Consumer satnav has been around for some 25 years. The first I tested, from Philips, cost thousands of pounds and required wheel sensors to be fitted to the car. Now, wondrous though I still find the invention, I occasionally think the time has come to retire it from this page, as many cars have a fitted satnav.
In the past year, however, I’ve driven a number of latest-model cars and each time I’ve noticed, even in vehicles costing six figures, that the satnav is not only in the wrong place, in the centre of the fascia looking down, it is also years out of date, sluggish and has poor functionality. There seems to be some generic not-very-good-nav that even luxury carmakers install. Which is why, not infrequently, I see beautiful new cars with a TomTom or Garmin attached to the windscreen. Even a basic external satnav tends to be better than the built-in offering. And, of course, it can be transferred at will, with all its favourite destinations and settings, to your classic car, holiday rental, Zipcar, whatever.
This superbly constructed Garmin is the most impressive of its type I’ve seen. It’s big, with a 13.6cm x 7.2cm display. It has a seriously premium, clumsiness-proof magnetic windscreen mount. And it is almost ludicrously packed with brilliant features – from a warning if you get too close to the car in front, to a button you hit when you park that enables you to refind your car using your phone. The mapping is also quite marvellous, with clever twiddles that made me chortle, like a big warning of the name of the next cross-street you’re about to approach. So, so useful. My only complaint is that, as a TomTom user, I find the Garmin colour palette slightly pallid.
But I’m forgetting the killer feature: it has a built-in dashcam, aka crashcam, of the type I demo-ed earlier this year on Technopolis TV. Just like the NextBase 402-G Professional, the Garmin nüviCam LMTHD starts recording video as you set off and automatically saves the footage to a memory card if it detects the impact of an accident. But it’s much more solidly made, and combined with the big screen and all-singing, all-dancing navigation, quite brilliant.