Making the most of your HighLine satnav system

Posted on August 7, 2011 by

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Widescreen monitor

In the latest issue of Enjoying MG magazine (August 2011) I described how I prepared the GPS coordinates for more than 800 XPart MG Rover dealers in Europe and added these to a range of satellite navigation systems, so that owners could navigate directly to them.  This is one of many changes I have made over the past couple of years to the HighLine system in my 260 and in this blog I will summarize some of the improvements you can make to get the most out of this system.  You will find more details of many of these changes on the Two-Sixties Forum or the Rover 75 and ZT Owners’ Club Forum.

Bringing your hardware up to date

As originally installed – with its small 4:3 monitor, CD-based single-country mapping and in-dash cassette player – the HighLine system dates back a decade and is way behind in-car systems from other manufacturers today or portable devices from TomTom, Garmin and others.  If you want to retain the original appearance in your car, however, it is relatively easy to bring the system up to date: since MG Rover used in-car entertainment (ICE) components from BMW, you can retrofit later equipment designed for the BMW E46 3-series cars.

These are the changes you can make:

  • Fit a widescreen (16:9) monitor in the dash. This takes the place of the existing 4:3 unit with minor changes to the rear mounts.  It’s also a great mod to do if you want to upgrade your TV module to one of the latest hybrid analogue/digital units
  • Replace the satnav unit itself (normally a Mark III unit) with the Mark IV DVD-based unit.  This plugs into the same location on the right-hand side of the boot
  • Change the radio unit in the boot for a BM24 or BM54 unit.  You may need a new wiring adapter for this.  These have dual radio tuners so that you can use one tuner to pick up TMC traffic information permanently (via Classic FM in the UK) and listen to another radio station at the same time.  The audio quality will also be better
  • Install the Bluetooth telephone module: the kit for the BMW Mini is compatible with our
    cars.  This integrates with the satnav system so that for any destination listed as a Point of Information (POI) where the entry includes a phone number you can call that number straight from the in-car system.  This is great for hotels and restaurants, for example

Updating and enhancing the software

If you buy a new Mark IV satnav unit, the supplier should provide an updated disc to run the latest mapping software (currently v32).  If you wish, you can go further and customize the “splash screen” you see on start-up, so that it displays for example an MG logo.  You will find suppliers online who offer discs with custom splash screens pre-installed or you can use a piece of software called Navtweak to do it yourself.

MG splash screen

You then need the latest (2011) BMW High DVD Europe for the actual maps; these are updated twice a year and are available through BMW dealers or online.  You are now set to enjoy much better mapping and the split view display.

All these changes will already make a huge difference to the satnav experience in your car, with widescreen display and faster calculation of routes.  If you cross borders there is no need to switch map CDs in order to continue with country-level mapping information.   I often spend my holidays around Lake Geneva, crossing between France and Switzerland, and this alone is a huge benefit.

But there are a couple more tweaks you can make to the system.  In this form the satnav computer does not show the current time or ETA (estimated time of arrival):

  • To display the current time you need to add the iBUS clock module developed by Hans Schaaper and wire this into the satnav system
  • Finally, you can enable the ETA functionality by using a small piece of proprietary software called Navcoder,which connects from a laptop to an interface you can wire permanently into the satnav circuitry in the boot, and changes the default factory settings

iBus clock module

Satnav showing current time and ETA

The BMW user community has gone further still and has developed changes to the satnav software to enable day/night colour changes and to create sound-based alerts as you approach speed cameras.  The latter software, called PoiSon, is still in beta form, however, and using it disables some existing functionality in the system, notably the ability to use more than one language.  For the moment I have fought shy of doing this.

Personalizing the information

So far we have just looked at improving the satnav system itself, using the address information on the standard BMW map DVD.   As users of portable satnav devices  or smartphone apps from TomTom and Garmin will know, however, there are thousands of other address lists available online, complete with their GPS coordinates, which you can download and integrate into your satnav data.  Happily, for owners of BMW and Volkswagen Group cars, help is at hand, and since our cars use BMW ICE hardware, we too can benefit from this.  A proprietary software application wondrously called Pimp-My-Nav provides a simple, graphical user interface through which you can edit the structure of a manufacturer’s map disc; it is easy to remove categories you don’t require (such as the BMW dealer addresses) and to add new POI data.  There are two main ways to do this:

  1. If the POI information you want to add is already available in a format designed for TomTom, Garmin or Google Maps, you can simply add that data direct to your map disc.  In my car I have done this for car washes and speed camera locations, for example.  This is quick and easy to do, but will typically only give you the name of the Point of Information  and its GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude)
  2. Even if the POI data is not readily available, however, you can assemble your own GPS data in a Microsoft Excel file.  Using POI Manager, a free online tool which in turn relies on Google Maps, you can obtain the GPS coordinates for any address.  Alternatives include using Bing Maps or Microsoft AutoRoute and MapPoint Europe as desktop applications.  In each case I have chosen a suitable icon such as the MG logo for the new POI.  If you include the phone number in the same format as existing entries in the map database, you can also call these numbers using the Bluetooth kit, as we saw above.  As well as for the XPart MG Rover dealers, I have done this for some of my friends and personal contacts, exporting this data from the Contacts folder in Microsoft Outlook on my PC to an Excel file

Pimp-My-Nav showing MG Rover dealer POI data

Pimp-My-Nav provides an end-to-end solution so that once you have edited the data you can create an image file and burn a copy of the map disc on your home PC.  It took me a few attempts to optimize the format of the data initially, but it now works very well and I usually burn a new DVD with the latest speed camera locations or other updated data every three months or so.  If for any reason the changes don’t work as you intended, you can simply take out your modified disc and pop in the standard BMW map disc: there is no risk of damaging the satnav installation.

Starting navigation to an MG Rover dealer

Now I can navigate to the contacts of my choice from the in-car system.  With the Bluetooth phone kit as well I can even call them, all from the on-screen display.  For me, this is the best possible result and has given a new lease of life to the satnav system in my car.  In my next blog I will look at some of the steps I have taken to “future-proof” the audio and TV parts of the HighLine system.

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