BMW’s iDrive 8 infotainment system isn’t great

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Under normal circumstances, one would expect the infotainment system to improve in every way as it transitions from one version to the next.The screen becomes more responsive, brighter and clearer.The software has been tweaked to be better, and you get more features than ever before.That’s how it’s supposed to work, but BMW’s iDrive 8 doesn’t follow that line of thinking.
It also saddens me to say, because I’m easily the biggest advocate of iDrive 7 among the Autoblog staff.For important vehicle functions, hard controls and touchscreen controls are perfectly blended, and the iDrive knob brings them together.The software itself is trouble-free, responsive, and has a well-structured menu.Most of our staff would agree that these are great things about the iDrive 7, including my co-author of this article, Senior Editor James Riswick.
Riswick and I (Road Test Editor Zac Palmer) each spent a few weeks in the new BMW i4 with iDrive 8, and we got similar complaints.
Unfortunately, the iDrive 8 sucks up many of the best qualities of the iDrive 7 and throws them out the window entirely in exchange for a worse alternative.The vast majority of my grievances come down to the complexity of getting the job done.In BMWs with iDrive 7, what can be done with one tap now requires three or more taps.Take climate control, for example.With the exception of the front and rear defrost, BMW removed all hard climate controls from the center stack and then tucked them into a new “climate menu”.The climate controls are still docked at the bottom of the touchscreen, but if you want to activate the heated seats, you’ll need to do it through the climate menu.The same goes for fan speed, fan direction, and just about anything else you can think of: climate control.Predictably, it’s more time-consuming to drive and trickier to operate than the nice row of buttons BMW has used before.
Then there’s BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control setup.There’s still a hard button on the center console that you tap to put it into Sport Traction mode (our favorite enthusiastic driving mode), but now you have to tap the button, then twice, instead of just tapping The button fully activates “Sport Traction” on the touchscreen.why!?
Meanwhile, the new settings “menu” is a maze of icons.Accessible from a customizable tiled home screen, the new iDrive menu looks like the app drawer of someone else’s phone you just picked up.The column menu previously used for vehicle settings is more suitable for scrolling and rocking the iDrive knob for navigation.This new decentralized strategy looks like it’s designed specifically for navigating through touchscreens — so it’s possible to stare at things beyond the road for long periods of time.More time to get used to the new structure might improve the problem, and heavy use of voice controls to find settings might also help, but it’s a workaround.The previous structure makes a lot of sense, and this one is sorely lacking.
Finally, I know James would agree, the whole system is just slower!Apps and other items take significantly longer to load on the screen.There’s occasional lag when touching the screen, and it’s generally less responsive/not as smooth as iDrive 7.This may be because the software is brand new and there are still a few kinks to work out, but that’s not where we expect the technology to go.The new iDrive 8 is supposed to be cleaner and easier to use than the iDrive 7, but it’s far from being the case right now.— Zac Palmer, Road Test Editor
After about five minutes in the BMW i4, I felt like Charlton Heston was staring at the Statue of Liberty at the end of Planet of the Apes.”You exploded! Damn you!”
Unlike the Zac, I’ve never been particularly obsessed with the iDrive 7, but at least it worked well and was easy to figure out (well, once its Apple CarPlay connection worked out).This is largely just an evolution of iDrive since around 2010, when BMW finally figured out how to make it bearable.The system happens to be in a car I own, so it’s not like I don’t know anything about BMW’s way.
Anyway, I agree with Zach, BMW ruined its infotainment system.For a brand new system, it’s puzzling, confusing, and most damning, slow!Not only do I have to tap and tap through the various menus, I also have to wait for the computer to bring up the next screen.
Like Zach, I have a big gripe with climate control, but he’s started.I’m talking about another basic function: the radio.Now, yes, I know a lot of people who just listen to their own music, streamed from their phone or app in some way, probably via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.That’s fine.People still listen to the radio, especially for the purpose of this rant, SiriusXM satellite radio.I’m one of them – I even use the SiriusXM app a lot at home.
Now, since the 1930s, the interface to control them in cars, whether satellite radio or old-fashioned terrestrial radio, has relied on user-selected presets (or favorites).Otherwise, you’ll just be spinning and turning the dial back and forth between sites.but!Somehow, BMW thinks this is exactly how people want to interact with the 470 satellite radio channels.
Instead of defaulting back to the presets/favorites screen, the damn thing always brings you back to the magnificent list of 470 channels.You frequently switch back and forth between this default screen and the list of favorites, and then, once you actually select something…
The Volkswagen ID.4/GTI Tech Interface/Nightmare has a similarly ridiculous and scary radio setup.My guess is that it was designed by people who can’t understand that people are still listening to the radio (even though the radio in question is basically just a streaming service with songs chosen by people not algorithms) and their novelty way is totally more OKIt is not.Even so, why not just say “OK Elder Millenial” and give ancients like me the old stuff they’re used to?Why bother reinventing the wheel when you’re sure the world has turned to hoverboards?
Also, I didn’t want to dive into the touchscreen to turn on my heated seat.Especially if that damn screen takes forever to load.Just like ID.4.
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Post time: Jul-20-2022