When PC Magazine added a new section on vehicle connectivity to its annual Readers’ Choice survey in 2020, it was no surprise that Tesla topped the rankings. After all, Tesla’s flagship connectivity feature—over-the-air updates—is one that no other automaker offered at the time (the Porsche Taycan and Ford Mustang Mach-E now offer some OTA update capabilities).
However, connectivity in the broader sense is nothing new—cars have had radios since the 1920s—and PCMag’s definition of connectivity includes things that all new vehicles have, such as navigation and infotainment systems, Bluetooth support and even things like backup cameras. So there’s something else at work here—Tesla had plenty of competition in the category and still came out on top. Furthermore, the California carmaker earned the gold medal again this year.
“Tesla clearly puts as much thought into its connectivity and infotainment systems as it does the rest of its vehicle design,” wrote PCMag’s editors. “Respondents appreciate Tesla’s focus on the driver and passenger experience, earning the company its second straight Readers’ Choice Award.”
“Driving a Tesla can take some getting used to; the company has challenged and rethought many aspects of the driving experience,” says PCMag. “But Tesla owners have figured it out and are thrilled.”
In fact, Tesla’s overall satisfaction rating for connectivity is “in a different league from its competitors.” The company earned 9.4 points out of 10. The silver and bronze medalists, Chevrolet and Hyundai, were tied at 8.8, which PCMag called “respectable scores but not on par with Tesla.”
What did the Tesla owners like so much? They gave the company a near-perfect score of 9.8 for its backup camera system, 9.6 for its GPS navigation (which uses Google Maps), 9.5 for its Bluetooth connectivity, and 9.3 for its infotainment system interface (a sore point with some other brands).
In general, the respondents complained about confusing user interfaces and lack of updates (navigation systems that offer no easy way to update the maps have been a perennial complaint since GPS systems became widespread in cars a decade ago). As every Tesla owner knows, these are both areas in which Tesla excels. One respondent told PCMag that Tesla’s OTA updates “make it feel like a new car every major update.”
The most common complaint about Tesla seemed to be its lack of support for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, both of which are quite popular with PCMag’s respondents. That’s something drivers will just have to live with, as Tesla’s proprietary interface is an integral part of the comprehensive operating system that controls every aspect of the vehicle’s operation (and is often cited as one of the company’s greatest strengths).
Which automaker came in last in the connectivity competition? Toyota brought up the rear for the second year, with a score of 7.6. That’s another ominous sign for the Japanese giant, which has also fallen far behind its rivals when it comes to electrification.
Speaking of which, PCMag’s survey revealed another interesting trend—hybrids and EVs are slowly but surely becoming more popular. Among the 2017 models included in the survey, 89% were legacy gas or diesel burners. For the 2021 model year, 81% were fossil vehicles, and 3.5% were pure EVs (the rest were hybrids or plug-in hybrids).