2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Uconnect 5 review: Finally wireless CarPlay


Uconnect 5 with Wireless CarPlay

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The 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee uses the new Uconnect 5 operating system for its on-board display. Here’s how it works with wireless Apple CarPlay.

Uconnect 5 is an Android-based system found in various Jeep, Chrysler, Fiat, RAM and Dodge vehicles, including the 2023 Grand Cherokee we tested. In addition to being integrated with Android, which speeds up updates and iterations, it also supports wireless CarPlay and Android Auto.

Wireless CarPlay has been a unicorn until last year. Apple has released the wireless version of CarPlay with iOS 8 – as a reminder, we’re currently only iOS 16 – yet few vehicles had support.

FCA promised wireless CarPlay would be standard with the launch of Uconnect 5, and vehicles under its auspices have slowly started to adopt it over the past couple of years.

A better CarPlay experience

We’ve used the wired version of CarPlay almost since launch, which has been remarkably good. CarPlay itself is great, but it’s a pain to plug in our phones every time we get in, especially for short trips.

Wired CarPlay also means we can’t use MagSafe car chargers or see our battery percentage on the car’s infotainment screen. Wireless fixes all that.

Our current favorite setup uses Belkin’s first – and only – official MagSafe car charger that can deliver up to 15W of wireless power. We hop in the Jeep and place our phone on the vent mount where it’s easily visible, out of the way, and on perpetual charge.

Battery status on the CarPlay interface

Battery status on the CarPlay interface

Unlike wired CarPlay, a battery indicator is displayed in the top left corner of the screen, so you know how much juice you have left. It also lets you know if your phone is charging or not.

CarPlay starts instantly, switching to the Apple operating system as soon as we start the car. So the phone can even stay in our pocket and CarPlay works.

The system is very responsive, responding when we touch the screen and open CarPlay apps. It has the same fluidity and functionality as its wired counterpart.

When playing music or audio, there is a slight delay. For example, this is noticeable when you press play/pause from your iPhone and CarPlay takes half a second to respond.

MagSafe charging with wireless CarPlay

MagSafe charging with wireless CarPlay

This lag is not on the wired version of CarPlay and must come from streaming media over Wi-Fi. Similar to an AirPlay speaker.

In navigation, the Jeep only partially benefits from what CarPlay is capable of. In iOS 10, Apple added the ability to show navigation in the instrument cluster.

Our Jeep Grand Cherokee with Uconnect 5 shows the next turn, but it doesn’t look like CarPlay graphics. Instead, they resemble Jeep graphics and are slightly disconnected from the CarPlay experience.

Apple is looking to go even further with the next version of CarPlay, which will arrive in iOS 17, but so far only a few automakers have committed to supporting it.

Otherwise, the screen is crisp and bright, with great color saturation. Compared to previous generations of the Uconnect system, this is a much better looking display.

Uconnect 5 functionality

The Uconnect 5 interface has much more to offer than just wireless CarPlay. It’s functionally miles ahead of the older Uconnect 4 system.

Anything under FCA has the potential to get Uconnect 5, and each vehicle may have slightly different options available, but here’s how it works for our Grand Cherokee.

Uconnect 5 split view

Uconnect 5 split view

Whether you use CarPlay or not, the screen has a customizable dashboard. By default, it has a separate side-by-side layout with native maps and system-wide media player.

The CarPlay audio controls will display on the media player side, but only the TomTom SUV navigation will display on the other side. You’re not stuck with this interface, as Jeep lets you customize it with additional pages and widgets.

Second page of the Uconnect dashboard

Second page of the Uconnect dashboard

When adding a second page, you can choose one of four layout options that suits you best. Views can display two, three, or four different widgets.

Customizing Your Uconnect Dashboard

Customizing Your Uconnect Dashboard

It walks you through adding your favorite widget to each available slot. You can choose between now playing, climate, navigation, phone favorites, recent calls, shortcuts, seats and steering wheel, and pitch and roll controls.

Pages can be rearranged, deleted, etc. We never found ourselves using these pages much, but they can still be useful for jumping into quick car functions.

Uconnect 5 Media Interface

Uconnect 5 Media Interface

Besides CarPlay, media sources are USB, SiriusXM, radio or Bluetooth. By the way, this 2023 Grand Cherokee has a ton of USB-C ports, making it easy to use all your new cables.

No matter where you are in the interface, you can always swipe up and down to access shortcut buttons.

Swipe down for shortcuts

Swipe down for shortcuts

These include controls such as the Wi-Fi hotspot toggle, Alexa, driver profiles, temperatures and surround camera. You can move any of them to the status bar or use them from this drop-down menu.

Compared to these dongles…

Many vehicles can upgrade to wireless CarPlay with an aftermarket adapter. We tested quite welland they all work pretty much the same way.

Plug them into the USB port and they will allow you to connect to CarPlay wirelessly. But they often have minor, lingering issues that become annoying.

A wireless CarPlay adapter

A wireless CarPlay adapter

For example, if you use a wireless CarPlay adapter and leave the vehicle running when you return, it will not reconnect. You have to unplug it and plug it back in to turn it back on or restart the car.

With a native interface, when we have the car running and we get out, CarPlay will continue to work for a few moments if we are within range of the vehicle. If we move too far away, it cuts and pauses the media. But when we return to the car, it automatically reconnects and picks up where it left off.

Depending on the dongle and car you have, we’ve also seen our phone connect while the vehicle is off and we’re inside our house. Our car is close enough that when we’re listening to music or making a phone call, it connects to the CarPlay adapter instead.

There is also less lag with the native interface. This can be nice if you frequently skip songs or pause them and are annoyed by the slight delay.

Uconnect 5 is a big step forward

Now that FCA has rolled out Uconnect 5, we can’t go back to a wired CarPlay experience. It is now much easier to use, faster and more transparent than before.

Uconnect 5 – Advantages

  • Near-seamless user experience
  • Much more responsive touchscreen
  • Stunning colors, size and resolution
  • Battery status displayed on screen
  • Allows the use of MagSafe chargers

Uconnect 5 – Disadvantages

  • Slight lag when controlling media
  • Rudimentary use of the instrument cluster
  • Next-gen CarPlay support uncertain

Where to find Uconnect 5

Uconnect 5 is available in several Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler, Fiat and RAM vehicles, including the new 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee that we reviewed.

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