iDrive is a computer system used to control most secondary vehicle systems in many current BMW cars. The iDrive user interface consists of a LCD panel mounted in the dashboard and a controller knob mounted on the center console.
iDrive allows the driver and front-seat passenger (in some recent cars it is available to back-seat passengers as well) to control such amenities as the climate (air conditioner and heater), the audio system (radio and CD player), the navigation system and communication system.
- 1 iDrive Generations
- 2 Rationale
- 3 Controversy and Critics
- 4 Similar systems
- 5 How It Works
- 6 References
- 7 External links
iDrive (1st Gen)
Debuted in September 2001 with the 7-Series and was based on Microsoft Windows CE for Automotive.
This can easily be seen when the system reboots or restarts after a software crash displaying a "Windows CE" logo.
iDrive Business (M-ASK)
M-ASK stands for MMI Audio System controller and is manufactured by Becker. This is a limited version of the iDrive computer with a small 6.6" display and is only found on 5, 6 and 7-series, and the X5 or X6, without the navigation option.
In addition it can optionally be ordered in Europe on the 1-series and 3-series as "Business navigation", which has basic navigation abilities. Early versions of the Business navigation could only display directional arrows, but the latest version can also display 2D maps. iDrive Business Navigation uses a different map DVD than iDrive Professional Navigation. In addition because only one optical drive is available you cannot use both navigation and listen to a CD simultaneously.
When iDrive Professional is ordered the M-ASK system is replaced by either the CCC or CIC in addition to a larger display.
iDrive Business is available on the following cars;
- iDrive Business Navigation (optional)
- iDrive Business (default when navigation is not ordered)
Note that the above list can vary depending on the region. For instance North American 7-series come by default with CCC or CIC.
iDrive on 7-Series E65/E66/E67/E68
The first generation of iDrive controllers in the 7-Series was only equipped with the turn knob. The GPS computer (located in the trunk) was only capable of reading map CDs. ("NAV01")
In 10/2003 a menu and a customizable button was added to the controller. The new GPS computer ("NAV02") was updated to DVD, got a much faster processor and the ability to display the map in birdview ("perspective").
In 04/2005 (LCI) the iDrive controller was changed again. The turn knob got a leather top. The last hardware update of the GPS unit ("NAV03") got a faster processor again. The map display is antialiased. Also the 8.8" wide-screen display was updated. It got a brighter screen and the ability to control a MP3 capable 6 CD-changer or an BMW iPod Interface.
Possible options: TV-Tuner, DVD-Changer, BMW Night Vision, Sideview Camera, Rear View Camera
The iDrive system on the 7-Series E65/E66/E67/E68 has no special name and may not be mistaken with the newer generations called CCC (Car Communications Computer) and CIC (Car Infotainment Computer). (see below) This fact becomes very important with after-market retrofits like multimedia and video interfaces, because the most of them are only compatible to the CCC system. But many manufactures list the "7-Series E65/E66/E67/E68 with CCC" in their compatibility charts although no 7-Series E65/E66/E67/E68 with CCC exist.
Debuted in 2003 with the E60/E61 5-Series and is based on Wind River VxWorks, a real-time operating system. CCC stands for Car Communication Computer and uses a larger 8.8" wide-screen display. It was available on the following cars as an option;
- 1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 manufactured until March 2007
- 3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 manufactured until March 2007
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured until March 2007
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured until March 2007
CCC based systems use a map DVD from Navteq in a dedicated DVD drive.
CCC - update 1
This is a minor update to iDrive Professional debuted in March 2007. It adds additional programmable buttons in the dashboard to directly access frequent functions and it removes the haptic feedback from the iDrive controller. It is available on the following cars as an option;
- 1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 manufactured between March 2007 and September 2008
- 3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 manufactured between March 2007 and September 2008
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured between March 2007 and September 2008
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured between March 2007 and September 2008
- X5 E70 manufactured until MY2010
- X6 E71
CCC - update 2
This is a minor update debuted in September 2008 to iDrive Professional equipped cars that did not get the new CIC based system. These cars get the new iDrive controller that is also used on cars with CIC. The actual iDrive computer (CCC) remains the same. This update is available on the following cars;
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured in September 2008 to August 2009
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured in September 2008 to August 2009
Debuted in September 2008 with F01/F02 7-Series. CIC stands for Car Infotainment Computer and is manufactured by Becker, utilizing the QNX operating system. It is available on the following cars as an option;
- 1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 manufactured from September 2008
- 3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 manufactured from September 2008
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured from March 2009 (E60/61 manufactured from October 2008 in Europe)
- 5-Series F07/F10/F11 manufactured from September 2009
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured from September 2009
- 7-Series F01/F02 manufactured from September 2008
- X5 E70 manufactured from September 2009 
The CIC system is a major update to iDrive, replacing the display, computer and the controller. The display is of a higher resolution, and is generally more responsive than CCC, to address one of the common complaints of iDrive. Internet access is also supported.
CIC-based systems use maps from TeleAtlas that are installed on an internal 2.5" 80GB Hard Disk Drive (HDD). This HDD can also store up to 8GB of music files for playback. For facilitating the uploading of music files to the HDD, a USB port is provided in the glove box.
Following 2009 LCI production, all CIC-based iDrive systems support DVD video. This, however, is only operational when the vehicle is in the "Park" position. DVD audio will continue to play while driving.
BMW introduced a further update to the iDrive Professional System in late 2012, calling it the "Next Big Thing" (NBT). It was introduced in current generation cars as an option, including:
- 1-Series F20
- 3-Series F30
- 5-Series F10
- 7-Series F01
The update includes extensive hardware and software changes including cosmetic enhancements, faster processor, more memory, larger hard drive, detailed 3D maps and improved routing.
The design rationale of iDrive is to replace an array of controls for the above systems with an all-in-one unit. The controls necessary for vehicle control and safety, such as the headlights and turn signals, are still located in the immediate vicinity of the steering column. Since, in the rationale of the designers, the air conditioning, car audio, navigation and communication controls are not used equally often, they have been moved into a central location.
Controversy and Critics
iDrive has caused significant controversy among users, the automotive media, and critics. Many reviewers of BMWs in (automobile) magazines disapprove of the system. Criticisms of iDrive include its steep learning curve and its tendency to cause the driver to look away from the road too much. Most users report that they adapt to the system after about one hour of practice, and the advent of voice controls has reduced the learning curve greatly.
A new iDrive system (CIC) was introduced in September 2008 to address most of the complaints. CIC-HIGH, introduced in 2012, brought further improvements.[which?]
Despite the criticisms of iDrive, the concept of a computer-oriented interface has grown in the luxury segment of the industry:
- Cadillac User Experience (CUE), Cadillac
- MMI, Audi
- Comand APS, Mercedes-Benz
- Remote Touch, Lexus
- Honda Satellite-Linked System, Honda/Acura
- MyFord Touch/MyLincoln Touch, Ford/Lincoln
How It Works
The iDrive M-ASK and CCC systems are based around the points of a compass (north, south, east, west) with each direction corresponding with a specific area. These areas are also colour-coded providing identification as to which part of the system is currently being viewed.
- North (blue) for communication
- East (green) for navigation (In some models without navigation, this option is replaced by the On Board Computer)
- South (yellow) for entertainment
- West (red) for climate control
Also, at the iDrive home screen, the control knob can be pushed downwards to provide access to the car's control panel (iMenu), which gives access to a variety of operational parameters.
Starting in 2007, iDrive added programmable buttons (6 USA/Japan, 8 in Europe) to the dashboard, breaking tradition of having the entire system operated via the control knob. Each button can be programmed to instantly access any feature within iDrive (such as a particular navigation route, or your favorite radio station). In addition, a dedicated AM/FM button, and a Mode button (to switch between entertainment sources) were added (only USA)
iDrive is controlled by manipulating the control knob. This can be pushed north, south, east, west; pushed inwards (down), nudged left and right, or rotated left and right. The iDrive system includes a button marked Menu behind the control knob that provides quick access to the home screen.
iDrive is unique among its competitors by using a widescreen display that is split into a 2/3 main window, and 1/3 "Assistance Window". This allows the driver to use a function or menu, while simultaneously maintaining secondary information. For example, if the driver is not in the Navigation menu, he or she can still see a map on the assistance window. Other information that can be displayed includes navigation route directions and a trip computer.
The latest generation of the BMW iDrive in the 2009 BMW 7-Series features a large 10.2 inch high resolution LCD panel with a 1280x480 resolution. It has a full featured web browser that connects to the internet via BMW ConnectedDrive using EDGE.
- 2011 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé -- Car Tour, YouTube.com, July 24, 2011, Accessed August 2, 2011.
- "Microsoft Technology Hits the Road in BMW 7 Series" (Press release). Microsoft. 2002-03-04. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
- Spira, Jonathan B. (2007-08-28). "BMW iDrive 6 years in: The world’s best cockpit controller?". BMW Car Club of America. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
- "BMW X5 and X6 to get the new iDrive System in September". Retrieved 1 July 2013.
- Hill, Brandon (2007-12-03). "BMW Develops IP-Based Networking for Next-Gen Vehicles". DailyTech.com. Retrieved 2007-12-03.
- "INTRODUCING THE NEXT GENERATION BMW MULTI-MEDIA INTERFACE (MMI).". BMW GROUP. May 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-02.
- blog post regarding difficulties using iDrive
- JAMES G. COBB (May 12, 2002). "Menus Behaving Badly". New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
- Jasper van Kuijk (December 24, 2007). "More iDrive Reviews; the Evolution of a Bad Idea". the product usability weblog. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
- Paul Tan (July 5, 2008). "New BMW 7-Series F01 Specifications and Photos". Paul Tan's Automotive News. Retrieved July 5, 2008.