Renault Sport Clio V6

Renault Clio Sport V6

This week in the shop

When you have clients that are car collectors, you get to see and work on the occasional unicorn like this Renault Sport Clio V6. This particular Renault made its way to America from Japan. At the moment, this is the only one here legally in the country. It was marketed and sold as the Lutecia due to Honda owning the rights to the name Clio in Japan.

Renault Sport Clio V6

Jeremy Clarkson famously once stated, “In my perfect ten car garage I would definitely have one of these – no question.” Yet, there were only 1,309 production vehicles made between 2003-2005. Finding one, especially in such great condition, is incredibly rare.

Rear Mid Engine – Renault Sport Clio V6

This rear mid engine, rear wheel drive hatchback boasts 255 horsepower with an impressive 0-60 second time: a mere 5.9 seconds. Which doesn’t sound like a lot in todays world of electric vehicles capable of launching to 60 mph in under 3 seconds, but for a 6-speed manual made 20 years ago, that’s exceptionally fast.

Renault Sport Clio V6 – Freshly installed Sony Bluetooth receiver

This Renault Sport Lutecia V6 made its way to our shop as it arrived stateside with a hole in the dash where the radio should have been. For some unimaginable reason, whoever removed the previous radio felt it necessary to hack off the harness rather than simply disconnecting it from the radio (why????). Identifying wiring and installing a new radio was no problem for our skilled technician.

Hot Hatchback – Renault Sport Lutecia V6

This particular client has an impressive car collection with many rare and exotic models. He could drive any number of vehicles from Lamborghini, Porsche, Acura, Mercedes etc. Yet more often than not, he stated this is the car he prefers to take out and I totally get why.

Renault Sport Lutecia V6

As the owner of a 2013 BMW 135i M Sport 6-speed manual, I understand exactly what this client means. I know my old BMW isn’t the fastest and it would surely lose in any race against the Clio Sport and any number of newer cars out there, but I would still choose to drive it any day over a newer BMW model. Some cars simply have the power to stir up a special kind of nostalgic and simple joy. The kind of joy you used to get as a kid in your friends go kart tearing it up and down and around the cul-de-sac on your neighborhood street. Sometimes what makes a car great isn’t how fast it is or how attractive its styling, but simply how it makes you feel when you’re driving it. The Renault Sport Clio V6 definitely falls into that category.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review – Best Value for CarPlay and Android Auto

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - Home screen.

Meet the value packed Sony XAV-AX100

I’m so happy Sony finally made an Apple CarPlay and Android Compatible head unit. For at least the last couple of years, Sony has definitely had an edge over its competitors in terms of sound quality and value and this model is no different in that regard. Retailing at only $499*, this is the lowest priced Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible head unit that I’ve carried and based on the features and ease of use, I think it’s a phenomenal value.

*Update 10-8-17 – Sony has lowered the retail price on the XAV-AX100 to $399.95 in anticipation of the XAV-AX200.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - Home screen.
Sony XAV-AX100 Review – Home screen.

So what do you get for the money?

Ease of use – One thing I love about this unit is how simplistic it is. Because this unit lacks a lot of bells and whistles, the Sony XAV-AX100 is relatively easy to use and has an easy to understand layout. What you see is what you get. Other than Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, this unit features:

  • AM/FM Radio
  • Bluetooth audio streaming and handsfree functionality
  • Reverse camera input
  • Front, rear and subwoofer preamp outputs (Sony says rated at 2 volt, but it sounds slightly higher, I have not measured it)
  • 10 Band EQ, built in crossovers, sub level control
  • 5 wallpaper options, plus option for custom display (uploaded via USB drive)
  • Remote steering wheel control input*

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - backside of the head unit
Sony XAV-AX100 Review – backside of the head unit has a single din chassis

*Sony typically does not support phone functionality through their steering wheel control inputs, however when test flashing either the iDatalink Maestro RR or Maestro SW module I found that this model will support some phone functionality although it’s kind of weird because it gets all lumped in under one button. Phone related flashing options (listed as function per button) look like:

  • Start Voice (Android Auto & Apple CarPlay) & Answer/Hang up call
  • Source & Hang up or Reject Call & Power On
  • Source off & Hang up & Power Off

Perhaps they configure it this way in case you don’t have voice control or phone buttons on your steering wheel.

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter

I’ve had quite a few customers comment on the volume knob. They like it, they find it easy to use. If you appreciate volume knobs you will appreciate the nice rotary volume knob on this head unit. It has a stiffer and more rigid feel to it compared to the volume knobs on other head units and it’s backlit.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - Display panel options.
Sony XAV-AX100 Review – Display panel options.

Sony XAV-AX100 review – sound quality counts

Aside from the basic features of this model, the sound quality of Sony receivers is something I need to talk about in this Sony XAV-AX100 review. Sony head units, in general just sound great. My customers are always surprised when I play a basic Sony receiver like the MEX-GS610BT or MEX-XB100BT and let them hear that compared to an Alpine CDE-164BT or Pioneer DEH-X6900BT. It is a noticeable difference even for a car audio novice.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - EQ screen.
Sony XAV-AX100 Review – EQ screen.

Right off the bat, the Sony units just sound smoother, richer and more natural in tone. Once you hear it, it’s hard to buy anything else. Except maybe Kenwood, they’re pretty close. And even though this unit is only rated at 2 volts on the preamp output, I have a feeling if I measured it, I’d find it was slightly higher. It’s definitely punchier than the other 2 volt preamp output models I have on display.

Sony also provides plenty of audio control tools such as a 10 band EQ, built in crossovers and sub level control. Internal amplification on this bad boy is rated at 20 watts x 4 RMS which is slightly higher than your average head unit (most are 18 watts x 4 RMS).

Sony XAV-AX100 review – radio reception

Radio reception in general is a tricky thing because it’s so susceptible to interference coming from every angle – power lines on the road and even power lines in the car itself can cause static and interference. With evolving technology and many consumers turning to streaming services from their mobile devices, most car stereo manufacturers are not dumping a ton of money into their tuners.

Despite that, I have been impressed with the reception of Sony head units, this model included. We recently installed this in an older Subaru with one of those terrible amplified windshield antennas and this thing was definitely pulling in more stations than the customer’s previous Pioneer double din head unit (which was equipped with the Pioneer supertuner).

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - FM radio screen.
Sony XAV-AX100 Review – FM radio screen.

What’s missing from the Sony XAV-AX100?

Although Sony packs a lot of popular features into the XAV-AX100, it is missing a few items some consumers may still be interested in.

Buyer beware, the Sony XAV-AX100 lacks the following popular features:

  • CD/DVD Player**
  • HDMI input
  • AUX input
  • SiriusXM Capability**
  • HD Radio
  • Mounting sleeve and trim ring*

*For most vehicles you will not need a mounting sleeve and trim ring as most installation kits these days support iso mount, however, if you have happened to have a vehicle that does not support iso mount and requires a mounting sleeve and trim ring you can use Pioneer’s ADT-VA133 – that is what I used to mount this in my display board.

**Check out the Sony XAV-AX200 if these features are important to you.

Remember the old saying you get what you pay for? Well, if these features are truly important to you, you’ll have to fork over a bit more money and go for something like either the Kenwood DDX9703s or the Pioneer AVH-4200NEX (soon to be replaced by the 2017 model AVH-4201NEX which I believe is the same as AVH-4200NEX, but is bundled with a reverse camera).

Sony XAV-AX100 review conclusion

Although the Sony XAV-AX100 lacks a couple features, I find for most customers it ticks off all the key boxes. If you are looking for an easy to use, great sounding Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatible head unit, you should seriously consider the Sony XAV-AX100. This model has that whole less is more approach and won’t overwhelm you with bells and whistles -aka features you don’t need or won’t use.

Sony XAV-AX100 Review - CarPlay display
Sony XAV-AX100 Review – CarPlay display

In conclusion, Sony did a great job with the XAV-AX100 focusing on the key features consumers are interested in:

  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Ease of use
  • Bluetooth
  • Reverse camera input
  • Steering wheel control input

Do you really need anything more?

 

Is this the end for Sony? Car Stereo Chick doesn’t think so.

Sony's Mobile ES CDX-C90 was the best car stereo you could buy 10 years ago.

Sony's Mobile ES CDX-C90 was the best car stereo you could buy 10 years ago.
Sony’s Mobile ES CDX-C90 was the best car stereo you could buy 10 years ago.

A recent corporate strategy meeting has experts predicting the end of Sony Electronics

After Friday’s corporate strategy meeting, the media started churning out headlines like “Sony fights for its life: NYT” courtesy of CE Outlook and “How Sony Fell Behind in the Tech Parade” courtesy of the New York Times.  After reading both articles, it became quite apparent that Sony hasn’t made any money since 2008.  That’s a long time for a company to survive without profits and with record losses.  Many experts are doubtful that CEO Kazuo Hirai, who was recently appointed CEO as of April 1st, can turn Sony around and save the company.

Sony’s focus has been too far off for too long.

I’m not so sure that Sony is going under, but one thing I do agree on is that Sony hasn’t turned out a very innovative or exciting product for a while.  I think this is especially true when it comes to their mobile electronics line.

Our retail store gave them up years ago when they put their specialty line, Sony Mobile ES, to rest.  I think what has attracted consumers to Sony’s mobile electronics, in recent years, is the price point.  Sony has been so focused on offering competitive pricing for popular features that they seemed to have forgotten to focus on functionality and reliability.  Why produce a $129 retail stereo that offers Bluetooth if the Bluetooth works poorly and is incompatible with many popular phones?

On the occasions where customers have brought in these stereos for us to install, they would always gripe, “Everyone complains that they can’t hear me when I use the Bluetooth on this stereo” or even worse “My phone won’t connect with this Sony stereo I just bought!”

Unfortunately for these customers, I didn’t sell them the stereo, I just installed it for them.  Had they bought the stereo from me, I would have sold them a Kenwood, Alpine or Pioneer.  Sure it would have cost them $20 – $50 more, but it would have worked.

How much is brand recognition worth?

Despite their record losses, Sony still has its name.  Unlike many other mobile electronics manufacturers, Sony manufactures products that span a vast group of markets including digital imaging products, medical imaging equipment, TV’s and other home electronics as well as their motion pictures division, Sony Pictures Entertainment.  This gives them great brand recognition and provides a sense of security with consumers who purchase Sony products.  They see the name and think, “Oh, it’s a Sony, they’ve been around forever.”

No matter how great their brand recognition is, brand recognition alone won’t produce profits for the company.  As a small business owner being an outsider looking in, it seems obvious that the company needs restructuring and reorganizing in a way that will streamline their divisions, eliminate a lot of bureaucracy and allow for better communication and planning between divisions.  They also need to focus their efforts and put strong leaders and innovators at the heads of each of their divisions.

Despite the doom and gloom outlook other media are portraying, Mr. Kazuo Hiari does plan to do just that.  He stated during the recent conference, “the management layer that separated our customer and B2B businesses have been eliminated so that businesses can be run under the banner of one management. This will improve our speed and also enhance mutual corporation within the Sony Group.”  He went on to say, “We plan to focus our investments in our three core businesses, digital imaging, game and mobile as well as the medical business.”

It’s probably not the beginning of the end for Sony, but it may be the beginning of the end for their mobile electronics division.

It won’t surprise me if Sony gets out of the mobile electronics industry as a result of this restructuring.  Sony reminds me of Fujitsu Ten, maker of Eclipse car audio products.  The company pulled out of aftermarket car audio electronics years ago after failing to produce car stereos that had the innovative features consumers wanted.  By the time they started listening to consumer interests, it was too late.  They were always trying to catch up with their competitors.  The features and technologies their stereos offered always seemed to be at least a year behind every other manufacturer.  After years of losing money in that category, Fujitsu Ten cut their losses and said good bye to their aftermarket car audio electronics division.

I have a feeling Sony will take a similar route to Fujitsu Ten and I think we may see them pull out of the aftermarket mobile electronics industry.  Unless of course, they can get that Mirror Link A/V unit in production soon OR come up with some other very innovative and attractive feature for their mobile electronics line.  If Sony’s newly re-found passion and dedication doesn’t make into the mobile electronics division, I doubt we’ll see this area of business last.

Where will Sony go from here?

As far as the brand going under?  I highly doubt that.  It’s obvious Mr. Kazuo Hirai’s is well aware of the dire situation and pressing need to make change NOW.  This is what any business owner would do in a similar situation.  Acknowledge the situation, come up with a plan of action and implement that plan as soon as possible.  Mr Kazuo Hirai’s final words at the conference appeared to be honest and inspiring:

“Making this happen will require determination on my part and on the part of each Sony employee. But for Sony to be restored and to grow, we cannot shy away from difficult decisions and executions. Sony will not change unless we meet our challenges head-on, increase our business speed, revitalize our business portfolio and bring about innovation inspire curiosity in people around the world and touch our customer’s hearts with our products and services. That is a goal for which Sony aims.”

I think Sony will pull through.  In fact, in my humble opinion, I think it’s probably not a bad idea to buy some stock in them right now ($17.54 a share as of this writing).  I think they can turn it around and become a strong leader and innovator in the electronics and entertainment industry once again.

Will we ever see anything like their Mobile ES line again?  I doubt it.  I think Sony’s strength will lie in other markets as outlined during the conference like gaming, entertainment and imaging electronics.

Regardless, I’ll always remember Sony for their CDX-C90.  It’s copper chassis and expansive equalizer left a lasting impression on me early on in my mobile electronics career.  Hopefully, Sony will begin leaving that kind of impression on consumers once again with new and exciting products.  Only time will tell.  I truly wish everyone at Sony the best of luck.