Got a Mazda Upgrade: CarPlay and Android Auto!

carplay icon logoWhen I bought my Mazda CX-5 in 2017, there was quite a lot I liked about the vehicle and its huge array of smart safety tech. The one surprise, though, was that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto weren’t already baked into the entertainment system. Keep in mind that CarPlay showed up in all the way back in May of 2014, so that was plenty of time for Mazda to add it to all their vehicles. But, no. So for the past few years I’ve grumbled about it and tried to convince myself that I didn’t need CarPlay with my iPhone XS and all was good.

Two weeks ago I drove from Boulder to Kansas City with my kids, and more often than not was relying on either Apple Maps or Google Maps for our directions and routing around traffic and construction. Which meant I was looking down at my phone for directions instead of the nav screen. Enough. I decided to pony up the cash and get the upgrade through my local Mazda dealership, Courtesy Mazda of Longmont, CO.

If you’re a long-time reader, you’ll have enjoyed my article about the purchase of my CX-5 at Courtesy Mazda. If not, well, click and you can catch up! I’ll wait. Back? Great!

So I pulled my car into the service bay at Courtesy Mazda and gave the service tech a camera, asking him to take a few pics as they upgraded my navigational system for CarPlay and Android Auto. He did just that (though my camera apparently has some issues with focus which I need to figure out, sorry ’bout that). Here’s how they turned out…

First, I have to say I was quite surprised just how much manual labor was involved. They really tore my car apart to get the cables from the new USB hub in the center console to the main head of the Mazda Infotainment System. To start, the dashboard:

2017 mazda cx-5 dashboard removed

Never knew that under the dash was just a basic sheet of steel but you can see it’s pretty darn industrial!

They also had to tear apart the entire center console too. It was quite a task!

2017 mazda cx-5 center console disassembled

And, finally, once they had the dashboard back together, they still were doing some work on the nav screen too.

Producing this pretty darn interesting photo of the system pulled apart:

mazda 2017 cx-5 entertainment nav screen pulled out

All of this work was to get a thick bundle of cables from the new USB hub in the center armrest area to the entertainment and navigation system head in the dashboard: if it could use the older cabling, this would have been way easier to install. On the up side, the new CarPlay (and Android Auto) friendly USB plug is also a 2.4W plug now too, which offers faster charging for any device plugged in, even if it’s not a smartphone or tablet.

Looking at the center console plug set now you can see there’s a tiny smartphone symbol that’s been added:

2017 mazda cx-5 usb hub with carplay support symbol

If you’re wondering, the black gizmo plugged into the 12V “cigarette lighter” plug is a ZUS smart car charger and finder. It helps you locate your car if you can’t remember where it’s parked. It also offers fast charge without having to be connected to the infotainment system at all, though I can fast charge with the built-in USB now and moving away from CarPlay back to the main Mazda Infotainment System is a single tap…

Fully reassembled, I’m just delighted to have CarPlay and Android Auto in my vehicle now, and the integration is really quite remarkably good. Here it is running with the main icon home screen:

carplay running on mazda cx-5 entertainment system screen

It’s wonderfully bright and vibrant on screen, and maps in either Apple Maps or Google Maps are so much more colorful than the default Mazda nav display, it’s a constant surprise.I didn’t know the infotainment screen could be so colorful!

In terms of functionality, however, there are a few glitches or design faults I’ve noticed already with the system. For example, look above and tell me: how charged is my phone? Oops, the tiny battery icon doesn’t show up, though I can see cell signal.

More importantly, I have the MyMazda app on my iPhone, but that’s not what’s shown above. The Mazda icon is a shortcut to switch back to the Mazda infotainment system with its built-in maps, Siriux XM (if you subscribe), etc. To get back to CarPlay once you’ve gone old school with your system is awkward too: Go to the main Apps screen and there’s a tiny new CarPlay icon on the very top left. Clumsy.

multifunction commander control, mazda cx-5

On the up side, however, once you’re in CarPlay, the three nav shortcut buttons on the center console controller are all darn useful: the musical note button gets you to “Now Playing”, the home button gets you to the main CarPlay screen (as shown above) and the NAV button opens up Apple Maps on the screen. The wheel works as you’d hope and you can successfully manage all your interaction without ever having to touch the screen. In terms of the heads-up display with directions, I haven’t tried that yet, but believe it does not offer directions if you’re using Android Auto or CarPlay, unfortunately.

Those hiccups aside, however, I’m really delighted with the upgrade and am happy to finally have a CarPlay powered vehicle.

If you’re curious how it priced out, my out the door cost for the upgrade was $405.70, broken down into $124.95 for the advanced USB Hub, $74.95 for the AACP harness kit, $200 for labor, and $5.80 for sales tax. The service tech told me that labor would have cost more but they discounted it to a flat $200 to stay “competitive”. My guess is that there’s a corporate flat price for this upgrade that they have to match, but either way, it was $199 in parts and $200 in labor, all told.

Stay tuned over on AskDaveTaylor.com and my YouTube channel as I’ll be posting some tutorial content as I learn more about the ins and outs of CarPlay and how it’s implemented on the Mazda. For now, I think I’m going to go for a drive…

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