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Pioneer adds Android Auto to its NEX In-dash Receivers

LAS VEGAS - Car companies have been scrambling to integrate Android Auto platform to its products. At CES 2015, Pioneer joined the fray announcing three new in-car dash featuring Google’s vehicular operating system.

In the fall of 2014, Pioneer made its first CarPlay compatible unit, but at CES 2015, Pioneer unveiled its second generation of NEX (Networked Entertainment eXperience) in-dash multimedia receivers compatible with Android Auto. Ranging from $700 to $1,400, the new aftermarket dashboard upgrades don’t come cheap, but what you get is an infotainment system built on the battle-tested knowledge from Google’s experience fighting the smartphone wars.

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These aftermarket add-ons offer the experience of a modern infotainment system, without the need to buy a whole new car. Android Auto, like Apple’s CarPlay, leverages your smartphone to create a familiar environment for controlling your car. That means you get features such as voice control for media, calls, maps and apps, all using Google’s slick Material design interface.

At Pioneer’s booth at CES, I got a chance to test out its top end receiver, the AVIC-8100NEX. To start, all I had to do was connect an Android 5.0 phone (older versions won’t work) to Pioneer’s receiver via microUSB. This immediately summoned a home screen featuring Google’s flat Material design, from which you can use voice actions or the large 7-inch touchscreen to navigate through the smartphone derived menus.

The ability to instantly upgrade a car’s infotainment system to one which feels both modern and comfortable is super impressive. After less than a minute, I was whizzing from app to app, like a product I’ve used for years, because, essentially, I have. The best part? Pioneer’s NEX receivers will be available in March of 2015, months before car makers can bake it in to their 2016 models.

Sam Rutherford is a Staff Writer at Tom’s Guide. Follow him @SamRutherford on Twitter, and Tom’s Guide on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Sam is a senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.