BMW's upgraded ConnectedDrive: The antidote to Apple's iOS in the Car

You can do that both remotely from a web browser on most devices or in the car itself.

BMW ConnectedDrive 2013

Another major piece of the puzzle is smartphone integration but not quite of the Apple iOS kind where the smartphone takes over your car.

Smartphone integration

Instead, there's a remote services app, the MyBMW Remote app, you install on your handset that unlocks all manner of trick functionality. It's available on both Apple iOS and Google Android.

You can flash the headlights remotely (apparently this helps people who have lost their cars, yes really), unlock doors (handy for ye olde locked-keys-in-car-scenario), preheat the car on a cold (in the UK, the law prevents the engine from being started remotely, so this feature actually only pumps fresh air into the cabin), send routes and destination data straight to the car's navigation system and more.

BMW ConnectedDrive 2013

Are ther any downsides? Well, the internet performance was a little sluggish in our testing. It's hard to be sure exactly what the culprit is. The car was a static display model, so we were at a fixed location. Even with a good signal, 3G connectivity can occasionally be a bit recalcitrant, so it may now be down to the BMW implementation at all.

That said, an option for 4G connectivity, which is available in some markets already, would be nice. We're waiting on word from BMW regards 4G functionality in the UK.

What, no touchscreen?

But the really big questionmark is the lack of touchscreen capability. This is a very tricky challenge for BMW. Touchscreens are not ideal for all scenarios in-car. But for some – such as inputting an address into the nav or an online search query, it's very useful.

It also works well for swishing around maps, scrolling around lists and more. We'd quite like to see BMW add a touchscreen to iDrive. However, we do appreciate it's not simple task to build an interface that optimised for both touch and wheel control.

BMW ConnectedDrive 2013

The web browser remains frankly rather rubbish. It's very slow to respond and it wouldn't play flash content or HTML5 video content, despite supposedly supporting the latter. We're not actually that worried about having a built-in web browser in a car multimedia system. But if you're going to have, it had better actually work.

Finally, in terms of the in-car apps, there's not a lot that's hugely compelling so far. There are come connected features like Google Send-to-Car that are absolutely brilliant, though hardly unique to BMW. But the industry in general is only just getting to grips with in-car apps.

Ultimate digital driving machine

Still, together iDrive and ConnectedDrive make one of if not the best in-car infotainment platform currently available. It truly offers a huge array of functionality – so much we have really only scratched the surface here.

Indeed, it's fascinating to see BMW maintain its technical leadership but in this new form. In the old days, BMW made the very best engines and offered the very best driving dynamics.

BMW 4 Series Coupe

To an extent, that's still true today. But the competition has closed much of the gap and these days, fuel efficiency is much more important than a sweet six-cylinder engine note. So it was critical for BMW to gain an advantage in the digital sphere. And it has.

That said, in-car tech is changing fast. Audi's MMI runs iDrive and ConnectedDrive very close and the new build of COMAND that's coming with the Mercedes S-Class might also be a game changer. But as things stand here and now, we'd give BMW the nod. They've done a very, very good job.

The new build of Connected Drive will be rolling out across several BMWs this year, starting with the sexy new 4 Series Coupe and the revised 5 Series and 5 Series GT.


Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.