Product Test: VMS Touring 600

Prevention might be better than cure, but for now I’m sticking with modern technology to ease my poor sense of direction.

Upon receiving an invitation to a function held on a rural property in mid-west NSW, I felt a mild twinge of concern reading the half page of directions, including GPS coordinates, to get there.

You see, directions have never been my strong point. I’ve told complete strangers in my home town that “I’m not from around here” in order to justify my disorientation when asking them for directions “to my friend’s house” (read: home).

Sure, the location of this soiree wasn’t exactly in the middle of nowhere, especially by the standards of most outback tourers, but it also wasn’t as easy as 123 Smith Street, left at the first roundabout, opposite the 7-11.

Instead, getting there involved unpaved, rutted roads rendered 4X4-only by recent rains, as well as cattle grids and neighbours’ gates to open and close. As such, my hand shot up eagerly when a VMS Touring 600 GPS unit arrived for review.

A premium successor to the brand’s 500S model, the VMS Touring 600 boasts, for a start, the largest screen (6in/153mm) on the market, with an anti-reflective/anti-glare coating, so you can read it in the sun – a handy feature, surely.

It is also 25 percent slimmer (and therefore notably lighter) than the 500S. The unit comes with on- and off-road navigation software; the former utilising the latest WhereIS map data, the latter provided by Mud Maps and Memory Maps, with Gregory’s 4WD Touring maps and iTOPO 4X4 raster maps (2009 versions) preloaded on the 4GB SDHC memory card.

VMS unit plugged in and mounted on the windscreen, I changed my preferences to include unpaved roads, entered the GPS coordinates of the destination and relegated the lovingly-compiled directions of the event host to the passenger seat.

The first thing I noticed, having left the freeways of the big smoke, was that Kate (the British female voice I designated as my guide – they really do give them names) may as well have been a local.

Her directions matched the invitation almost word for word. A good start. I should probably also mention at this point that simply getting you from A to B isn’t the only quality of the Touring 600 – it’s packed with more features than you could poke a stylus at, and I’m still working my way through them.

For a start, the 600 has twice the channels of its predecessor, which means, hopefully, you shouldn’t find yourself stranded and lost on the side of the road or circling the block waiting for it to find a signal.

As well as several preloaded 4X4 routes from around the country, you can also ‘record’ a track – great for when you’re out in trackless desert, or to find your way home, or if want to remember a great track for next time.

Without the stylus, the touch screen tended to be unresponsive, which resulted in some unkind words being said to poor Kate. I couldn’t find my stylus pen in the box, but apparently it comes standard, and I can see why. The Touring 600 also features a reverse camera interface (camera sold separately), which automatically displays the reverse camera image when reversing.

To be honest, it’s hard to beat the directions of a local (unless that local is me), but think of having someone like Kate on your dash as having a thousand and one locals at your disposal. With top-notch units like the VMS Touring 600, complemented by a good ol’ topo map, plus all your vital communications gear, heading outback to find yourself could take on a whole new meaning.

PRICE
Recommended retail price, $990
CONTACT
Call 03 9017 5568, or visit vms4x4.com

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