Alpine Style X902D-G7 – Volkswagen Golf Mk7 Apple CarPlay Receiver Review
If you have a 2015 or earlier Volkswagen Golf Mk7 with an early MIB system, the options for upgrading to an Apple CarPlay compatible infotainment system are pretty limited. You could remove the Volkswagen MIB system and retrofit a MIB2 system, but unless you’re a tech-savvy person who’s able to update VAG numbers, that install can be a little overwhelming and a little costly if done wrong. There are some Chinese solutions, but these run the risk of a single Apple iOS update that could turn these ‘cheap’ solutions into simple radio receivers in no time.
You could simply install one of the many aftermarket CarPlay systems that are out there, but with the limited space behind the Mk7 Golf’s centre console, your options are limited. Many wouldn’t display ALL the system functionality that’s found in today’s modern cars. So some functions could be lost here, or they just won’t be as integrated as installing a more ‘tailored’ solution. The Alpine Style X902D-G7 premium infotainment system is such a tailored system that offers a ‘best of both’ solution for your Golf Mk7 that’s also Apple CarPlay compatible. It combines the enhancements and customisations of an aftermarket system with the compatibility and functionality of a native infotainment system.
The X902D-G7 is part of Alpine’s Alpine Style suite of premium infotainment systems that closely integrates with select vehicle models, from Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen. Alpine’s X902D-G7 (and its cheaper i902D-G7) model is perfectly designed to sit perfectly in your Volkswagen Golf Mk7 center console, and offer all the standard system functionality you have come to expect from your native Volkswagen system, whilst also providing some additional Alpine extras – such as a huge 9-inch capacitive touch screen display, HDMI out, a host of audio tweaking options, and more importantly for us, support for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay platforms.
Unlike the native MIB system – where the brains are located in the glove box – it was to my surprise that Alpine’s solution follows the traditional approach. It contains everything it needs inside the single display unit. This means that the native single-DIN hardware in the glovebox can be removed to either improve the volume of space inside, or an optional Alpine DVE-5300 CD/DVD drive can be installed here instead. I always thought the Mk7 had limited space behind the central display unit, but the Alpine X902D-G7 proves that just isn’t the case.
It is highly recommended that this unit is installed by a professional. Additional necessary components may be required, depending on the level of options in your Golf. With a professional Alpine installer fitting our system, installing the X902D-G7 took them around two to three hours, with a good amount of this time being used to tidy up the cabling behind the dashboard. I didn’t have a reverse camera or CD/DVD drive fitted, so plan some additional time if you are adding any of these components. Everything you need for the basic install is supplied with the unit. Being an Alpine Style unit, the system uses the Golf’s own microphone and GPS connections, so this makes for a simpler and more plug-and-play install – there were no additional microphones or GPS dongles that need to be installed. The MIB interface port in the centre console was also replaced with the 3.5m AUX and USB port. The latter is used to connect to your smartphone for use with Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto). I was slightly disappointed that Alpine didn’t not offer the GTI carbon-effect trim, however the gloss-black option fits in just as well with my GTI carbon dashboard trim – With such a huge display there is very little surrounding plastic trim left to make it look odd. There is only the join at the top, near the driver-side dials, yet half of this is hidden behind the steering wheel.
Huge 9-Inch Display
Coming from a native 5-inch MIB unit, the X902D-G7’s 9-inch is, at first, a little overwhelming – it is huge! The resolution of the capacitive touch-screen display is still a very disappointing 800×480 pixels, which seems a huge wasted on a display that’s almost the size of an iPad. CarPlay icons appear bigger then you’re used to seeing on your iPhone, which makes selecting apps on the side dock much more precise whilst you’re on the move, while the main CarPlay homescreen of icons are so large, even a toddler would feel at ease launching the desired app. For a 9-inch display, a higher resolution would have made this system’s display perfect. With a higher resolution it would display slightly smaller icons, but it would also display more apps per screen, making much more use of the very large display of the X902D-G7.
Around this large display you’ll find a selection of generously sized function buttons on each side. Front top left to bottom left there are buttons to initiate voice command, mute audio, toggle between audio sources (FM/DAB/Bluetooth/CarPlay), volume up and volume down. On the top right to bottom right there are buttons to accept/initiate a call, toggle the main menu, start/view navigation, skip forward and skip back. All of the buttons have a decent amount of travel to them, which makes it fairly impossible to accidentally select any of these functions.
Split-Screen View Mode
The X902D-G7 includes both DAB/DAB+/DMB radio and a native GPS iGo Primo Nextgen navigation with TomTom maps. If you don’t use CarPlay’s own Maps, you can use its integrated TomTom navigation system alongside audio playback screens, thanks to its handy split-view feature, which allows you to view the radio/music ‘now playing’ display simultaneously alongside the map display. With its 9-inch screen there is surprisingly plenty of space to display a fully functional navigation map. Turn-by-turn directions are also maintained on the drivers central display, along with audio playback, be it radio station or playing music track.
Other native systems, such as the vehicle’s parking sensors, air con and trip information, have all been carried over and are displayed in a new, sometimes better, full-screen user interface (UI). There are a few in-car systems however that have not had the same visual treatment and have not enhanced anything over the Volkswagen’s interfaces that we’ve come accustomed to on native systems.
For example: switching performance modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport etc.) is displayed in a rather disappointing vertical scrolling menu, instead of large icon buttons found in Volkswagen’s easily accessible native UI. Its tyre pressure menus are also an area that’s organised in a vertical scrolling menu, rather than a more graphicly-rich UI. Some menus also lack some form of confirmation. Setting your tires pressure into memory, for example, leaves you with no visual feedback, making you question whether it has actually saved anything at all.
All of the Golf’s function buttons on the wheel are maintained. Volume up and down and switching through tracks or stations can still be controlled with the left and right side toggle buttons, whilst the voice command and call buttons trigger Siri (if connected) and accept/end calls.
If you like to see visual feedback when changing air flow or setting temperature, the full-screen display of this is much nicer to look at than VW’s native solution. This, and other glanceable displays (including parking display), can be set to close within 5, 10 seconds of inactivity or not display at all when interacting with them.
Audio Tuning Nirvana
The plethora of sound-tuning options are something we’ve come to expect with any Alpine system, and the X902D-G7 doesn’t disappoint. There are plenty of sound presets for anyone seeking an instant result, along with fader and balance settings to position the audio perfectly in the car. This is all displayed in a UI that’s expectedly much better than Volkswagen’s solution. Any audiophiles wishing to spend lots of time to get the most out of their speakers can head into more technical functions such as X-Over and Digital Time Correction, as well as the full separate equaliser, all of which can be used to reach audio nirvana.
For me, I found it easier to plug in my iPhone via the USB and apply the many downloadable profiles shared by other Alpine owners in Alpine’s official TuneIt app. Sadly there were very few shared profiles from any X902D owners, but you can still apply profiles from other systems, which may match your own tastes. It is in the Bass Engine SQ area that I found the best results, though. By entering the vehicle make, model and speaker configuration, a bass profile is created to set the audio levels to my stock speakers.
Customisable Launch Screen
Just like Alpine’s other Apple CarPlay aftermarket systems, the launch screen can also be customised to your liking. The process is very much the same as on the iLX-700/iLX-007 headunit I had, yet this time I didn’t have any trouble applying my own custom launch screen, which took less than 30seconds to do. The navigation between screens and scrolling through menus can feel a little ‘delayed’ at times, however Alpine showed me their upcoming firmware update that greatly improves on these speeds and it will no doubt also fix a few known issues and bugs too.
Plugging in an iPhone or Android device will display an Apple CarPlay or Google Android Auto icon respectively in the middle of the Alpine’s home screen. Once selected, the smartphone’s car platform will launch full screen onto the 9-inch display. At this point the usual CarPlay experience resumes as normal.
The capacitive screen allows for easy, inertial scrolling in vertical menus. The large display renders the CarPlay home screen very clearly with apps are displayed large and bright. Having a large display means the system is more likely to inherit more reflection than systems with smaller displays. There is a slight anti-glare coating on the large 9-inch glassy display, to help reduce this effect, but there isn’t much that can be done to remove or reduce the effect of direct sunlight, or reduce the amount of fingerprints a screen of this size can encourage.
Interaction with Siri for Apple CarPlay can be toggled via the wheel’s voice button, via the system’s facia button, holding on the CarPlay home button, or by launching Siri with your voice. Using the built-in stock microphone, Siri commands where heard clearly, and if your Volkswagen doesn’t come with a microphone, the built-in front-facing microphone will easily pick-up your voice commands too.
Unfortunately the X907D-G7 will not display any CarPlay ‘Now Playing’ or CarPlay Maps turn-by-turn navigation data on the driver’s center console. So whilst CarPlay is active, both Music or Navigation options in the centre display will show a blank screen. Maybe this can be addressed in a future software update, seeing as native navigation and Bluetooth audio tracks can display content here without any problems.
Let’s Wrap Up
If you want Apple CarPlay in your Volkswagen Golf Mk7 and like me, the thought of retro-fitting an MIB2 leaves you in a cold sweat, then I would strongly consider the Alpine Style X902D-G7 for your Golf 7. It retails at £1499, or if you wish to spend £100 less, look for the i902D-G7 model which comes without the stock navigation. The X902D-G7 does come featured-packed. You’ll get a well built system with a large 9-inch capacitive screen, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support, built-in TomTom map navigation, HDMI IN support, an arsenal of audio-tuning options and its ability to plug into and display existing in-car system functions. It may not be relatively cheep, but it’s one of the best ‘smart’ upgrades you should consider for your Mk7 Volkswagen Golf infotainment system.
Alpine UK supplied and fitted our Alpine Style X902D-G7 for this review. Like all our reviews, we continue to provide you, the reader, with an impartial review as if we have purchased the item ourselves, stating the positive and negative points of this system along with areas of improvement that Alpine may consider for future software or system updates.