2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport: With Google Maps, Who Needs Factory Navigation?
January 29, 2013
One of the things our 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sport doesn't have is a factory navigation system. Heck, it didn't even come with Bluetooth, a matter we quickly rectified by installing a factory-developed U-Connect Mopar accessory.
But that didn't address navigation. Fortunately, the recent dust-up between Apple and Google has resulted in a very cheap and effective solution, an alternative to the factory nav system and the aftermarket Tom Toms of the world that make the purchase of either one unnecessary.
Apple got cocky and ditched the native Google Maps app that had always come pre-installed on their phones. The in-house Apple iOS map replacement was (and still is) a disaster, and within a matter of weeks Google came out with a fresh Google maps app that anyone could download from the iTunes store.
Thing is, Google Maps, the App is light years better than the old native Google Maps button that came on the iPhone before the infighting started. The new one reroutes, it issues turn-by-turn instructions with or without voice (through the car's speakers), it offers the choice of perspective view, the graphics are better, you can see traffic red zones along a planned route (the blue route line no longer obscures them), it displays and recalculates ETA as you go along and much more. It's better in almost every possible way, in fact.
And it's free.
This new Google Maps iOS app is especially effective in our 2012 Jeep Wrangler because an iPhone will perch comfortably atop the flat-topped steering column without obscuring the gauges. A non-skid rubber phone case helps greatly to keep it there, of course.
There are two drawbacks, however.
One, all of the search data comes in over the air, from the cloud, as they say. Nothing is in permanent memory in the car. So you must have a decent 3G or 4G connection to search and establish the route. Google's search database is immense, and it's quite clever at figuring out what you really want even if you don't have a full address, but you have to have a data connection to get at it. Once you begin guidance you can drive out of 3G territory and it'll still know where you are.
Second, the new Google Maps app is a battery hog. The phone has to be plugged in to the cigarette lighter or the USB socket to keep up. In our 2012 Honda CR-V, even this wasn't quite enough on an 8-hour trip. The battery level still dropped slowly (I was listening to music on the iPhone, too) until I realized that I could pause navigation until I got closer to where I needed it. After all, I was on highway 101 for 6 straight hours. I didn't need navigation to tell me where to go for that.
But hey, it's free. If you have an iPhone or an Android smartphone, that is.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 26,311 miles