Adding CarPlay to Our Toyota’s Entune System

Our 2016 Toyota Sienna is perfect, except for its janky entertainment system. Every time I plugged in my phone, the Entune radio started playing “A a a a a Very Good Song”. It doesn’t have maps, at least that you’d want to bother with using. “Hey Siri” replied with an old, robotic-sounding voice. If you were lucky, playing a song would show an old photo of the band. Music from bands newer than the van would display something generic like “Alternative”. While it worked alright, the whole interface felt like it would’ve been nifty and current on my old Palm PDA.

I envied the CarPlay setups I got to fiddle with in my friends’ cars and in rentals. However, nice replacement entertainment systems that supported CarPlay plus all the same features as the original head unit were way more expensive than I could justify. Then I found a much cheaper CarPlay retrofit unit (affiliate link) with decent ratings, and despite my misgivings, I had to try it.

This little thing is brilliant. The important bits:

  • It works. When I get in the van, after a few seconds my phone connects to the unit and I have a full-featured CarPlay display.
  • It was easy to install myself. While I’m comfortable working on cars, I’d never pulled the family transport apart before without having to fix something broken. Thank you, Toyota, for designing our van like a LEGO kit.
  • Everything else still works. Tapping the head unit’s power button gets back to the original display. Shifting into reverse still shows the backup camera. It adds features without blocking anything that the original system could do. That was my biggest worry, and it was groundless. I can’t overemphasize this: everything still works.
  • The product description and several reviews mention that the Sienna’s display is low-resolution. I had also worried that CarPlay would assume a high-res display and that it would be unreadable on the lousy screen. Nope. It’s fine. Although it’s noticeably blockier than my iPhone’s screen, small text is perfectly readable, street labels and markings are sharp and clear, and it’s not an issue at all. My wife didn’t even realize that it isn’t “Retina” quality.

If you’re on the fence, do it. This relatively cheap little unit fixed all the things I loathed about the original Entune system while keeping all the cool features we enjoyed. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the upgrade to a friend or family member.