2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel: Enabling Uconnect Functions
May 21, 2014
Everyone around here heaps praise on the Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen navigation system in our 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. They say that Bluetooth pairings for phone and streaming audio are ridiculously easy to establish and manage. And the iPod integration is very polished and easy to control through logical and attractive touchscreen menus.
But we haven't yet scratched the surface. Several advanced Uconnect features have thus far been unavailable because we hadn't yet registered a Uconnect account for our truck.
So I did.
And it was easy. There were two options: Register by phone or register online via computer. I chose the phone option since I was sitting in the truck anyway.
A live operator answered after only a couple of rings and zero time on hold. I explained that I wanted to register my truck's Uconnect service. She let me know up front that it might take as much as 15 minutes and I'd need to leave the vehicle running the whole time. Was that going to be OK?
Sure, why not? Besides, it was 97 degrees outside. I needed the A/C.
Because I'd called via the truck's own Uconnect touchscreen, she already knew I was sitting in a 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. She knew the VIN. I'd have had to enter those details myself if I'd registered online.
She knew when the truck was sold, too, which means she knew the anniversary dates of the trial periods of the Uconnect services I was enabling. The Uconnect Advantage Package would be free for one year (from date of purchase) and the Uconnect Via Mobile service would cost nothing for five years.
All I needed to do was select a password, devise a PIN and choose a security question and corresponding answer. And verbally agree to the Terms of Service, of course. The entire process was over in 10 minutes, much of which was me trying to decide what I wanted for my password and security question.
Our newly activated Uconnect Advantage service includes hot buttons for 911 and roadside assistance. It enables stolen vehicle tracking and will notify us via text message if our Ram's theft alarm is ever triggered.
Stuff we're likely to use more regularly includes Yelp searches, which can be initiated on-screen or though voice commands. Selected Yelp POIs can now be called via a paired phone or set as a destination in our navigation system. In theory we can now send and receive text messages via voice commands, though we're not yet certain which phones have the necessary Bluetooth protocol to support it.
And we can now remotely lock and unlock doors, start or stop the engine, honk the horn or flash the lights. These commands can be called in, sent from any internet-linked desktop computer or...
...triggered by a smartphone app. I downloaded it to my iPhone, logged in, sent a test "unlock" command and received a confirmation "doors unlocked" e-mail on my phone in a matter of minutes.
Remote engine start has a variety of uses that are well known and appreciated by many, but this way you don't even have to have line-of-sight to the vehicle. And the remote lock feature is nice if you're the type that is never quite sure you remembered to lock the car after you walked away and boarded the airport shuttle for your flight to Borogravia.
Uconnect Via Mobile supports fully integrated access to apps from Pandora, Aha, Slacker Radio and iHeartRadio via (hence the name) your connected smartphone. But you must first log in to your Uconnect account on a home computer or laptop and link your various Pandora/Slacker/etc. accounts to Uconnect.
I tried it with my Pandora account. My stations then appeared on the Uconnect screen alongside the familiar thumb up, thumb down and pause buttons. And the sound quality was impressive, much better than I expected.
Via Mobile apps still depend on a paired smartphone to work, so your phone will still consume part of its data plan the same as it would if you were listening to these services with headphones. This way you get a more sophisticated interface and a much better set of speakers, is all.
We look forward to checking out these features in more detail in the coming weeks and months. One such feature is the Wi-Fi hotspot, a pay-only upgrade to the Uconnect Advantage package. I set that up, too, but I'm saving that write-up for next time.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,567 miles