Taking advantage of our new, bigger and better editorial package size, we thought it was about time we started to do some in-depth product reviews, and what better time to get started then in our Audio Special issue? Besides the bumps, which we cover in the other audio tech, what's more important than a good in-dash unit that can handle anything you throw at it?

Every year it seems like it gets tougher and tougher to choose an audio/video system for your ride. Well, for 2006 Kenwood Excelon makes that choice fairly easy. With an entire new line of audio, video, and navigation systems Kenwood is hitting the market hard and taking no prisoners. For an in-depth look at their new line we put the KVT-817DVD (7.0-inch-wide, fully motorized in-dash monitor) to the test, paired with the KNA-G510 navigation processor. This combination packs a powerful punch when it comes to market-leading features at an affordable price, not to mention ease of use.

The KVT-817DVD In-Dash Unit
We've used quite a few in-dash monitors and some get a little overwhelming. But the engineers at Kenwood put user-friendliness at the top of their list, and even though the unit is chock-full of bells and whistles, it's seriously one of the easiest units we've ever tested. In less than ten minutes we had the touch screen controls down to a science and we could navigate back and forth between our CD/DVD/Navigation and even our P-EQ settings. We dialed in the unit and the sound quality was amazing. With the versatile parameters, you can change your EQ using a number of presets or customize it to your own preferred music tastes. Everything about this unit screams two thumbs up! Some of its key features include:

-7.0-inch-wide color TFT Active Matrix display
-Fully automatic open/close with slide and angle adjustments
-Interactive touch screen controls w/ GUI (Graphic User Interface)
-Audio "easy control" mode while playing visual source
-Selectable wallpaper (5 patterns)
-Goldplated 5.1ch preouts w/ 5V preout level
-50Wx4 Max output (MOSFET Power IC)
-2 RCA AV inputs/1 RCA AV output
-Video input for rearview camera
-RGB input for navigation
-Steering remote input
-Dolby Pro Logic II/DTS surround
-4-band parametric EQ/digital crossover/listening position control
-DVD Menu Direct touch screen control
-MPEG (.mpg) and JPEG (.jpg) file playback
-Dual Zone source and volume control
-External media control (iPod ready)

Z-Action
Kenwood's Mobile Video line features a Z-Action fully automatic monitor mechanism, which is named for the distinctive Z-form action as the display automatically slides out, rises to an ideal viewing angle (8 presets) and retracts horizontally to an optimum viewing distance (4 presets). This Z-Action monitor mechanism features a slimmer design, enabling more features packed into one small, single DIN unit and installation in a broader range of vehicle types.

Navigation
The KNA-G510 hideaway navigation system completely renews our faith in easy-to-use navigation systems. We've come across some systems that make finding your way a harder task than necessary and almost make it pointless to even use. But the Kenwood nav system is dummy-proof. We went for a cruise and tested some of the POI features (which include a bar/nightclub search) and even got lost a few times to test out the auto re-route feature! No matter how we tried to fool the system, it kept up with our game and got us back safe and sound. The unit uses plug-and-play touch screen control with Kenwood-compatible monitors and features:

-Built-in map data (USA, including Alaska and Hawaii, and Canada)
-Over 5 million POIs (Points of Interest)
-SD memory card slot for map upgrade
-Compact body (4.5" x 4" x 1.5")
-2-D and 3-D view modes
-TTS voice guidance: English (U.S.), French (Canadian), Spanish (U.S.)
-Trip computer
-WAAS-enabled, 12 parallel channel GPS receiver
-TMC traffic info ready (Clear Channel) with subscription service
-XM Traffic & Weather-ready with subscription service
-XM Audio-ready with subscription service
-Multi-destination search mode (address, POI, streets and cities, map, memory points, recent finds, previous destination)
-Route calculation (faster time, shorter distance, off-road)
-Auto re-route/auto zoom/detour/GPS information

All in all, Kenwood really came through with their mobile video line. We were very pleased with every aspect, from the easy install to the ease of use. We still can't get over all the features stuffed into such an easy-to-use package. For more information, log on to www.kenwoodusa.com to locate a dealer near you.