If you want the best portable car GPS system money can buy (and you're willing to pay for it), the Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD is the hands-down winner. It's simple, elegant and crammed with every feature Garmin has to offer. It might be overkill for some drivers, though. Less expensive Garmin car GPS systems -- from the step-down Garmin nuvi 2597LMT (Est. $220) to the budget-priced Garmin nuvi 42 (Est. $110) -- navigate just as accurately.
Best-in-class navigation. In tests, Garmin GPS systems almost always navigate accurately (more accurately than other brands, some say). Still, GPS technology itself isn't perfect. In Jamie Lendino's test for PCMag.com, the Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD did lose satellite contact in Manhattan's urban canyons, and it occasionally thought he was in an adjacent lane. But in CNET's test, it locks onto satellites instantly and navigates flawlessly despite San Francisco's tunnels and tall buildings. Its maps make it easier to negotiate tricky interchanges with features (like Active Lane Guidance) that you won't find on cheap GPS systems. The "LM" in the name stands for "lifetime map" updates, so you'll always be able to download the most recent maps.
Loaded with the latest Garmin frills. The nuvi 3597LMTHD is the only GPS system that includes lifetime HD Digital Traffic, Garmin's top-of-the-line traffic feature (you can get it on other Garmins, but it costs extra). Designed for quicker alerts and better coverage, it works well on New York City's major highways in PCMag.com's test, but "it's still not perfect," missing some congestion on secondary roads and city streets. Other features help you pick the best routes -- even complicated ones. For example, trafficTrends calculates routes based on predicted traffic flow. Auto Sort chooses the most direct route to hit multiple stops. Trip Planner lets you select your own order for multiple stops, set departure and arrival times, and more.
Pricey extras really make life easier. Here's where you really get what you pay for. The Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD has the best screen of any car GPS navigator, reviews say -- a 5-inch, dual-orientation, multi-touch glass screen so crisp that it reminds testers of Apple's Retina displays (it can glare in the sun, though). Its elegant powered magnetic mount (no fiddling with a clasp or cord), voice commands, conversation-like directions (e.g., "Turn right at Starbucks," rather than just "Turn right on Elm Street") and intuitive search box (type in "movie theaters," and it shows the nearest ones) really make it easier to navigate, testers say.
So, is it worth a whopping $350? A basic car GPS system costs about $100. If you have a smartphone, you can navigate for free. So, are the Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD's luxury features worth the luxury price? Yes, experts say -- if you're a road warrior who wants the smoothest navigation experience possible. But if you don't really need all the extras (or the price just isn't in your budget), you can certainly get an equally accurate GPS navigator for less.
Editors here test lots of car GPS systems, including the Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD. Testers rate each GPS navigator's ease of use, routing, info for driver, mount design, display and traffic interface, finishing with an overall score. ConsumerReports.org doesn't go into much detail about each GPS unit's features, though.
Review: Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD, Not Dated
"The best automotive GPS navigation device you can buy," the Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD wins PCMag.com's Editors' Choice award. A thorough test reveals that its navigation still isn't perfect, though, and its glass screen can glare in strong sunlight. Lendino names some less expensive alternatives.
Review: Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD, Jamie Lendino, April 18, 2013
With its elegant design and natural-sounding voice directions, the Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD is a top pick here. Goodwin finds the nuvi's Smartphone Link useless, but that's the only con.
Review: Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD Review: Garmin Adds a Premium Edge to Classic GPS, Antuan Goodwin, May 30, 2013
4. Which? magazine
The U.K.'s Which? magazine (similar to ConsumerReports.org in the U.S.) tests car GPS systems just as thoroughly as its American counterpart. Editors rate each unit on 19 performance and ease-of-use criteria before picking 12 Best Buys. Editors also do a great job explaining what each GPS navigator is like to use.
Review: Garmin nuvi 3597LMT Review, Editors of Which? magazine, Not Dated
Earning 4.2 out of 5 stars following more than 230 owner reviews, the Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD is a customer favorite here. Early reviews complained of bugs and bad traffic info, but recent reviews report far fewer problems. Some still complain of bad routing, poor voice recognition, etc., but most owners are thoroughly pleased.
Review: Garmin nuvi 3597LMTHD, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of October 2013
The nuvi 3597LMTHD is a top-rated car GPS system here, too. It rates 4.5 out of 5 stars after more than 180 reviews. Its high-def glass touch screen gets loads of praise; owners say it makes this Garmin exceptionally easy to see and use.
Review: Garmin - nuvi 3597LMTHD, Contributors to BestBuy.com, As of October 2013