RNS 850 GPS radio navigation system FAQ - head unit and comparison to RCD 550

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The RNS850 is the optional color touchscreen GPS navigation system for Volkswagen Touareg starting in 2011.

It replaces the optional RNS 510 for the 2010 Touareg.  The big difference is that the screen goes from 6.5" to 8", increases the hard drive from 30 to 60 GB and has 3d buildings and terrain on the 3d view of the GPS.  It also shows lane assist on the MFD/MFI, the display between the instrument cluster gauges.  

The base radio is the RCD 550, a 6 cd changer touchscreen radio with 6.5" display.  It has an aux-in jack and mp3/mk4 capability.  It will not be equipped on US or Canadian cars.

Processor: SH4
RAM: 256 MB
Flash memory 256 MB

HD memory: 60GB
-allocated for music: 18GB 

European versions have DAB (digital audio broadcasting) radio.

This article compares features of the RNS 315 vs. RNS 510 navigation systems with the standard on TDI RCD 510 6 CD changer radio.  The main reason over getting it vs. a handheld GPS is because it displays directions on the instrument cluster multifunction display (full screen MFD+) and speaks over the stereo speakers.  The screen is also bigger than most handheld GPS and there are no wires or mounts hanging off it.  It also goes into night mode (can disable this) when you turn on the headlights instead of being calculated with a handheld GPS like a Garmin or Tomtom.  Here's what it looks like:

ipod/iphone cable

6 CD/DVD changer in the trunk

Has voice control.  Lets you name street and town in the same command.  60GB hard disk, 18GB available for music or video.  2 SD card slots.  Plays DVD when stopped.  Can add TV tuner.

US Version:
1. Integrated Bluetooth
2. 3D Maps (buildings, terrain)
3. Inbuilt 60GB HDD (18GB available for music)
4. 8" touch screen

Standard equipment includes the “RCD 550″ radio-CD system with 6.5 inch touch-screen and integrated 6-disc CD changer. As an option, this infotainment module can be upgraded to the “RNS 850″ navigation system with an 8-inch touch-screen; its other features include 3D map representation (building view and topographic view via “Digital Terrain Model”), a 40 Gigabyte hard drive (20 Gigabyte memory for music, movies, etc.), DVD player, speech activation and in European versions digital radio reception (DAB).

Naturally, the system can also be expanded to include a Bluetooth interface for telephones, a Media Device Interface for MP3 players including iPod/iPhone, TV and a Dynaudio sound system.

Besides intuitive control by touch-screen menuing, the “RCD 550″ and “RNS 850″ offer a context-based control bar along the lower screen border. Eight keys are located here (”Radio”, “Media”, “Nav”, “Traffic”, “Phone”, “Climate”, “Car” and “Setup”) for switching between the basic menus as well as two rotary knobs.

All key functions can be accessed using these two levels – touch-screen and control bar. This includes all energy flow and consumption data on the Hybrid version.

Another new development – placed between the four round instruments for the speedometer, tachometer, engine temperature and fuel gage – is a seven-inch multi-functional colour display with a 15:9 aspect ratio. It is standard equipment on the Touareg Hybrid and with the V8 engines.

The premium version of the display enables several viewing modes without overloading the driver with information. Rather the driver can have specific information shown or hidden by making selections from self-explanatory and colour-coded context menus (”Navigation”, “Media”, “Telephone”, “Vehicle”, “Assistance”). In the Touareg Hybrid, the colour display also indicates the drivetrain’

While the lower resolution screen really doesn't make that much of a difference for navigation, a very large screen is one of the major advantages over a handheld or iphone navigation.  The smaller size does make it slightly harder to input addresses over the touchscreen if you have big or clumsy fingers (I'm not judging but you know who you are!)  While I greatly prefer touchscreen input, not having physical buttons makes placing the tap within the borders of the "button zones" harder.  Below left is a demo showing the smaller buttons and general use of the radio.  I'm not sure where to download the user manual for the RNS315 since it's a new model.

The biggest change was price - the RNS-315 (option code p71" navigation system") only costs $590 instead of $1750 MSRP for the RNS 510.  However, you also get less for paying less.  The big advantage other than price is that you can swap SD cards when leaving your home area.  This should make it easier to find and borrow maps from friends.  Disclaimer: do not illegally buy, sell, or copy any copyrighted licensed map data!  The 510 uses a hard drive for map data.  New map data must be loaded by a copy protected DVD which takes longer than swapping a card.

Full details aren't known because it's a new model but it should be close to the RNS-310 system that was only sold in Europe.  

Here's a table with the differences and comparison of OEM VW GPS navigation systems with the standard RCD 510 radio in the TDI.

  RNS 310 GPS  RNS-315 GPS (?=guess) RNS 510 GPS navigation system RCD 510 radio
screen size (inches) 5" touchscreen 5" touchscreen 6.5" touchscreen 16:9 6.5" touchscreen
resolution (pixels) 400 x 240 400 x 240 800 x 480 400 x 240
cd slot single cd  single cd single cd  6 cd changer in dash
plays video DVD no no yes no
storage for music/navigation maps SD cards SD cards 30 GB hard drive (10GB nav, 20GB music) and SD cards you supply SD cards
ipod interface aux input and MDI compatible aux input and MDI compatible aux input and MDI compatible MDI interface
bluetooth call from phone book on the screen? unknown unknown yes, when equipped with high bluetooth Europe yes, North America no.
mp3 compatible yes yes? yes yes
HD radio support unknown unknown yes  
can you retrofit backup camera yes yes yes yes
satellite radio ? siruis? siruis sirius
amplifier power 4x 20 watt 4x 20 watt 4x 20 watt 4x 20 watt
displays information on the instrument cluster since all TDI have the highline cluster, yes since all TDI have the highline cluster, yes since all TDI have the highline cluster, yes since all TDI have the highline cluster, yes
GPS 3d and bird's eye view yes, both yes, both yes, both N/A since it's a radio
split screen GPS? no, too small no, smaller screen yes N/A - radio
made by: Blaupunkt ? VDO Continental ?

A highline MFD+ is a full screen MultiFunction Display.  All TDI 2009 and newer have it.  If you have a gasser and don't have the highline cluster, you must add one or else the GPS won't display information on MFD+.  The half screen MFD cannot display nav information on it.

"Text+turn arrow" navigation instructions and song/artist name or radio station are displayed on the Multi Function Display (MFD+) on the instrument cluster as well as on the main display.  An example is shown below (new cars have white/black displays).  The display brightness and colors also automatically go into "night" mode when you turn on the headlights vs. calculating it from GPS location and time as with some aftermarket navigation systems.

If you buy one for retrofit, make sure to buy a North American one since Euro head units don't have the same AM or satellite radio signals.  If you don't get the security code you bought a nice paperweight.  All Euro add-on accessories should work.  Note that the Jetta Sportwagen is called the Golf Wagon in Canada and Golf Variant or Golf Estate in Europe.

How to retrofit or swap the RNS 315 GPS system

Also remember that you can also retrofit the RNS 315 or 510 GPS to your VW later.  You should have no problem buying it as parts and the wiring should be nearly 100% compatible.  If adding a GPS system, you have to disable the compass module on the car or else the car computer would otherwise see 2 compass readings.  The part numbers for the North American RNS315 are: VW# 3c0 035 279 (3c0 035 279) or VW# 1k0 035 274 a (1k0 035274a) (includes the note: to be used for 1k0 035 274, not sure what that means).  The part numbers for the Euro head unit should be different. If you decide you like the RNS-510 navigation more, see 1000q: RNS 510 system for more details on that.

Aftermarket GPS/head units that will work and other issues

The alternative to OEM navigation is aftermarket.  There are some good aftermarket double din nav systems like the Pioneer AVIC-F90BT or Kenwood DDX812.  Then there are Chinese made OEM look-a-likes like the AVC-9000 or Waywell WD6050 which look the interior buttons and colors.  Rosen is another factory look navigation.  For the low price of the RNS315, I'd rather go OEM than spend about the same amount on an aftermarket unit.  The exception is if you already have a head unit from another car and want to move it over.  Some have complained about the software on the OEM-looking units as well because they usually run off windows CE.  Below is a demo of the Waywell Chinese copy.  Of note - you can add a cheap backup camera but they're normally stuck onto the license plate and you have to manually select them instead of displaying when you put the car in reverse.

There are also OEM retrofits like backup cameras or parallel parking assist but they aren't cheap.  For example, the OEM backup camera is hidden under the VW symbol on the trunk and comes out when you put the transmission into reverse....but adding the camera, wire, and motorized VW symbol costs over $700!

RNS-315 GPS system specs:

Make sure you get the security code or else you bought a paperweight!   

Manufactured by Blaupunkt (probably)
screen size: 5", 400 x 240 pixel resolution
aux input for ipods/other
SD card slot for mp3s or data

GPS Navigation specs:
day color/lighting switches to "night" color/lighting with headlights on
split screen display - compass/3d map view, gps stats/map, bird's eye map view/3d map view, etc.
ability to play music and use GPS at the same time

RNS-315 part numbers:

VW# 3c0 035 279 (3c0035279)
VW# 1k0 035 274 a (1k0035274a) (includes the note: to be used for 1k0 035 274, not sure what that means)

Related links:

1000q: 2010-11 VW Golf TDI FAQ and buying checklist
1000q: 2009-2011 VW Sportwagen (Jetta or Golf wagon) TDI buying checklist

1000q: 2009-2010 mk5 VW Jetta TDI buying guide
1000q: 2011 new mk6 VW Jetta TDI buying guide

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