Automakers integrating text message functionality into new cars is a trend cropping up in everything from Cars.com's former 2013 Honda Civic long-term tester to the 2014 Lexus ES 350 we recently tested. Even though the level of distracted driving while using such systems is still being debated, the connectivity is proliferating quickly.
You probably know the basics: Drivers can listen and respond to incoming text messages through the car's multimedia and Bluetooth system via voice commands or preprogrammed reply messages. We're used to seeing "Yes," "No" and "I'm driving" responses. The ES 350's SMS Text-to-Speech With Reply feature takes preprogrammed responses to another level with 15 available replies.
Households with two equipped cars can pretty much have an entire conversation simply by using the numerous preprogrammed responses. For example:
Lexus 1: "I'm running late."
Lexus 2: "Where are you?"
Lexus 1: "I'm stuck in traffic."
Lexus 2: "Can't wait to see you."
Lexus 1: "LOL."
That's harsh, Lexus 1. Message recipients should instantly recognize the text messages as a preprogrammed response from a Lexus vehicle because the message's grammar and punctuation is, well, formal. Translation: What you may be used to seeing as "Cant W8 2 C U" comes from the ES 350 as "Can't wait to see you."
Lexus also allows users to get creative and edit the 15 messages. The ES 350's SMS Text-to-Speech With Reply feature is part of the optional Navigation/Premium Audio Package for $2,625. The 15 preprogrammed responses include the following:
- "I'm driving. I will call you back later."
- "I'm running late."
- "I'll arrive soon."
- "I'm on my way."
- "I'm driving right now, please call me. "
- "I'm stuck in traffic."
- "Can't wait to see you."
- "Can't talk right now, I'm driving."
- "You're the best!"
- "Do you need anything?"
- "Where are you?"
My Verizon-network Samsung Galaxy S3 sent and received text messages from the Lexus flawlessly, but not all phones are compatible with every feature. Check your phone's compatibility with Lexus' SMS Text-to-Speech With Reply here.
Cars.com photo by Joe Bruzek