During the years that I’ve produced the program “Radio-Road-Test,” I’ve seen in-dash entertainment evolve from basic to high-end AM and FM radios and cassette decks to sophisticated units capable of accessing entertainment from terrestrial stations, satellite channels and streaming audio.
More and more, such units occupy a prominent place in the center stack of the automotive dashboard. SiriusXM with 360L is the latest iteration of the satcaster’s platform. The name 360L is intended to suggest a 360-degree listening experience.
When it debuted in 2019 in the Ram 1500 pickup with 12-inch Uconnect 4.0 system, SiriusXM with 360L delivered content from both the satellite and through streaming via internet access through on-board modems.
This “hybrid radio” capability opened up online channels that weren’t available in the car and offered on-demand programming — interviews, podcasts and other features — based on listening preferences.
In October 2020, the ability to create an artist channel through its subsidiary Pandora was added to the 360L experience in Ram trucks for those subscribers with SiriusXM’s Platinum Plan, along with sports notifications, which give listeners an alert about their favorite sports teams, and the ability to tune directly to the broadcast of the game.
Ram owners with the 360L platform from 2019 received over-the-air subscription updates to add those abilities to their units.
SiriusXM says subscribers can also create individual listener profiles, so multiple drivers and passengers can customize and maintain their presets and favorites. Profiles can be synced with a listener’s mobile phone to access their favorites and pick up listening where they left off in the car on certain content.
How does this work in practice? In the Audi Q5, I was able to receive the audio stream of SiriusXM Channel 69 when the satellite feed was not available because of terrain. In the Ram 1500 TRX, I could create a channel by an artist unknown to all but a few radio listeners today, Richard Clayderman.
This feature used Pandora protocols to curate the channel’s music, adding music from other artists in the genre to Clayderman’s music, thus creating a “Richard Clayderman Radio” channel that was streamed. This is appealing to listeners like me who enjoy music from artists not usually heard on terrestrial radio — in my case Mantovani and Kostelanetz, in your case maybe it’s Weezer and Måneskin — and listeners who want to hear more music from their favorite artist when they want it.
When I wanted to return to satellite programming or other radio programming in the Ram, all I needed to do was select the appropriate source, which could be done by touchscreen or voice control, with an old-school knob to back up the touchscreen and voice controls.
The on-demand programming offered by 360L gives a listener the ability to listen to a podcast or previously recorded show with a touch. In the Ram, the Uconnect unit will load mixed content in its presets (AM/FM/HD Radio, satellite channels and streaming audio selections).
Ford, GM, BMW and Volkswagen are among car manufacturers offering 360L-capable units in their newest vehicles.
We’ve been hearing from radio advocates like RadioDNS, the NAB and Xperi that local broadcasters need to have a strategy in place for competing with platforms like this. If one compares the channel and song displays from a typical SiriusXM channel to the display of a typical terrestrial station today, the comparison is striking.
My experience suggests that the 360L is a formidable competitor to terrestrial radio for the ears and eyes of drivers and passengers. There’s a lot to be said about giving listeners what they want, when they want it and for making it easy for the listener to access those choices.
Marketing the 360L
A recent announcement that 360L will be included in most Jaguar and Land Rover models provides insight into how SiriusXM markets the platform.
“SiriusXM with 360L combines satellite and streaming content delivery into a single, cohesive in-vehicle entertainment experience, upgrading the way the subscriber interacts with the service by providing more choice and a more customizable listening experience for their ride,” it stated in a press release.
“It delivers more SiriusXM channels in the vehicle, and its personalized ‘For You’ recommendations and ability to quickly access related content make it easier for listeners to discover more of the programming they love. With SiriusXM with 360L, drivers and their passengers can also access tens of thousands of hours of SiriusXM’s recorded On Demand content, so they can access exclusive interviews, unique shows and live performances whenever they want.”
Itemized benefits included the availability of many of the company’s streaming channels; access to “tens of thousands of hours” of on-demand content; enhanced sports play-by-play that “makes it easier to find the listener’s favorite team when it is game time, and gives them access to the official broadcasts for more pro and college teams”; Pandora stations that enable drivers to create personal channels; “For You” content recommendations based on listening habits; and listener profiles to allow more than one person to choose favored settings. Drivers and passengers also can use their voice to search SiriusXM’s library of content; and in Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles, the platform can receive over-the-air software updates.
More info and where to find it: SiriusXM with 360L is available in vehicles from Stellantis’ Ram, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands; GM’s Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet and GMC brands; Ford F150s and Ford vehicles equipped with SYNC4; Lincoln Navigator and Nautilus; most BMWs; and most Audis and Volkswagens. It is standard across the Maserati lineup. It will be available in the New Range Rover and will be standard in Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles equipped with the PIVI Pro infotainment system by model year 2023.