As it does with its performance engineering, BMW has been pushing its cabin electronics to the bleeding edge, bringing in the unique iDrive controller, hard-drive-based navigation, and app integration. On July 11, 2012, BMW announced a new generation of its cabin tech systems, revising the iDrive controller, increasing the capabilities of navigation, add more voice capabilities, and offering a 4G snap-in hot spot.
BMW pioneered the idea of a universal single controller on the console cabin electronics. iDrive has been refined considerably over the years, and the latest upgrade involves a touch surface on its top. Now called the iDrive Touch, BMW is playing catch-up with Audi, which demonstrated similar technology earlier this year.
As with the Audi MMI controller, you can trace letters on the top of the iDrive Touch to input addresses and other data into the car. This entry method is much quicker to use than selecting letters from an onscreen keyboard.
BMW refers to its navigation system as BMW Navigation System Professional, although there is no lower-level navigation system available in the cars. BMW rebuilt this system from the ground up, with a new CPU, graphics processor, and a 200-gigabyte hard drive to support the new, more detailed maps.
The maps show 3D rendered buildings, as before, but also have new, more detailed graphics for upcoming turns. BMW says the system will tell you when to change lanes and coordinate the turn graphics among the navigation screen, head-up display, and instrument cluster display. BMW calls the new turn prompts High Guidance, and it automatically comes on about 500 feet from an upcoming maneuver.
As smartphones and tablets all tend to have data connections now, the value of mobile Wi-Fi hot spots in cars has diminished. But BMW gives the idea more relevance with this snap-in LTE hot-spot module. It connects to available 4G networks and opens a Wi-Fi network. Devices in the car that may only be capable of 3G can connect through Wi-Fi at 4G speeds.