The Chevy Sonic that I had the chance to drive for a weekend through a Klout Perk also came with OnStar pre-installed. My GMC truck doesn’t have OnStar, so I was pretty excited to see what cool stuff you can do with it. I did have to send a few emails to get a trial setup, but it was well worth it.
You can read all the features of OnStar here – you’ve probably seen their TV ads, too. The base features include roadside assistance, emergency contact, and now, voice-guided navigation. I didn’t actually try any of those features – what I was interested in is the OnStar RemoteLink app for your smartphone that lets you control the car and get helpful information. The app is free and currently available for iOS and Android. I used the Android version for this test.
Here’s the main screen – this syncs with your car when you tell it to, and shows information such as current fuel level, average MPG, and that sort of thing:
You’ll also notice three little dots along the bottom. You can swipe to the side from here to also get a readout of your car’s tire pressure as of the last time you started the ignition:
Pretty cool, huh? Just wait, it gets cooler. If you touch the ‘Remote’ button at the bottom of the app, you get this screen:
Now, this is freakin cool. From the app on my phone (after going through some verification processes including a security pin and whatnot), I can lock or unlock the doors, activate the horn and lights, and even remotely start the car. Yes, you read that correctly – I can start my car from my phone. A-mazing.
There are some caveats, though. Even with my phone showing a full 4G signal (I know it doesn’t in these screenshots, but I took these later), it took over 30 seconds for the command to be sent to the car and the action to take place. It’s not instant like you see in the commercial. The time-delay is a bit ridiculous, honestly, but let’s face it – starting your car from your phone is just plain awesome, no matter how you look at it.
Also, the remote start seems cool (obviously), but if, like me, your car sits in the garage overnight, this is NOT an option you want to use in the morning. Having a car running in the garage with the doors closed for even 10 minutes is a highly dangerous situation. You would only want to use Remote Start if you park outside, such as in your driveway, at the mall, or at work. Also, I couldn’t figure out a way to switch from ‘remotely started running’ to ‘I’m ready to drive’ running – I had to use the app to cancel the remote start before it would even let me put the key in the ignition. Again, I didn’t read the manual, so maybe I missed something.
The other features of the app are still interesting – the ‘Nav‘ button lets you setup a navigation path on your phone and then ‘send’ it to your phone, while the ‘Assist‘ button lets you get access to roadside assistance.
OnStar services normally cost ~$20/month for everything except for navigation, while the navigation option adds about $10, so $30/month. If I had the option on my personal car, I would totally pay for the $20/month package. The peace of mind knowing I have access to help anywhere, and the security features of OnStar, such as the ability to remotely kill the engine, as well as the OnStar RemoteLink application are totally worth it.
I’m due for a new truck in a few years, and I know that I’ll be making OnStar a requirement.