Installing Alpine ILX-007 CarPlay head unit into the TT + custom ashtray dock for iPhone 5, 5s, SE, 6, 6s and the new iPhone 7
My Audi TT Mk2 (8J) is from 2010, has Bose and steering wheel control, as well as RNS-E navigation, Audi Music Interface (AMI) and Bluetooth.
I also own an iPhone 6 and wanted to change this old setup for various reasons, mainly because selecting a destination through GPS was from another age and, despite AMI, scrolling long playlists or reach artists in the second half of the alphabet was really a pain in the ass with the RNS-E. Any modern head unit includes GPS, Bluetooth and smartphone connection, so both the RNS-E, Audi Bluetooth module and Audi Music Interface module would become obsolete with a new head unit.
I chose the CarPlay-compatible Alpine ILX-007 (named ILX-700 in Europe) for its bigger 7" resistive touchscreen, over the 6.2" screen of the Pioneer AppRadio 4, and because I didn't want the -IMHO cluttered and somewhat dated- dual interface proposed by the more expensive Pioneer NEX or new Kenwood models. Whatever, to each his own taste, especially as those are compatible with Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto :peace:
AT first, if you don't already know what is the Alpine ILX-007 and what it can do, here are two detailed reviews:
The following guide is quite similar to a previous one (Installing Pioneer AVIC-8000NEX into the TTRS) with a more recent head unit and cables. But it should work with any head unit from Pioneer, Kenwood or Parrot. I'll also show you a custom dock to easily connect the iPhone, and how to fit additional USB ports into the glovebox for different purposes.
I won't cover here how to remove the RNS-E from the dashboard nor the AMI from the glovebox, as it is quite trivial to do so and already well explained in various forums. I will focus on the new devices.
To connect this new Alpine head unit to my car, I chose Enfig Car Stereo, sponsor of the VWvortex forum, for the quality and reliability of its products:
- Enfig SRWH-AUD3-HILO ($114.99) with digital turn on (add $50, so total is $164.99) cable harness compatible with Audi TT >2009+Bose. It fixes the very low rear and low sub audio amplification on some Audi cars. Search for Audi low rear audio on Google if you are not aware of this issue.
- <strike>Enfig PNP-ALP007 ($19.99) custom plug and play adapter to connect the Alpine HU to the cable harness.</strike> *YOU DON'T NEED THIS ONE* Alpine already provides a similar cable in the box, with the same required leads and ISO connectors.
- Enfig SWCL-ALP ($9.99) steering wheel control lead for Alpine. Actually Enfig upgraded this one to the excellent programmable PAC SWI-CP5 because it is currently the only interface that could trigger Siri (PAC still needs to make a firmware update though. I asked their technical support who answered they are indeed working on a FW update for SWI-CP5, providing this specific feature).
- Enfig AAA-VWAUD5 ($19.99) dual amplified antenna adapter to connect the dual Fakra radio cable.
- Connects2 CT23AU05A dash kit. This fascia is good looking with a soft rubber feeling, and a metal cage plus mounting brackets and screws to attach your head unit. You can grab it on eBay. EDIT 03/2015: Thanks to Christian at Enfig I also could test the custom dash kit made by Enfig for the TT (fascia + metal cage + mounting brackets + screws) ref. RMK5-TT2. For a bargain $49.99 you get an even better looking version in my opinion. It is as dark but slightly rougher (in a very subtle way) than Connects2 dash kit, feeling more like the dashboard of the TT. Perfect finish! Go for it folks :) Pictures below, comparing Connects2 CT23AU05A vs Enfig RMK5-TT2 in details so you can judge for yourself.
- <strike>Parking brake switch bypass (about $20 on eBay)</strike> to access all settings on screen (especially the complete list of contacts and the keyboard in Maps, more convenient to enter an address that Siri does not understand) that you could not usually see while driving because you would need to be on the brake otherwise. *YOU DON'T NEED THIS ONE NEITHER* Just connect the parking brake lead of the head unit to the ground lead of the main harness, and all settings will be permanently available.
- 4 Audi radio stereo removal tool keys, to remove the factory RNS-E ($2 to $8 on eBay).
The Alpine head unit is currently (Early 2015) priced at $599 (and €599 here in Europe, a bit more expensive due to the conversion rate) to which you must add about $250 for interface cables and dash kit. You could also pay someone to install all items in your car but the labor will of course make the price higher. Enfig makes compatible and plug & play cables (for example, the most complicated connections between the harness and the steering wheel control cables come already connected together). They are not the cheapest, but you'll easily install them into your car in a few minutes with no cutting nor drilling.
All the cables:
Picture of the dash kit before installation:
Comparison of the two dash kits, Connects2 CT23AU05A (smooth finish, left) vs Enfig RMK5-TT2 (slightly grainier finish, right). As you can see the Connects2 seems more prone to scratches:
And finally detail on the Enfig RMK5-TT2 put in place:
The ILX-007 is Carplay-only so it needs to be connected to your iPhone each time you drive. And CarPlay asks your phone to be unlocked when plugged. I confess I was a bit annoyed each time I sat in the car to reach the glovebox, open it, take the cable, aim the iPhone connector, plug it, position this couple onto the AMI shelf, then close the glovebox, before I can start the car and chose my music and, oh wait… I forgot to unlock the phone.
So I asked myself: how could I improve the connection of my iPhone to the car for a better CarPlay experience?
At first I had a look at the spec dock, which I quickly disregarded for three main reasons: expensive for what is basically just a plastic plate ($129 without cable), too much stress on the iPhone Lightning connector while accelerating or braking, and the iPhone on it occults the air conditioning wheels.
Then I had a better idea: I designed a custom dock in a CAD software, where the iPhone could gently slide into and be firmly hold when undergoing g-forces:
The dock would replace the ashtray ahead of the gearshift, and since the iPhone almost disappears when inserted into the dock, it would not occult the air conditioning controls. Then I 3D printed it. Now when I sit in my car, I unlock my phone and just pop it into the dock with one simple movement. Check this video:
Icing on the cake: it costs about half of the price of the spec dock :)
It is now available for every iPhone 6 and 6s [EDIT September 2016: also compatible with the new iPhone 7) and TT Mk2 owner on Shapeways:
[EDIT] Another model is also available at the same price for iPhone 5, iPhone 5s and iPhone SE:
More details coming thereafter.
Potential audio issue and solution
At this point I ran into trouble as my new setup powered on but didn't release any sound. Too bad for a stereo head unit! I tested the circuit with a separate speaker and concluded audio was indeed produced and was propagating through wires, but for whatever reason my Bose amp didn't turn on. I searched in forums for the cause: as from 2009, the Bose amp reference is Bose 6000 CANTT, part number 8J0 035 223 D. Some people claim some part of it became digital (it's not wired with optic fiber so I assume the "digital" part is rather a CAN bus signal turning the amp on instead of a more conventional voltage, but I don't really know). The no-power issue may come from that. But hey, this is why I chose a compatible harness, with a specific "digital turn on". So what the heck? Actually I discovered with a VagCom cable connected to the car and the VCDS software running on a PC that a wrong digit was coded for amp activation by Audi, a mode that doesn't even exist and would appear to work only with a factory RNS-E, so if you connect an aftermarket head unit instead, the amp does not work. Pretty weird. In VCDS, the flaw was in Coding 47 / Sound system / Software Coding / 0246316
The fifth digit manages amp activation, but '3' doesn't exist:
'1' is for activation via remote wire (power on by voltage) so I changed the software coding to 0246116 and it worked: the amp turned on! Everything works fine now.
So really I don't know if this "no amp activation issue" experienced by some people comes from either an incompatible harness, or that wrong digit in software coding of sound system, or both. Do you really need a more expensive "compatible harness with digital turn on"?. I don't know. I didn't want to buy several harnesses in case of difficulty so I followed a safe path and directly ordered one that is known to work. Same thing for the weird "low rear audio amplification issue" with aftermarket head units on some Audi cars. Are 2009+ Audi TT also affected by that issue, or only some other Audi models? I don't know. The Enfig harness addresses those two potential problems so I'd say it's worth the price.
Another thing: the Alpine ILX-007 do retain fader (control adjusting sound level between front and rear). I don't know it works because of the harness, but before selecting Enfig I asked the technical support of Pacific Accessory Corporation at AAMP to known if their PAC C2R-AUDI or PAC RP4-AD11 harnesses retain fader control, and their answer was "No sorry neither will fade". So maybe the Enfig harness helps there too. Not sure however. If you have some experience with aftermarket head units and know definitive answers about those audio issues, please tell us in this thread!
About the overall sound quality: the Alpine ILX-007 is much better than the factory RNS-E, even before tweaking it with fader and equalizer. Sound is richer and more enveloping, more enticing. I completely rediscover the Bose amp. Much more power too: I had to lower the pot settings on the HILO box of the Enfig harness (that controls fader) because the Alpine gives it the works. Over 35 volume levels I can barely go up to 15-17 max. I think it’s because the Bose amp is no more restrained unlike with the RNS-E, which limited output.
CUSTOM ASHTRAY DOCK FOR iPHONE 5 / 5S / SE / 6 / 6s / 7
About the custom ashtray dock for iPhone 6 / 6s / 7 available at Shapeways.com: it has been designed in a CAD-software with precise dimensions measured with a digital caliper, so it can perfectly fit in place of the ashtray and you can gently slide the iPhone inside. A similar one is also available for iPhone 5, 5s and SE.
To be complete, the dock needs an Apple Lightning to 30-pin Adapter ($29 on the Apple Store):
You fix the adapter with two drops of superglue on the back of the dock:
The adapter perfectly fits there and will remain stuck with two drops of SuperGlue. Then you connect a standard Apple 30-pin to USB Cable ($19 on the Apple Store. This way you can still remove and disconnect the dock in the future if you change you car or your phone.
Before installing the dock, first remove the old ashtray. You need to cut a little piece of plastic, about 1.5" long x 0.4" large, located under the ashtray (highlighted in red):
Doing so will NOT compromise the ashtray mechanism and you can remove the dock after and put the classic ashtray back if, for whatever reason, you'd want to change your setup again. You only have to cut two straight notches in the plastic, which is very thin by the way, so you can simply manually use a metal saw blade:
A few minutes later, the piece of plastic will be removed and it will look like in the following picture. Be careful to not cut the ashtray pop-up mechanism. It's better to keep it because it will still work if you decide to put the ashtray back in the future, and it also works with the ashtray dock that is designed to be fully compatible with it.
Remove the head unit on the dashboard and slip the Apple 30-pin to USB cable between the radio location and the ashtray, inside the center console. A metal wire or nylon fish tape cable puller can truly help you in that tight space.
Now connect the Apple cable to the rear of the dock and slide it into the hole where the ashtray used to sit:
You'll know how to put it the right way: the dock has a guide on the left side (highlighted in green):
IMPORTANT NOTE: I printed the first prototypes at Shapeways in their black strong and flexible nylon plastic (pictures in this topic) which has a grainy feel. Actually the plastic is smooth and white, but the black finish is a grainy powder coating. The plastic itself is not color-impregnated. Alas Shapeways does not curently propose a "black strong and flexible polished" finish, and the black finish is a bit rough for the iPhone.
So I removed the possibility to print the dock in that grainy black finish. When you print yours you can select either:
- Polished Metallic Plastic ($99): a beautiful grey-silver and smooth finish.
- White Strong & Flexible Polished (best choice for $79): in this case, once you receive your dock, I suggest to spray-paint it in black with some special durable coating designed to match OEM automotive plastics, like Black-It-Out from Evercoat (ref. #2641 for black satin finish). Needless to say, spray before glueing the 30-pin adapter. Enthusiasts take note!
Additional glovebox USB ports
I removed the AMI metallic unit out of its plastic bracket from the glove box, with two Audi radio stereo removal tool keys:
Then I put the AMI plastic housing back into the glovebox, and routed the USB extension cable provided by Alpine from the HU to the AMI housing, inside the place where the AMI metal box used to be:
This USB cable communicates with the SWI-CP5 for easier future software updates. So no need to remove the head unit to access the interface, just connect the iPhone to this USB cable and launch the ControlPRO app (available in the App Store).
I also plan to integrate a slick secondary USB socket in the background of the glovebox, drilling with a 22mm holesaw. It is useful because once the iPhone is slid into the ashtray dock, there is no way to interact with its screen (so it becomes impossible to use Alpine TuneIt app for example, only CarPlay apps). Also, no USB thumb drive could be connected to update the firmware of the head unit in the future, without removing it from the dashboard. That USB cable in the glovebox allows this. Since the ILX-007 has only one USB port on its back, I bought a USB 2.0 splitter on usbfirewire.com ($13.50) to connect both the Lightning cable from the ashtray dock and the USB port in the glovebox. If you do this too, just pay attention to connect only one iPhone to the ashtray dock OR to the glovebox USB port at the same time, or you may draw too much power from the sole USB port of the Alpine unit.
This way no cable dangling in the glovebox. Perfect integration.
Custom ashtray dock for iPhone 5, 5s and SE
As promised, the new ashtray dock for your iPhone 5, iPhone 5s or iPhone SE: