Automakers have discovered big screens — not in movie theaters but in their cars — as a way of exciting tech-crazed customers.
They’re installing increasingly larger displays in new models as they roll out increasingly sophisticated infotainment and navigation systems.
Screens are growing as customers opt for ever-larger flat-panel TV screens in their living rooms. Showing how priorities are changing, few automakers are jockeying to make new models longer or wider on the outside. They are, rather, competing with bigger high-definition dashboard displays.
The most vivid example is the screen in the new Lexus GS, one of the largest among luxury cars, at 12.3 inches measured diagonally, up from 8 inches in the previous generation.
One reason to go bigger was to create a display with a split screen, Lexus spokesman Bill Kwong says. One side shows maps and other navigation information, while the other shows climate control or audio settings. “Why go to play the radio if it kicks you out of the map?” he asks in explaining the split screen.
Ford: The screen in the 2013 Escape compact crossover has grown to 8 inches, up from 6.5. It’s going into 2013 Taurus and Fusion sedans, too.
Hyundai. The screen in the 2013 Santa Fe crossover was boosted to 8 inches from 6.5 to add “as much screen space as possible so that drivers can easily find what they need at a glance,” spokesman Jim Trainor says.
BMW: The flagship 7 Series sedan got a 10.2-inch screen, up from 8.8, in 2009, and that screen now has come to the 5 and 6 Series. It “makes it easier to see and makes things like camera views for the rear- and top-view cameras better,” spokesman Dave Buchko says.
Dodge: The new 2013 Dart compact car will have an 8.4-inch touch-screen in upscale versions, whether the car has a navigation system or not, to control many car systems.
Beyond bragging rights, bigger screens improve many features, such as backup-camera viewing. Plus, tech-savvy customers like them for displaying information from the smartphones or other personal devices they plug into the car.
Cadillac says size doesn’t matter with the new 8-inch screens in many of its models as much as higher resolution and sharper colors, including Doppler weather imaging, and with its new CUE infotainment system, the screen will be able to react to hand gestures, not just touch.