords for a 3.5mm mini jack, USB and mini USB. But there is a catch.
Each cord costs over $50 from you Audi dealer. Our car came with the option that provides the iPod cable, so the actual cost for that one was $0, not $65.10.
But the others are extra, including the basic one needed for a generic MP3 player. Other cars provide multiple inputs that are hard-wired in the car. Not here. There's one universal socket, and you have to buy the right adapter cord for your needs.
That's a bit of a pain in the butt, if you ask me.
Changing cords is easy once you know that this little flap in the glovebox opens like this. From here you squeeze the tab on the connector body and gently pull it free. Some other Audi models put this junction box beneath the center armrest.
Here I've switched to the standard AUX/MP3 mini jack.
Here's the AUX cord in use, plugged in to my iPod's headphone jack, as you would any other old-school MP3 player. Trouble is, song selection has to be done at the device when using this cord, and it's too short to allow the device to come out of the glove box. You can't use you own cord as an extension either, because the Audi cord has a male end, not a female end.
Audi should have done one of two things: They should have made this cord 4-feet long or they should have put a female end on it so we could all use the cords we already own as an extension. As it stands, I need to go to Radio Shack to buy a male-to-male adapter to use my 4-foot cord.
Here's the USB cord in action. I especially like this, because a basic USB memory stick is the best in-car MP3 player going when connected to a system such as AMI. Why? A memory stick has no batteries, no on/off switch to forget and no moving parts. They're tiny and cheap, too. You can carry a dozen of them, if you like, and it's no big deal if you drop or lose one.
And here, the AMI system allows easy menu control using the MMI interface or the steering controls, just like an iPod. Close the glove box door and forget it. Too easy.
The problem with this is you have to buy the adpater cord to do it. Hondas, Fords, and a growing number of other products are hard-wired this way.
And this USB socket won't let you talk to your iPod through its standard white USB cord, either. I tried. iPods only work with the Audi iPod cord (which thankfully is a standard part of AMI.)
In addition to 2009 versions of the A5/S5 and A4/S4, AMI was optional on some 2007 and later Audi A6 and A8 models, and it made a mid-year appearance on the 2007 Q7. In can be retrofitted to these models if the option wasn't bought initially (AMI is usually bundled with the Premium package), but only if the car has the MMI single-point control interface.
Our 2009 A4 Avant long term test car also has AMI and it has the same glovebox interface, but no one has yet tried-out the S5's library of swappable cords in that car. It should work exactly the same.
Audi's AMI interface has a lot of flexibility and control. It's awesome as-is for iPods, and it does work with other devices, even if this isn't obvious while you're sitting in the car at the showroom. But the need to swap-out cords (and buy each one at over $50 each) is a pain, especially if you have more than one person in your family using more than one type of device. I know I fall into that category.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,873 miles