iDrive used to be known as a complicated mess of a system, but over various generations it has improved in many, many ways. In fact, BMW’s iDrive has become one of the best navigation and entertainment systems in the automotive industry. In the new iteration – as seen in the 7 Series – the range of operations that can be run is simply fantastic. Albeit, iDrive offers unnecessary tech in order to make it appear fresh, nonetheless, it’s beyond capable of doing the basics, effortlessly.
“All cars in BMW’s line-up feature a simple click wheel controller for iDrive with just 7 buttons around it – despite manufacturers encouraging the use of voice control and touch screens, manual controls are still the better option for when you’re driving”, Matthew Laws of CVS Vans. “They might be a little distracting, but nowhere near as much as touch screen can be.”
Compared to BMW, the user experience you get across Mercedes’ model line-up is quite varied to say the very least. Thanks to the overpopulated touch points and methods of control, you’re left clicking your way through multiple menus to carry out what should have been straightforward function. The inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto enables you to use the left infotainment screen to search all your music, media and maps and keep the instrument de-cluttered at the same time. To keep it brief, maps and navigation look fantastic, while address entry is fast and suggestions logical and based on your preferences, to some extent.
Audi Virtual Cockpit
The virtual cockpit first made an appearance in the new Audi TT and instead of using multiple displays, tries to incorporate all your infotainment into the instrument clusters. By using a number of screens – all devoted to one single function – you can control every element of Audi’s MMI without reducing visibility of the speedometer or the RPM counters. While this sounds as though it’d be distracting, Audi has kept things simple and delivered a first-rate user experience – without the things that distract drivers on the road, of course.
Obviously, Audi’s virtual cockpit is quick, clear and concise too. In fact, in many respects, it offers the same speedy functionality that Volkswagen does – to a certain extent – just with slicker and cleaner graphics on display. With that said, Audi’s efforts lack slightly when it comes to its navigation system. Granted, the maps are the best on the market and having directions right in front of you is fantastic, though the address entry is way too complex.
Volkswagen has found its strong point with its Discover infotainment system; its ease of use, to simply put it, has resulted in the fastest navigation system tested in a car. It starts up much quicker than the competition, connects with your mobile phone much quicker and offers up navigation in no time at all! Although the screens Volkswagen use aren’t the most appealing to most people and while they are easy to view, even in direct sunlight, they don’t boast the HD colour-rich displays of the competition. Instead, Volkswagens setup is more about carrying out actions with the least possible number of buttons pressed to do just that.
Not only that, though, Discover is one of the only systems to use both the hardware buttons and a touch screen, yet it wasn’t much for the idea of a click wheel. Usually, if the tech was slow or lagged to a certain extent this wouldn’t work, but the screen is responsive to all presses, thus entering data is as easy and straightforward as can be.