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Under normal circumstances, one would expect an infotainment system to improve in every way as it moves from one version to another. Screens become more sensitive, brighter and clearer. The software has been modified to be better and you get more features than before. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, but BMW’s iDrive 8 doesn’t follow that line of thinking.
It also pains me to say this, because I’m easily the biggest iDrive 7 advocate on staff here at Automatic blog. There’s a perfect mix of hard and touchscreen controls for vital vehicle functions, and the iDrive knob brings it all together in happy harmony. The software itself is bug free, extremely responsive and the menu structure is logical. Most of us on the staff would agree that these are all big pluses for iDrive 7, including my co-writer for this piece, Senior Editor James Riswick.
Both Riswick and I (Road Test Editor Zac Palmer) spent separate weeks in new iDrive 8-equipped BMW i4s and ended up with similar complaints.
Acceptance of Jacques
Unfortunately, the iDrive 8 takes many of the best qualities of the iDrive 7 and then throws them completely out the window for a replacement that is worse. What the vast majority of my complaints boil down to is the added complexity to completing tasks. Something that could be done with a single tap in an iDrive 7-equipped BMW now requires over three or more taps. Take, for example, air conditioners. BMW removed all the hard climate controls from the center stack except for the front and rear defrost and then placed them in a new ‘climate menu’. The temperature control remains attached to the bottom of the touchscreen, but if you want to activate your heated seats, a trip through the climate menu is required. The same goes for fan speed, fan direction, and anything else you can think of re: air conditioners. Unsurprisingly, it’s more time-consuming to operate and a lot harder to fiddle with while driving than the nice array of buttons BMW used in the past.
Then there are BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control settings. There’s still a hard button on the center console that you can press to put it into “Sport Traction” mode (our favorite for spirited driving), but instead of just pressing the button, you now have to press the button and then press two times again on the touch screen to fully activate “Sport Traction”. Why!?
Meanwhile, the new settings “menu” is a maze of icons. Accessible via the customizable tiles home screen, the new iDrive menu just looks like the app drawer of someone else’s phone you just picked up. The column style menu previously used for vehicle settings was much better suited for scrolling and rocking iDrive button navigation. This new scattershot strategy looks like it was designed to be navigated solely via touch screen – and therefore looking at something other than the road for longer. More time to get used to the new structure could improve things, and heavy use of voice controls to find settings could also help, but it’s a job. The previous structure made sense, and this one is sorely lacking.
Finally, and I know James will agree, the whole system is slower! Apps and other elements take noticeably longer to load on the screen. There’s occasional lag when you touch the screen and it’s generally less responsive/not as smooth as iDrive 7. This could be because the software is brand new with some kinks still needing to be worked out, but that’s not the direction we expect the car to go. technology. The new iDrive 8 should be zippier and easier to use than the iDrive 7, but it’s far from that now. — Road Test Editor Zac Palmer
After about five minutes in the BMW i4, I felt like Charleton Heston at the end of “Planet of the Apes» looking at the Statue of Liberty. “You blew it! Damn you!”
Unlike Zac, I was never a big fan of iDrive 7, but at least the thing worked well and was easy enough to figure out (well, it just ran out of Apple CarPlay connectivity). It was largely just an evolution of what iDrive was from around 2010, when BMW finally figured out how to make it tolerable. This system happens to be in a car I own, so it’s not like I’m ignorant of BMW’s ways.
Either way, I agree with Zac, BMW screwed up their infotainment system. It’s complicated, confusing and most damning for a brand new system, slow! Not only do I have to tap-tap-tap through various menus, but I have to wait for the computer to display the next screen.
Like Zac, I had a big beef with conditioners, but he’s already dealt with that. What I want to talk about is another key feature: the radio. Now, yes, I understand that many people only listen to their own music, which is somehow streamed from their phones or an app, probably via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is nice. People still listen to the radio, and specifically for the purposes of this parody, SiriusXM Satellite Radio. I’m one of them – I even use the SiriusXM app all the time at home.
Now, whether for satellite or old-fashioned terrestrial radio, the interfaces in cars to control them are based on user-selected presets (or favorites) since the 1930s. Otherwise, you’d just turn and turn that dial back and forth. back between stations. And even more! Somehow, BMW thinks that’s exactly how someone wants to interact with 470 channels of satellite radio.
Instead of defaulting back to the presets/favorites screen, the damn thing always takes you to the big list of 470 channels. You keep going back and forth between this default screen and your favorites list, and then once you select something…
Actually, you know what? Just look at this:
The Volkswagen ID.4/GTI interface/technology nightmare has a similarly stupid and terrible radio setup. I guess it was designed by someone who can’t fathom that people still listen to the radio (even if said radio is basically just a streaming service with songs picked by people and not an algorithm) and that their new way was completely better. Is not. Even if that’s the case, why not just say “OK Old Millenium” and give ancients like me the old one they were used to? Why bother reinventing the wheel when you’re convinced the world has moved on to hoverboards?
I also don’t want to dive into a touchscreen to activate my heated seat. Especially if that damn screen takes forever to load. Just like the ID.4, for that matter.
You blew it. Damn you. – Senior Editor James Riswick
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