Kenwood DNX516DAB media centre review

Built specifically with VW in mind, the Kenwood DNX516DAB is arguably one of the leading, premium car media centres available on the market right now. With more features than you could shake a stick at, this unit didn’t fail to satisfy our expectations. In fact, it totally rocked us!

The good folk at Kenwood were keen for us to put the recently launched headunit through its paces, which is exactly what we did once installed in our luxury VW T5.1, Luna. Let’s start at the beginning… fitting is a cinch, especially when replacing with another media centre. It literally is plug and play. As soon as it lights us you notice just how pixel perfect the 7-inch touch screen is, along with high colour clarity and great sensitivity.

Sound wise, we wanted to take this unit to the max. The current unit output is 4 x 50W, which seems to be average for a head unit, but we wanted to elevate this dramatically – with so much room in a van, there’s no other way right! So, we wired up a 400W Kenwood amp (£110) and connected it to the stereo output. The result – banging and a must have if you like your beats loud.

Right, back to the DNX516DAB. We’ve listed all the features at the bottom of this post, but wanted to focus on what we feel the most important (to us anyway). So, without further ado…

Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto

Whether you be Android (Android phone running 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher) or Apple (iPhone 5 upwards), the unit comes with 2 connectors that you can hide in your glove box and that plug into your phone, allowing you to access your phone’s key apps and features. For us, this wasn’t so important as we prefer the Bluetooth connectivity. The head unit also has an excellent Garmin package on it, so you don’t need your Google Maps app either really. BUT the big win here is that your phone’s key apps are easily accessible on the screen! You can sort emails and text messages on the go, and of course charge your mobile devices.


As alluded to above, this little beauty connects simply and easily to your mobile device through Bluetooth. This means playing your fav tunes or streaming those lesser known radio stations is straightforward.

CD/DVD Player

Many a night has been had held in a campervan escaping the rain. Now, if you are anything like us you’ll enjoy snuggling up to a good movie on these nights, but without a TV or a hook up, you’re sort of stuffed right? WRONG! The DNX516DAB allows you to play both DVDs and CDs till your heart’s content. This is such a good feature for giving the kids some quiet time too!

European Garmin Navigation

The unit comes with a 3-year guaranteed map update for Europe, which will save you heaps in its own right. If you’re new to Garmin, the interface is on a par with the simplicity of TomTom we’d say. The Garmin maps on this device are super clear, meaning you’re less likely to miss that turn that means you need to stay on the M5 for another 20 miles! If you’re anything like us on our van adventures, you’ll like to just drive somewhere and explore – well, this unit fully supports that idea and allows you to view over 3 million points of interest around you. This includes petrol stations by the way, so there’s no excuses for breaking down back and beyond again.

The final thing to mention about the maps is the TMC Traffic Avoidance feature – because life’s too short to be sitting in traffic right.

Rear parking view

Simple to hook up to a small rear parking camera (approx £130), you’ll be able to avoid all those often hard to see pillars and posts that so many vans come a cropper on!

Removable face

I can imagine these beautiful units are a high target for thieves, so the brains over at Kenwood have incorporated a removable aspect to the head unit, which without, makes it totally unusable. You just have to remember to remove it of course!

To sum up

Whilst there is no excuse for playing with your mobile whilst driving anyway, with the DNX516DAB you’ll never need to. Simply plug your phone in and use the crystal clear 7-inch screen to navigate your texts, phone calls, music, audiobooks, navigation. The guys at Kenwood have thought of everything, and the price tag at around £999 reflects this. “But is it worth it” we hear you ask…

Absolutely, and we’re not being bias. Firstly, take into account for a moment what a separate top-notch navigation system, along with an in-car DVD player, AppleCar Play, rear parking viewer, and a 7” display head unit with a beautiful sound (that you can fully adjust via an equaliser) would cost – possibly not far off the RRP for this all-in-one unit. From our perspective, we feel this is on the money and competes well with its Pioneer and Alpine counterparts.

Yes, there are cheaper alternatives, but you’ll likely miss out on one or more of these valuable features you’ll soon never want to be without.

  • 7″ High resolution touch control display
  • Garmin European navigation
  • 3-years free map updates
  • TMC traffic avoidance
  • 2-years free access to INRIX traffic via smartphone
  • 7 digit (full) postcode
  • Over 3 million points of interest
  • Fastest, shortest, least fuel route choice
  • Lane assist
  • Built-in Bluetooth hands-free calling (HFP)*
  • Bluetooth Music streaming (A2DP/AVRCP)*
  • Apple CarPlay:- Phone calls, voice mail, send/receive messages, Apple maps/directions, iTunes music, playlists, podcasts and audiobooks. Plus additional apps like Spotify, Amazon Music & Deezer.
  • Auto Android:- Google maps, reminders, music, phone calls, send/receive messages, and voice activation
  • iPod/iPhone audio/video playback and charging
  • USB device playback
  • CD/DVD/MP3/WMA/AAC playback
  • Climate control and parking sensor display
  • Works with multifunction wheel

Disclosure: For this blog post we were able to gain access to a sample product or service.
To see our full Disclosure Policy please click here.

Leave a Reply