///AVIN Avant-2 Review - 1000 mile trip to Bimmerfest East
The E46 chassis is old, it has been almost ten yeas since the last E46 3 series was stamped, welded, and bolted together. Despite the age the E46 is still a formidable driving machine. When BMW went to develop the new 2 series, the E46 was the standard they were aiming for. The E46 M3 suspension and steering feel was a target for the F80 M3 and F82 M4. Yes, there are many neglected, forgotten and poorly modded examples, but there are as many showroom clean, perfectly modded models as well. Many of them on Bimmerfest.com.
In ten plus years car design has come a long way, but suspension is about the same and steering, don't even get me started on EPS (electronic power steering). What has changed is the electronics, modern cars are rolling computes with navigation, infotainment, and streaming music. The later E46 models came with first generation technology, if it was optioned up from the factory. Most have a basic "Business" radio, leaving you feel a bit in the stone age.
My 2003 E46 M3 was optioned up from the factory with navigation and bluetooth so I had some decent technology in the car, if it was still 2003. OEM automotive technology is always going to be semi-awful because of the long development times. From the time development work starts on the car to start of production can be as long as 5 years. After that the car is on sale for up to 7 years so a new car could have 10+ year old tech in it right off the showroom.
The stock navigation works, but address input was so painful I would seldom use it. The Bluetooth integration was finicky at best and flat out didn't work most of the time. 6 months of owning my E46 M3 I got so sick of the Bluetooth that I pulled the module so it would stop randomly connecting. 6 months after that the screen on my factory navigation went out. Clearly something had to be done, it is 2014 and I can't listen to Pandora in my car.
Enter the ///AVIN Avant-2, a factory fit and finish, plug and play replacement. What could be more perfect, a drop in replacement for the 10 year old stock crap. I, like any self respecting auto enthusiast hate the look of most after market head units. They look like some sort of space ship controls and never flow with the factory interior. Not the ///AVIN Avant-2, it is what the BMW would make now, if they were so fixated on iDrive. A 7" touch screen interface with radio, Bluetooth streaming, Wi-fi connectivity, and navigation. Did I mention it looks factory? The fit, finish and 'cool factor' are my favorite part of the head unit.
The install is plug and play with no wire splicing needed. If you have factory nav it drops right into the existing dash spot. If you have the standard radio you'll have to do a few more steps to convert to the factory nav setup, easy enough to do in an afternoon. The ///AVIN Avant-2 came with all the wiring I needed. I did have to run a cable and a antenna wire from the trunk radio connections to the head unit, again simple enough to do in an afternoon. There are some great DIYs so I'll skip over the install details other then to say it is easy and super clean.
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Powering up the head unit for the first time was like Christmas morning. I was so excited to explore all the features that the unit offers. With the ability to install apps to the head unit the functionality is almost limitless. I started with the basics; radio, bluetooth and navigation. The other features are cool in their own right but these are the three I most commonly use.
The radio is simple and intuitive and the sound quality seems slightly better then my factory unit. I can't tell you how much I love the touch screen for the pre-sets, no ugly physical buttons. The radio also show RDS data (artist and song name) when available. The slick wiring from ///AVIN means the steering wheel buttons work as well, so you can still control the volume and pre-sets from your left hand, I love it.
Bluetooth, it just works, I can't tell you how refreshing that is. I had a 2012 F30 3 series for awhile and the factory Bluetooth did not work this well. I have never liked the bluetooth phone audio, again it didn't even work in the brand new F30 3 series. I just use BT on the Avant-2 for audio streaming. The ability to fire up Pandora and listen to music on a long road trip makes me elated. I wish there was a way to have the system auto connect, but not for phone calls, that will probably come in a later software update.
For the navigation, and really the entire unit, I tested it out on my 1000 mile trip to Bimmerfest East 2014 sponsored by Turner Motorsport. As I mentioned before the factory nav was so difficult to enter I seldom used it. On the ///AVIN Avant-2 I just typed it in, like you would on a tablet or smart phone. The nav does need an internet connection, so I used my phone's hotspot. Having a USB cell modem for the unit would be the best and I plan on adding one soon. The navigation is Google maps that uses GPS data from the head unit so it works flawlessly. Just like a factory nav the turn directions cut into whatever other audio you're listening to so no concerns about missing a turn. Also if you lose internet connection the direction are cached on the unit, the maps might not update but it still knows where you are and the directions don't miss a beat. Having auto complete for typing addresses is awesome, again it was that Christmas morning feeling.
Over the 1000 miles I was presently surprised with how well the ///AVIN Avant-2 works. There are some little glitches here and there but ///AVIN is constantly sending software updates to fix any issues. It is basically like having a smart phone or tablet in your dash. After the trip, having turn by turn nav and streaming Pandora the whole way I was kicking myself for not having gotten this sooner.
Yes the E46 is old, but it doesn't have to be dated. The ///AVIN Avant-2 brings the outdated radio into the 21st century as a full featured infotainment unit. The value for price is outstanding, the fit and finish is factory and the feature set is more then you need. Don't spend any more time driving around with an old and out dated radio, do yourself the same favor I did and upgrade to an ///AVIN Avant-2.
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