Recently I got weak and bought a VW Caddy (2013 model). Used, of course, because VW takes the worst prices for the equipment I wanted. Unfortunately, the used one only had a poor VW RCD310 radio on board, plus an MDI that didn't really work with my iPod or iPhone. CarPlay was needed. Luckily there is the friendly Chinese who makes this possible for little money.
Under 200 euros for an original VW CarPlay system
VW also builds cars in China. And unlike in Germany, they have quite powerful and simple VW radios with CarPlay in them. You can do that too German vehicles with CarPlay retrofit. No stupid Car-Net, no subscriptions, no activation codes, no built-in navigation system with expensive updates: just a radio with touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Mirror-Link, Bluetooth, hands-free system, radio function and displays for the reversing camera or Park Distance Control (PDC) .
The highlight: They simply fit into the slot of the RCD310, RCD510 and other VW radios with a double DIN panel and CarPlay. And they are original VW, so unlike the other retrofit items, they fit perfectly into the look and feel of the dashboard without many adapters.
RCD330, the miracle thing
What is the name of this marvel, you ask? Well, the model is called the RCD330 and it simply needs to be connected to the existing radio's quadlock connector. Old radio out, new radio in. The highlight: The part is available brand new on the usual platforms such as Amazon and Ebay for mostly well under 200 euros, i.e. even cheaper than the double DIN breakers with CarPlay from Sony, Alpine and Co.
Installing the RCD330 in the Caddy is child's play:
- With an old iPod spudger, the cover that is built around the radio and air conditioning controls can be pried off in a few simple steps.
- Below you will find four Torx screws that need to be loosened.
- Then you can pull out your old radio.
- To install the RCD330, you still have to loosen the quadlock connector and the antenna cable.
- Then you plug everything into the new RCD330, push the radio back in and screw it tight.
- Snap on the cover - done!
Retrofitting VW with RCD330 with CarPlay: What you have to consider
95 percent of the radio and system functions are then immediately available, the remaining five are unfortunately not on board due to the design:
- The RCD330 does not support Radio Text System (RDS), so it does not show station names.
- Only English or Chinese can be selected as the menu language.
- The display/control via multifunction display (MFA) in the speedometer does not work either.
- Air conditioning information is not displayed, nor is seat heating. But that was not the case with the RCD310.
- I couldn't test control via the multifunction steering wheel because I don't have this feature.
- For me, the device complains that the reversing camera is not available. That's correct. PDC still works, but you have to switch to the display manually. If that bothers you, the camera has to with a VCDS be encoded from the radio. What I'm going to do next.
- For the radio function, an antenna adapter from double antenna (FAKRA) to single antenna may be required - also for the Caddy. You can get it online for a tenner.
- Warning: there are several variants of the device in circulation. They are available without CarPlay for mostly little money, and there are also two 6″ versions and one 5″ version. The correct (and best) variant is the one with the 6RD 035 187B
- Be careful when buying: There are also flashed devices and devices with jailbreak on the internet. Keep your hands off it if possible!
- If your the device how I buy on ebay, pay attention to shipping from Germany. Mine was there in 36 hours and there was no fuss with customs.
CarPlay is always German!
Despite these little things, I like the device very much. Mainly because as soon as you activate CarPlay, it also gets a German display in the device. This is due to CarPlay, which always adopts the menu language of the iPhone. The operation is stable so far, but a MFI certified Lightning cable be used, otherwise there will be problems in operation. It's best to use the original cable that came with your iPhone.
Hands-free on board
Incidentally, it's really nice that the device can also be retrofitted with a hands-free system, at least with CarPlay: The RCD330 has a built-in microphone, and the sound is output via the car speakers. Telephoning works perfectly, especially since your hands remain free thanks to CarPlay and Siri: Siri asks who you want to call and which number to dial. The quality is completely sufficient for this - perfect!
Conclusion: Retrofit CarPlay for little money
After a few days with the VW RCD330 I have to say that I have seldom had such a good car radio for so little money. Installation is easy to do even with two left hands, whether in a Caddy, Golf, Passat, Beetle, Jetta or other vehicles. Because VW's modular system finally plays to the user instead of annoying him. My authorized VW dealer will probably complain to me if I take the Caddy to the service department, but if in doubt, I'll quickly swap out the radios. In my opinion, VW should offer the part as a retrofit solution in Germany - it's worlds better than anything I've had in my hands before in terms of retrofit radios. Absolute purchase recommendation!
By the way: If you are looking for more information, you can find it in this sprawling thread in the Motor Talk forum.
Update: What to do if radio reception is poor on the RCD330?
After a few days of use, I wanted to return the RCD330. The reason: the RDS-free radio reception on the head unit was lousy. Not just “bad”, but a noisy tragedy. Which is particularly annoying since when no iPhone is connected the radio has a radio fallback that racked my ears with noise.
But then I found the cause, more precisely: the two causes! On the one hand, the USB cigarette lighter adapter interfered with radio reception. It's cheap, poorly shielded, and just below the antenna cables - a phenomenon that was evident even with the RCD310, which I had reinstalled by then. Removing the charger brought a significant improvement in reception.
The second cause was the FAKRA adapter: It picked up the signal from the double antenna (diversity) and passed it on to the RCD330 in a combined manner. This interfered with the signals, which massively worsened the reception. Detaching one of the two antenna channels and fixing the loose cable to the radio housing with adhesive tape brought a significant improvement. But the radio reception is still not really good. But there is a workaround for that too: Radio apps with Carplay support! So the RCD330 can stay in the Caddy - and I'm happy!