I'm practically useless without navigation. After buying a 2009 Exige S260 on BaT, I found myself really wishing for navigation. I don't really like phone mounts, and I couldn't hear the thing anyway if I did. The S260 came with an Alpine head unit with an iPod cable, but the iPod integration is really horrible (you can't control it on the iPod) and practically unusable as a result.
Not wanting to live in the technology dregs of the early 2000s, I thought that the Alpine iLX-F259 would be a good fit for the car. At $600, it's not cheap, but a huge upgrade to the practical usability of the car. It has Android Auto, a touch screen, rear-view camera input, microphone, and bluetooth. The even more expensive F309 did not seem worth it, as it only really differs by adding HD Radio and an HDMI input. The F259 still has a camera (non-HD) input if you have a rear-view cam.
A few notes on the installation:
1. Taking out the stock radio is easy if it's an Alpine. Just use butter knives. If it's a Blaupunkt, you have to fashion a tool from a wire hanger.
- Stock Alpine radio is heavy! You're not really adding much weight, if any, with this install.
2. Even if you have a stock Alpine radio, which came with a compatible harness. you're still going to need to solder a new harness (or modify the existing adapter). The S260 Alpine radio does not have a wire for reverse lights (required if you want to use a backup camera), but more importantly, it does not have a handbrake wire. The iLX series is more or less useful if it doesn't think the handbrake is on, as it will not allow you to access Settings, CarPlay, or Android Auto.
- If you don't want to wire to the handbrake, wiring it to ground will fool Android Auto / CarPlay, but it will not fool the head unit itself (you still can't access Settings). Either a proper install or a MicroBypass (Amazon/Ebay) is required to get access to the Settings menu. Alpine got smart and does some basic heuristics on the handbrake wire to ensure it looks legitimately installed.
3. USB: If your car has a stock iPod cable, you're in luck. Remove the passenger side vent access panel (just two screws, pull up and out), and you can see where the wire comes in. The iPod cable has several feet too much slack in it, which is good for you - simply tape the USB cable to some of the slack and pull it through. I kept the iPod cable in place so I can easily return to stock, or easily pull more wires.
- I managed to fit a USB-A to USB-C cable through the stock hole for the iPod cable on the passenger side. The key was the USB-C connector, which is physically smaller than USB-A, so it was a lot easier to fit through the tiny hole into the stock passenger tray.
4. 9" is clearly as big as you want in this car. Maybe 7" is more practical. Getting it past the wiper stalk requires moving the screen angle while you push the head unit in. So don't put that locking screw in until the head unit is fully installed. A long, magnetic philips screwdriver helps a lot.
5. Screen angle is a bit tricky. The iLX-F259 has some purely decorative plastic on the back side of the screen that must be removed to get a proper angle on the screen. Fortunately the whole piece is removable, but unfortunately it also keeps the screen to head unit ribbon cable in place. Remove the ribbon cable from the plug side, NOT the screen side, it is very difficult to get it back in again on the screen side, as it does not have a locking connector. Remove the backing plastic, then cut it or hacksaw it with your tool of choice to get the depth out. This will allow you to get the locking screw in, and a decent angle:
I ended up hacksawing a bit more of this while the screen was installed, which was a very bad idea. I nicked the ribbon cable, and had to order a new one. It was inexpensive but nerve-wracking, and not an easy re-install.
6. You can actually adjust the screen height too by taking out the black flushmount screws on the side behind the screen. This is easier to do if you've removed the plastic, and it wasn't obvious to me from the manual. So you can lower it, if you like. That will unblock the vents some, but it might get in the way of your key in the ignition.
- I only put locking screens on the right side of the unit, so I can easily get them out again. Attempting to get left-side screws in and out is nearly an impossibility with the steering wheel and gauge cluster in the way.
That's it! Take photographs of the pieces while you have them apart to make it easier to get them back together again. The screws are thankfully pretty sane, and easy to match with the application, so you won't have too many wonky issues.
Some photos of it fully installed are below. Notice the USB-C connector sitting next to the iPod connector.