​Echo Auto review: Alexa for your car

If you’re a keen Alexa user at home, this easy upgrade comes recommended

​Echo Auto
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In terms of connected tech cars are still incredibly dumb, yet so deserving of smart features – a problem the Echo Auto sets out to solve.

Yes, there are systems such as Apple CarPlay and Google Auto that can be added to your brand new motor at great expense by the dealership. But for those with older cars, or just not willing to heap extras on top of already expensive purchases, there is another way.

The Echo Auto essentially turning your vehicle into an Alexa smart speaker. And it offers most of the features from your home Alexa – and a couple of extras too.

And costing just $49.99, it’s little more than an Echo Dot for your car.

But is it a leisurely Sunday drive or absolute gridlock? We took it for a spin.

Echo Auto: what does it do (and how does it work)?

Echo Auto close up

Echo Auto is a small module that’s placed in your car. It’s about the size of a small charger, with a couple of physical buttons for pairing and muting.

It needs access to three things:

  • A paired iOS/Android smartphone running the Alexa app
  • The 12V charger
  • A Bluetooth connection in your car’s existing system.

You pair it up like any normal Echo speaker in your Alexa app, and it uses the Bluetooth connection from your phone to communicate via your car’s built in mic and speaker.

You can summon the assistant using the standard “Alexa” wake word.

The kit comes with a grill mount for the unit, though we just kept it inside the central console, and found voice detection to be super responsive – just like Echo speakers in the home.

So what does Echo Auto do?

Echo Auto 12v connection

Echo Auto does anything your Alexa speakers do really, just from your car. And after initially asking for Spotify playlists and the weather, plenty of pleasing little uses came to the fore.

  • Announcing to speakers at home about arrival time
  • Setting the heating temperature before arriving
  • Asking for music and playlists
  • Asking random questions

Everyone’s use of Alexa is personal – that’s one of its strengths. But you don’t need to be an Alexa power user to find some use out of the Echo Auto.

Driving features

Echo Auto mode app

There are a smattering of driving features on the Echo Auto, which make Alexa a natural fit for the car – the main one being directions.

The mainstay of the experience is Auto Mode, which you'll be prompted to open when your phone and Echo Auto are connected.

It puts the Alexa app into a simplified, large text state with each shortcuts to things like saved locations, playlists and contacts.

Echo Auto navigation

You can hook up Alexa to a preferred mapping service (obviously we chose Google Maps) so you can ask for directions to places, areas or saved favourites. Or you can tap them in Auto Mode.

We found directions in Google Maps to be really easy to use. Addresses and place names are handled with aplomb, but we threw out a few petrol stations and supermarket requests. If there are multiple options then you'll be presented with options to choose from.

The mapping and directions will be displayed on your phone, so this isn’t going to hook into the manufacturer supplied satnav on your car’s HUD.

Echo Auto review: Alexa for your car

It’s also not 100% hands free, by any means. If you ask Alexa for your directions without Auto Mode, you need to tap the notification that appears, unlock your phone and then hit the security confirmation.

If Auto Mode is running then you can just get away with the final security confirmation.

But once open it works seamlessly.

Echo Auto – is it worth it?

Echo Auto music

We're big fans of the Echo Auto - and it's a simple problem solver for the car, adding a proper voice assistant to a space where your hands and attention are limited is just a no-brainer.

Of course, the counterpoint to the Echo Auto is that iPhones and Android smartphones have all got a voice assistant built in.

And using Siri (for Apple Maps) or Google Assistant (for Google Maps) is a slightly more refined experienced, which does matter when you’re at the wheel.

But if you’re one the millions of people that use Alexa at home, there is a lot to like.

Alexa is a fantastic voice assistant in your car, and the ability to control your home devices, get directions, make calls to loved ones or just announce that you’ve just picked up tonight’s takeaway and someone better have laid the table are real world benefits.

And the Auto Mode for Alexa does make it feel like a well developed feature.

Cars are crying out for this level of smartness, and if your home is already benefiting from Alexa, your car can too.

Echo Auto
If your home is already benefiting from Alexa integrations and smart home routines then adding this to your car is a no-brainer. But its reliance on your smartphone means that those looking for quick voice navigation and playlist control could just use the voice assistant on their smartphone. The beauty of the Echo Auto is the extras Alexa brings to the table.
  • Small unit
  • Responsive
  • Simple to set up
  • Navigation not truly hands free
  • Reliant on smartphone

TAGGED    amazon alexa

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