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Auto biz tunes up branding engine

Carmakers adds gadgets to promote new autos

With infotainment systems growing popular, automakers hope branding them will make their cars more attractive the way General Motors promoted OnStar (which faces competish from BMW’s BMW Assist, Hyundai’s Blue Link, Lexus’ Enform and Mercedes’ mbrace). Here are a few and what they offer:

Audi MMI
The German automaker’s Multi Media Interface appears on a 5-inch black and red or 7-inch full-color screen, the latter of which displays all entertainment options, Google Earth navigation (in 3D), Sirius Traffic updates and local points of interest accessible via buttons around a control dial and pad that reads handwriting. T-Mobile provides Audi Connect’s high-speed Wi-Fi web service accessible via mobile devices such as Apple’s iPad.

BMW ConnectedDrive
A futuristic version was shown off in “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” but BMW’s infotainment system features all the expected bells and whistles and connects to the Internet through BMW Online, a $99 a year service that features Wiki Local, Wikipedia entries on area destinations and Yelp restaurant reviews read aloud through text-to-speech functionality. Apps are only compatible through Apple’s iPhone but will soon expand to Android.

Toyota Entune
Entune controls media, navigation and cell phones, as well as apps such as iHeartRadio, Bing, Pandora, OpenTable and MovieTickets.com and info like realtime traffic, weather, sports scores and stock prices. Also offers voice controls. Launched with Prius V.

Chevrolet MyLink
System connects to phones and offers voice commands to control media and such apps as Pandora and Stitcher.

Cadillac Cue
The Linux-based Cadillac User Experience sports an 8-inch LCD display to showcase apps, 3D navigation and provides tactile feedback when scrolling, selecting and swiping, and multi-touch gesturing, similar to a smarphone. It supports two Bluetooth connections and 10 devices. Voice controls enable more natural language usage. Internet browsing is available when parked. Bows with new XTS and ATS sedans and SRX crossover.

Ford Sync/MyFord Touch
The Touch system, also available in Lincoln’s luxury cars, gets a needed update to provide faster response times, better voice recognition, compatibility with more mobile devices, Audible.com’s e-books, and clearer phone calls. Fonts are larger and easier to read, while the overall design is simpler and less cluttered. Navigation includes 3D maps, and photorealistic road signs and info on nearby landmarks.

Buick IntelliLink
Similar to Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system, IntelliLink is also available on GMC vehicles with the same functionality but with flashier graphics.

Mercedes-Benz Comand
Mercedes is embracing Siri-like voice controls found on Apple’s iPhone 4s to power its Comand system, which will utilize natural language dictation for text messaging, emails and web browsing while driving and control apps like Twitter, Facebook, Pandora and Google Street View navigation. Handwriting recognition and gesture controls for interior lighting is also in the works.

Powered by Microsoft, the system is short for “Your Voice,” and displays on a 4.3-inch screen to connect to a phone and media files. Also offers voice controls.

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