Volvo Sensus

Volvo's new entertainment and nav system is light years ahead of what preceded it, but it still lags behind the best that the Germans have to offer.


7.7
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4.5
User Rating

About The Author

CNET Editor

Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.


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Operating previous Volvo entertainment and navigation systems was akin to performing open heart surgery at the bottom of the ocean with one arm tied behind your back. The new Sensus system thankfully saves us from having to make any more tortured analogies.

Currently available on the S60 and the V60, Sensus will be rolled out across other models in Volvo's range as they're refreshed and updated.

As one would expect, specifics for the Sensus system vary depending on the car's specifications. For example, the video playback and navigation features described below are only available on models equipped with a 7-inch high-res screen. A 5-inch screen is standard on the S60/V60, while the 7-inch screen is standard on the T6, and is an AU$1425 or AU$2400 option throughout the rest of the S60/V60 range.

This review is based on our time with the system on the Volvo S60 T6.

Interface

The top shelf S60 T6 comes fitted with a high-resolution 7-inch screen high on a dashboard recess. The menu system can be operated by either a knob on the right of the dashboard or controls on the steering wheel's right spoke.

Using the knob is compromised by its uncomfortable position midway up the dash on the right, and it's all too easy to confuse the OK/Menu and Exit buttons located in the centre of the dial. We found the scroll wheel and series of buttons on the steering wheel much more convenient to use, but as there's neither a home menu nor a Mode button, switching between inputs and functions requires a stab at the Nav, Radio, Media, Tel, My Car and Cam buttons on the dash.

The menu design is pleasingly modern, and for the most part is logically laid out. There are, however, a few features that aren't completely intuitive.

For instance, when you're listening to some music from an iPod or a USB stick, it's not at all clear how you go about changing the album or folder. To do that, you need to scroll up or down to see the track list and then hit Exit to view the preceding folder or album. Incidentally, hitting the Media button doesn't bring you automatically to the device you're currently listening to; you have to reselect it every time.

When you're on the navigation map, by default there are handy bars across the top (track info) and bottom (climate control). If they disappear, it's probably because you've pressed Nav one time too many. To bring back the info bars, just press the button again.

Another good thing to remember is that the T9 number pad on the dashboard serves not only as a way to dial numbers, but also as a way of entering nav destinations or searching through a phonebook; it's certainly quicker than using the onscreen rotary letter selector.

From the My Car menu, an owner can configure various car options, including the S60's various safety features, whether the wing mirrors dip when reversing and how long the interior and exterior lights stay on after you leave the car.

Entertainment

Across the S60/V60 range, entertainment options include Bluetooth for both music streaming and hands-free telephony, an iPod/iPhone-compatible USB port, auxiliary jack, AM/FM analog radio and a disc slot. A 7-inch screen is in lieu of the standard 5-inch unit; DVD and DivX playback and navigation are optional on the T5 and D5, and standard on the T6.

Several other luxury car manufacturers offer their integrated entertainment and nav systems with memory card slots and a hard disk for storing either ripped CDs or MP3/WMA files. This presently isn't available, even as an option, on Sensus.

Movies look excellent on the widescreen, high-resolution 7-inch screen. Thanks to the T6's surround sound system, they sound great, as well. Videos can also be played from a USB stick, as the DivX and Xvid codecs are supported. A two-screen DVD entertainment system can be fitted to quell rear seat passengers.

Searching through large music libraries on iPods/iPhones running iOS 4 and above can be slow, with long, long lists, especially of albums or artists, taking quite a while to load and scroll through. Thankfully, navigation of USB sticks is several orders of magnitude faster.

Phone and voice recognition

The standard Bluetooth hands-free system works well in the hushed confines of the S60/V60. Oddly, it only automatically pairs with the most recently used phone, and sometimes refuses to do so automatically.

As is common with these systems, there are some contention issues resulting in zero sound output if you have an iPhone paired up via Bluetooth and also plugged into the USB port. This is easily fixed, though, by unplugging the device and then plugging it back in.

If your Volvo is fitted with sat nav, the Sensus system will feature voice recognition. Tap the voice command button on the steering wheel, and a helpful list of commands will appear on the large LCD screen. Recognition rates are quite high, thanks again to the quietude found inside, and the system will let you voice-dial names straight out of your phonebook without any fussing around with training or creating voice tags.

You can, however, improve recognition rates by spending a few minutes training the system. In a disappointing twist, though, the system won't let you enter navigation destinations by voice, unless you create a voice tag for it.

Navigation

Aside from voice recognition, other features that the navigation system misses out on include text-to-speech, speed limit information, speed and red light camera locations and traffic information. Lane guidance in the form of junction view is only present for highway and freeway exits.

Route calculation times are acceptable, and the system claims that its routing system can learn your preferences, but during our week with the S60 we weren't able to discern any difference between the routes calculated on day one and those calculated on day seven. Unlike most other nav systems, Sensus assumes that any new destination you enter should be part of an itinerary.

The LCD screens in middle of the tachometer and speedometer are rather low-res affairs that only manage to display trip computer and cruise control info. This means that navigation instructions can only be seen on the 5- or 7-inch display.

Conclusion

Volvo's new entertainment and nav system is light years ahead of what preceded it, but it still lags behind the best that the Germans have to offer.

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RussellT1 posted a comment   

" but as there's neither a home menu nor a Mode button, switching between inputs and functions requires a stab at the Nav, Radio, Media, Tel, My Car and Cam buttons on the dash."

You are wrong about this. in order to get "home' from the steering wheel, all you need to is hold the exit button down for about 2 seconds and it will take you to all the options you listed

swenk22
5
Rating
 

"maybe time will heal but Volvo sensus is way harder to learn than the rental car I just drove."

swenk22 posted a review   
United States

The Good:Bought the car for the car and ride.

The Bad:Was disappointed in the Sensus technology

Bought the car for the car and ride.
Was disappointed in the Sensus technology- maybe time will heal but after 2 weeks it's way harder to learn than the rental car I just drove.
No bugs or such in this updated sensus but I'm hoping they have an update that will match up better w/iphone. It's like I have to move song by song on the sensus and the iphone is locked out (when plugged into usb).

sad_lolvo
1
Rating
 

"Spend some time with it. It gets worse!!!"

sad_lolvo posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Great Engine makes up for poor Sensus system

The Bad:Everything - Slow, Cludgy, Buggy.

I have a T6 V60.

Would have to say that the Sensus system would have to be the most poorly designed system i have seen in a car.

It's slow, cludgy, unintuitive and full of bugs.

When they update the system to fix the bugs, they introduce more bugs.

Its a shame as it has a great engine and had good build quality, just painful to use the sensus system.

Nav lacks features, locks up, and slow to Navigate and setup destinations.

Lack of information on the huge screen. ie in Radio mode, you can view either radio text or your preset list. Not both, even though the entire top half of the screen is empty.

Volvo designers need to go back and re-think the entire interface. Its something i would expect from one of those cheap made in china car entertainment systems, not something in a $70k Volvo.

Volatile Gasman
8
Rating
 

"iPhone sound issue easily solved."

Volatile Gasman posted a review   
Australia

The reason that sound disappears when listening to music from an iPhone through the USB is that once the Bluetooth connects itself, the iPhone defaults to playing music through the Bluetooth. This is remedied by selecting the iPod app on the iPhone and then tapping the bottom of the screen where it will say "My Volvo Car" or something similar. A list of sound output choices will appear and it is a matter of simply selecting "Dock Connector" and sound resumes. It is not necessary to unplug and reconnect the iPhone.

wilderness
4
Rating
 

"Extremely frustrating not to see adjacent streets en-route"

wilderness posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Points of Interest well defined

The Bad:No names on side streets

A good system as long as you want to enter a destination into every trip you make, which is totally impractical. It doesn't show side street names or other names other than the road you are travelling on, or the street your next turn will occur on. Compared to other GPS systems, this is one of the worst and most unsophisticated around.. Entering data however, is relatively simple and intuitive. If there is one feature which lets Volvo down, it is the GPS.




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User Reviews / Comments  Volvo Sensus

  • RussellT1

    RussellT1

    "" but as there's neither a home menu nor a Mode button, switching between inputs and functions requires a stab at the Nav, Radio, Media, Tel, My Car and Cam buttons on the dash."

    You a..."

  • swenk22

    swenk22

    Rating5

    "Bought the car for the car and ride.
    Was disappointed in the Sensus technology- maybe time will heal but after 2 weeks it's way harder to learn than the rental car I just drove.
    No bugs..."

  • sad_lolvo

    sad_lolvo

    Rating1

    "I have a T6 V60.

    Would have to say that the Sensus system would have to be the most poorly designed system i have seen in a car.

    It's slow, cludgy, unintuitive and full of..."

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