Auto Tech

Hands on with Audi's new MMI

CNET Car Tech tries out Audi's new interface for its infotainment system at the 2009 Geneva auto show.

Audi map
Browsing maps on Audi's navigation system just got easier. CNET

Among the cars Audi displayed at the Geneva auto show, a number of models featured the new Multimedia Interface (MMI), such as the S5, Q5, S4, and A4 Allroad. We jumped in the last of these and tried out the new system.

The previous version of the MMI, in use for five years, consists of a dial surrounded by four buttons, either mounted on the stack or the console. The buttons correspond to the four corners of the LCD, working as menus to select different function areas for navigation, the stereo, and the Bluetooth cell phone system. The dial, which is also a push button, works for selecting items on screen.

Audi MMI
The little joystick on top of the MMI dial is easy to manipulate with a fingertip. CNET

The new version simply adds a joystick, which you can manipulate with a single finger, on top of the dial. The big advantage to this new system comes when browsing a map on the navigation system. Previously you had to keep switching between the x and y axis, twisting the dial to move along either. It was tedious. With the new joystick, we found it very easy to push the cursor all over the map.

Along with the improvement to the MMI, Audi updates its infotainment system by adding a hard drive for map and music storage. The hard drive makes for smoother map browsing, as the data access is quicker than with the previous DVD system.

The new MMI and infotainment is a welcome improvement, as Audi's navigation system lagged far behind those of other automakers. It's also good to see this car tech finding its way into a multitude of models.

See more coverage of the 2009 Geneva auto show.