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BMW Live Cockpit and BMW Operating System 7.0: A closer look at BMW’s new infotainment and driving system

The internal technology experience has become one of the most important aspects of modern cars. Drivers are now looking for connectivity, flexibility and integration. For BMW, that sees the introduction of a whole new infotainment system.

BMW has been talking about iDrive since 2001, but in an age of xDrive and eDrive (which both refer to powering the actual car), iDrive no longer really makes sense – as a name at least – for an internal system.

Back in 2018 we had the introduction of a new digital driver display, working closely with the central display. This isn’t totally new – the BMW i8 and BMW i3 both previously had digital displays – but this ‘Live Cockpit’ is different, ushering in a new era of driver-focused technology for BMW.

BMW Live Cockpit, Live Cockpit Plus and Live Cockpit Professional

Before we get started, let’s make it clear that these car systems often get complicated and there are a lot of terms being thrown around by BMW. There are two elements to Live Cockpit: the “info display”, which is the driver display; and the “control display”, which is the dash display in the centre of the car.

The BMW X5 launches with Live Cockpit Professional as standard; BMW says that BMW Operating System 7.0 is the platform that underpins it – and the brochure says that Live Cockpit Professional is standard on the X5 xLine trim and above. Simple!

Both the BMW 8 Series and the X5 have Live Cockpit Professional, both have a 12.3-inch info (driver) displays, but the X5 has a 12.3-inch control (centre) display while the 8 Series has a 10.25-inch control display – so there are different implementations of the same technologies. But again – pretty simple.

But now things get more complicated: in the case of the new 3 Series, Live Cockpit Professional is standard on the M Sport version, meaning that other versions – Sport, SE – get dials as standard for the driver with a central 5.7-inch display, while the control display is 8.8-inches in the centre of the car – called Live Cockpit Plus. The 2019 3 Series was the first car that offers both versions. The 2020 1 Series followed.

Once you upgrade to Live Cockpit Professional you again get that 12.3-inch info display and 10.25-inch control display, but BMW’s website says “BMW Live Cockpit Professional is iD7” in a section titled “Operating system 7.0 (iD7)” – so you can see where the confusion in names starts to come in.

Here’s how the different versions break down:

  • Live Cockpit: entry-level without navigation (this version won’t be in the UK)
  • Live Cockpit Plus: 8.8-inch control display (1280 x 480 pixels) with touch, running iD6 (the outgoing “Professional”)
  • Live Cockpit Professional: top-of-the-range with BMW Operating System 7.0, 12.3-inch info display (1920 x 720 pixels)

What happened to iDrive?

Recent iterations of iDrive saw the introduction of touch back in 2015. Then, in 2017, BMW introduced live tiles with more personalisation. BMW told us the change in name was really because there’s a lot more going on than just the controller – which is what iDrive started life as – which you use to control the systems.

POCKET-LINTBMW Live Cockpit image 24

The actual iDrive controller with buttons remains very much the same in operation has it has done on most of BMW’s cars from the last 10 years: a dial you can use to rotate through the interface and click to select; it’s flanked with shortcut buttons to major areas.

Some will find it refreshing that you still have a physical controller, whereas some rivals, like Audi with MMI Touch, are starting to remove the physical controls for an all-touch experience.

Of course, as we pointed out, there are still plenty of references to iDrive 7 floating around.

A new driver display

The new driver display – or “info display” – is all digital. BMW has had fully digital displays in the past, but the new Live Cockpit Professional ushers in a new design and layout.

BMW is keeping the speedometer and rev counter, which sit in arcs around the outside of the driver display. As BMW is all about driving, it seems these core pieces of information are central to the experience that it offers.

Bmw Live Cockpit image 25

The centre of the info display becomes a map, showing your position, as well as carrying navigation directions. The left-hand side of the display is for driving specifics like a digital readout of your speed, display of driving aids, and so on, while the right-hand side is given over to other information, like entertainment.

You can make some changes to the left-hand side, like adding a second speed readout (useful if you’re driving away from home), and you’ll get information like cruise control here, while the right-hand side is where you’ll be able to scroll through information like radio stations and so on. If you’re listening to an album, you’ll get album art. It’s easy enough to access these items from the steering wheel controls.

It will also be on the right that driving mode is displayed and you can also have trip computer details here, such as your average speed and fuel consumption.

Bmw Live Cockpit image 28

One thing to note is that switching to Eco Pro mode will change the colour theme blue. This is a little like the BMW i8 display, which switches from blue in normal driving to red when you switch into sport mode.

The thing to remember is that the Live Cockpit Professional display might be standard on your BMW (8 Series, X5) or it might be an extra option – meaning that some will have traditional dials with a centre display (Live Cockpit Plus), paired with a control display in the centre of the car, as it was before.

A customisable control display

The centre display – the control display – has slowly been growing in BMW models over the past decade. From cowled in the dash to sitting atop, the central display moved to being a wide aspect. It’s on the increase again, as display inches become increasingly important. The size of the display will be dictated by the design of the car that it’s embedded into.

Offering touch and in some cases gesture control, it’s on this display that you see some of the flexibility that BMW Operating System 7.0 will offer. Covering major sections, the control display system is divided into media, communication, navigation, car control and apps. These sections can be accessed via touch controls down the side of the display, with each section therein being customisable.

BMW Live Cockpit image 15

There’s a drag-down shade at the top – like a smartphone – with some additional controls, including the ability to adjust the main menu or home screen as it would be on a phone.

That home screen divides up major areas, presenting information from a range of sources – navigation, media and communication, for example – for at-a-glance information, or to provide big touch areas to move forward.

Once in a section – media, for example – you have a left-hand navigation menu (which will hide to the left so you can swipe it in or out), the centre of the display (which will show the content) and the right-hand side (where actions live). It’s all pretty logical.

BMW Live Cockpit image 17

The nice thing is at the bottom of the left-hand menu you have “personalise menu”, meaning you can remove things from the list you don’t want. Sticking to media, for example, if there are some sources you never use, you can remove them from the list to tidy things up.

There’s a lot of design parity between the info and control displays, with cross-over of controls to the steering wheel for some things – like media control – so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road too much.

BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant

BMW has introduced its own Hey BMW smart voice assistant. While Amazon Alexa is dominating homes, car manufacturers are keen to ensure that you can use voice more effectively in the car too – and BMW’s system is actually pretty good.

hey bmw image 1

Hey BMW will be available on all models running Live Cockpit Professional with BMW Operating System 7.0 and those ordering the new BMW 3 Series will have it as an option, although we notice that BMW is saying that you only get it for 3 years – we assume there will be a subscription cost thereafter.

BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant is designed to give you better in-car control via voice. Rather uniquely, you’ll be able to give the Assistant a custom name/hotword, and BMW claims it will learn routines to be able to dynamically deliver better results. It will be able to react to statements and control the car – to adjust the heating, for example – as well as be able to identify songs, add navigation stops, answer general questions and integrate with Office 365 and Skype for business users.

BMW is also keen to ensure that the assistant can travel with you. From what we understand, the personal profile that it develops will become part of your BMW ID, so you should be able to move to a new car, sign in and it will know who you are, what you like, and so on.

Apple CarPlay, at a cost

BMW made the big move of offering Apple CarPlay wirelessly in 2016 – the first and only manufacturer to do so. That means you don’t have to plug the phone in to access CarPlay, but you do still need to pair your phone, connecting via Bluetooth.

The CarPlay experience is then essentially the same – because it’s governed by the software on your iPhone. Your phone then does all the work, with the car’s display basically just acting as a touch display, but not processing the data or running the apps – as that’s all done by the iPhone.

Is wireless CarPlay a big draw? It’s convenient, yes, but unless you have a recent iPhone model then you might want to plug your phone in to charge anyway. If you do have a recent phone model, then Qi charging pads provide convenience for wireless charging (if available on your model). Importantly, it means you can run CarPlay and leave you phone in your pocket.

Bmw Live Cockpit image 1

On the BMX X5, there’s a Qi charging pad in the central cubby hole, but it’s positioned so that you’d not be able to access your phone when it’s in place, which is great for deterring you from fiddling while driving.

Of course, many Android phones support Qi charging, so can also benefit. Although, as we get to below, Android Auto isn’t a BMW option (well, yet, it’s coming mid 2020).

The downside of CarPlay on the BMW is that it isn’t free. There’s a cost – and even if you opt for the Connected Package Professional (including Remote Services, Concierge Services, Real Time Traffic) you still only get 12 months of Apple CarPlay. The prices for CarPlay come out as: £85 for 1 year, £255 for 3 years, £295 unlimited – although there’s also a 1 month trial for £1.

Yes, other manufacturers offer it free, so it’s a good job that BMW’s core systems are pretty good, because some might choose not to take Apple CarPlay at those prices.

What about Android Auto?

There will be support for Android Auto on BMW cars from mid-2020. The system will be wireless, meaning that it offers parity with the way that Apple CarPlay has been implemented, so there’s no need to physically connect you phone with a wire after the initial setup. Wireless Android Auto is only supported on a limited number of devices according to Google, and that includes Pixel phones and some Samsung phones. We’re asking if cable connection will also be connected and we’ll update when we hear back from BMW.

BMW says that you’ll get information in the driver display and the heads-up display (HUD) and regular Android Auto functions will be supported, like a wide range of apps from your phone and Google Assistant.

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So far BMW has said nothing about how much it might cost – we suspect it will the same arrangement as Apple CarPlay.

You can find more information on Android Auto in BMW cars right here.

BMW Connected Packages

Aside from the hardware and features that it offers, BMW also offers connected packages. They wrap-up a number of different services covering: Remote Services, BMW Online, BMW Connected+, Intelligent Voice Assistant, Real Time Traffic Information, Connected Parking, Concierge Service and Connected Music.

Some items will be bundled into a package that’s included with the car (likely with a limited subscription that might mean older cars need renewing) and some parts are an additional extra. For example, the new BMW 3 Series comes with Connected Package Plus as standard; the 3 Series M Sport comes with Connected Package Professional, which adds the new Intelligent Personal Assistant.

There’s a lot of variation, but there’s also a lot on offer, with BMW Remote Services offering smartphone access to the car. There’s also Digital Key for5 available on some models which will let you use a Samsung smartphone to unlock the car instead of the key, allowing you to grant temporary access to someone else.

Bmw Live Cockpit Lead image 2

Connected Music is available from Napster and Deezer and at a cost – which is likely to be what tempts people towards Apple CarPlay – easy integration of apps on your smartphone and with a wider selection available through Apple CarPlay – like Spotify or BBC iPlayer – makes it a more compelling choice.

There’s also the super-cool display key, of course.

Summing up

BMW is offering a lot of technology through its cars. There’s integration of a number of different systems and with the launch of the new Live Cockpit and BMW Operating System 7.0, BMW is setting out the digital future for its vehicles.

Cockpit Live Professional brings a new modern driver display that’s fully digital, allowing a more dynamic view that extends beyond the restrictions of physical dials. It’s a slightly conservative application, especially compared to the full colour mapping offered by rivals Audi with its Virtual Cockpit, but with a consistent theme running across all screens – including rear entertainment screens – it looks good.

But we do like that the iDrive controller exists in some form, meaning that if you’ve been in a BMW at any point in recent years, you’ll probably find the new system intuitive and pretty easy to use. The important thing is that the core systems are good: mapping is clear and finding addresses is easy; driving instructions are clear and the accompanying visuals make driving with the car’s core systems a pleasure.

That’s important when some of the alternative approaches – like Apple CarPlay – cost extra in the long run, meaning you might be happy not to spend more money to use them.

We’ll be updating as we experience more of BMW’s new tech integrations on more of its updated models.

Identify Mercedes COMAND APS head unit

This guide will help you identify Mercedes-Benz head units, COMAND, radio, stereo version. Scroll down the list until you see the head unit that matches the one on your car. We have included a list of applicable models as general guidance.



Mercedes-Benz NTG 5 COMAND (NTG5HU) is found on several models including W205, V-Class, W222, GLC, etc. It has built-in Bluetooth calling, DVD drive, ability to playback DVD, CD, MP3. Build in navigation and even a built-in hard disk for storing music files. Up to 40GB of internal storage. The monitor is 8.4″ LCD. Can be controlled by the touch panel on the central console. Can support iPod, TV tuner, rearview camera, enable DVD while driving.  It requires an anti0theft code.


  • W205 C300 C450 C63 GLC300 C43
  • W222 S400 S550 S63 S65
  • CLS400 CLA400 CLA250 GLA250
  • W447 V Class
  • W166 X166 GLS Class



COMAND 4.7 is an updated version of the NTG4.5. The main change is that it allows sharing the internet of your iPhone or Android phone with the head unit. The maps were updated as well. It was installed on Mercedes produced around 2012. Not available on all markets.


Mercedes Benz Display LG 7" LB070WV3 for W204 W166 W212 W176 NTG4.5 Comand

One of the most popular head units is the NTG 4.5. Installed on many models produced from 2012 to 2015. Fit on most model including W166 W204 W212 W207 W218 W172 W231 W246 W463. Has many features including an internal hard drive, DVD player, 7″ monitor with TFT resolution. USB and auxin. Plays CD, DVD, MP3 and WMA. SD card slot. Handsfree calling. Navigation which works on 2D or 3D. Voice control. Requires 25 digit anti-theft code.


  • C-Class W204 C250 C300 C350 C63
  • E Class W212 E350 E550 E63
  • B-Class W246
  • CLS-Class W218
  • SL Class W231 SL550 SL63 SL65
  • W166
  • W176
  • W246
  • W463
  • W207
  • W218


W212 NTG4 E350 E550 E63 CLS550 CLS63

Mercedes COMAND NTG 4 supports NAVIGATION and hands-free calling. Installed in several 2008 through 2011 models such as the GLK, E and C Class. It also supports video playback and a parking camera. Enabling those features requires an interface.

Applications: W212, W204,  W212 NTG4 E350 E550 E63 CLS550 CLS63


Mercedes MB E class W211 Comand APS NTG 2.5 navigation system

COMAND NTG 2.5 has a 6.5″ LCD screen and is installed on many 2009 to 2012 Mercedes-Benz models including ML, GL, R, SLK, SL, E classes. Main features include: support for (CD-MP3 / WMA / MPEG4 / DVD), Built-in Navigation System, Built-in Bluetooth, AM/FM tuner, HDD 40 GB, SDHC / SD Card Slot (up to 32GB), Built-in Amplifier. If the screen on your NTG4.5 gets cracked, scratched, has dead pixels it can be replaced without having the replace the complete head unit. Supports rear view camera, iPod and TV tuner. Requires 25-digit ANTI-THEFT PINCODE


  • A-Class (W169, C169) 2009-2010
  • B-Class (W245) 2009-2011
  • C-Class (W204) 2009-2013
  • E-Class (W211, W212, S211) 2009-2012
  • SL-Class (R230) 2009-2013
  • SLK-Class (R171) 2009-2011
  • M-Class (W164) 2009-2011
  • ML-Class
  • R-Class (W251, V251) 2009-2012
  • CLS-Class (C219, W219) 2009-2011
  • G-Class (W463) 2008-2012
  • GL-Class (X164) 2009-2012
  • Vito W639 W906


Mercedes MB R class W251 Comand APS NTG 2 navigation system retrofit kit

The COMAND APS NTG2 also known as COMAND MCS II is found on many models as well such as the C, CLK, E, R class. It has a build in amplifier and built-in navigation. It can have a CD changer in parallel. Requires a Mercedes NTG2 Navigation DVD for the navigation to work. Not all models will have phone support. Cars that do provide phone support only allow you to connect via the phone cradle. There are adapters that you can install to allow you to pair an iPhone or Android phone.

Features include:

  • 6.5″ and 2.5 din
  • Disk Drive (CD-MP3 / WMA / MPEG4 / DVD)
  • Built-in Amplifier
  • Rear View Camera
  • iPod
  • TV tuner
  • GPS Antena


  • A-Klasse W169 09/2004 — 05/2008
  • B-Klasse W245 06/2005 — 05/2008
  • C-Klasse W203 CL203 04/2004 — 02/2007
  • CLK W209 06/2004 — 04/2009
  • G-Modell W463 03/2007 — 09/2008
  • GL-Klasse X164 03/2006 — 06/2008
  • ML-Klasse W164 07/2005 — 07/2008
  • R-Klasse W251 02/2006 — 06/2008
  • Sprinter (NCV3) 906 04/2006 — 10/2009
  • Vito (NCV2) 639 05/2006 — 09/2010 ab FIN xx 233210
  • Viano (NCV2) 639 05/2006 — 09/2010 ab FIN xx 233210

COMAND APS NTG 1 Audio 20 / Audio 50

NTG1 Audio 20 / Audio 50

COMAND APS was introduced in 2003. It was different than the early command system found on W220, W163, W210 models which used D2B optical network. COMAND APS uses MOST network. All new head units with MOST system are called COMAND APS. To separate them from the early COMMAND systems. The NTG1 has a build in CD player which can play MP3. It may also have a cassette player. Some models have built-in navigation. It required the maps to be loaded via a CD. For the US the maps for different regions were divided among ten different CD disk. Navigation maps for this head unit can be found online. Check out listings of Mercedes COMAND NTG1 CD Maps.


  • CLS-Klasse: C219 (10/04-03/08)
  • SLK-Klasse: R171 (03/04-03/08)
  • E-Klasse: S211 (03/03-05/06)
  • E-Klasse: S211 (06/06- 06/08)
  • E-Klasse: W211 (03/02-05/06)
  • E-Klasse: W211 (06/06- 06/08)
  • Maybach: W240 (ab 10/02)
  • Maybach: V240 (ab 03/03)

COMAND 2.0 and 2.5

mercedes comand

Is the first generation of COMAND, NAVI for Mercedes-Benz cars. It had a cassette player and a CD player slot. Used D2B optical ring and an external amplifier. Often was a separate CD changer is installed. Had no Bluetooth capabilities. The phone feature requires that you use an outdated Motorola phone.


An owner may confuse the early COMAND 2.5 that was installed on models such as the S Class W220 with COMAND APS NTG2.5. COMAND APS NTG2.5  is a version of the new generation COMAND APS. A key difference is that the COMAND APS uses MOST instead of the early D2B optical system.

How Apple’s CarPlay Compares to the Competition

Image: Apple
Image: Apple

Apple may have finally rectified the disconnect between our cars and our smartphones — if only for iPhone users — with the introduction of CarPlay. It turns that archaic screen on your dash into a car-friendly iOS device, with Maps, Messaging, Music and more.

By taking control of your car’s screen, Apple is providing access to all the best features of iOS, controlled by voice and, depending on your car, the touchscreen or control knob. The user interface will be familiar to iOS users, with reworked versions of Maps, Podcasts, Messaging, and Music developed for the car’s screen. And Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo will be the first to launch CarPlay-equipped vehicles this year, with BMW, Chevy, Ford, Kia, Subaru, Toyota, and more coming later.

Apple has already forged partnerships with a handful of automakers for its Siri Eyes Free system, but that integration never took off. Now, by ceding control to Apple, automakers don’t have to hassle with updating their aging and perpetually outdated infotainment systems to bring you the core features and apps you use every day. And with each new iOS release, the functionality is bound to grow, further solidifying Apple’s dominance in the car.

But how does CarPlay stack up to the current crop of infotainment systems? Here’s a breakdown of how Apple’s first real attempt at dashboard dominance competes with the best from the established automakers.


Device: i0S only
Navigation: AppleMaps, with calendar, contacts, email and messages integration, plus point of interest searches and real-time traffic
Apps: Music, Podcasts, Beats Radio, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher
Messaging: Messages with listening and dictating
Phone: Native interface to make and return calls
Voice: Siri control of Maps, Phone, Messaging, and apps
Controls: Touchscreen, knobs, or voice

GM MyLink

Device: i0S and Android
Navigation: Optional $50 GogoLink nav app for i0s and Android, with driving range projections and point of interest searches.
Apps: Pandora and Stitcher
Messaging: Not available
Phone: Native interface for calls. No voicemail support.
Voice: Uses smartphone’s voice input for calls, music, and app launching.
Controls: Touchscreen

Ford Sync

Device: i0S and Android
Navigation: No phone integrated maps. Optional navigation system on MyFord Touch with traffic data.
Apps: Over 30 apps available.
Messaging: Listening and dictating responses.
Phone: Native interface for calls. Voicemail support.
Voice: Onboard voice control through Nuance.
Controls: Knob or touchscreen depending on model.

Mercedes DriveStyle

Device: i0S
Navigation: Navteq system with point-of-interest search, Google StreetView, but no ability to use a 3rd party maps client.
Apps: Apple Music, Aupeo! Personal Radio, Twitter, Facebook, Internet Radio, and Glympse.
Messaging: Not available
Phone: Native interface for calls. Voicemail support.
Voice: Siri control
Controls: Knob or touchscreen depending on model.

If you haven’t ponied up for a new car, the only way to get smartphone functionality onto your dash is through the aftermarket. 4×4 Shop Canada for Android are both solid solutions to your unconnected-car woes, but to get that functionality you have to rip our your existing system, lose the built-in features, and have an aesthetic sore thumb sticking out of your dash.

Identify my BMW iDrive system

How to Locate a Vehicle’s Manufacture Date

1. By the year of production

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to determine your iDrive version with 100% accuracy, because in some countries the production month can be different. But at least you’ll have some understanding which head unit can be in your BMW.

Series/Model Timeframes
iDrive CCC
1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 06/2004 – 09/2008
3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 03/2005 – 09/2008
5-Series E60/E61 12/2003 – 11/2008
6-Series E63/E64 12/2003 – 11/2008
X5 Series E70 03/2007 – 10/2009
X6 E72 05/2008 – 10/2009
iDrive CIC
1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 09/2008 – 03/2014
1-Series F20/F21 09/2011 – 03/2013
3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 09/2008 – 10/2013
3-Series F30/F31/F34/F80 02/2012 – 11/2012
5-Series E60/E61 11/2008 – 05/2010
5-Series F07 10/2009 – 07/2012
5-Series F10 03/2010 – 09/2012
5-Series F11 09/2010 – 09/2012
6-Series E63/E64 11/2008 – 07/2010
6-Series F06 03/2012 – 03/2013
6-Series F12/F13 12/2010 – 03/2013
7-Series F01/F02/F03 11/2008 – 07/2013
7-Series F04 11/2008 – 06/2015
X1 E84 10/2009 – 06/2015
X3 F25 10/2010 – 04/2013
X5 E70 10/2009 – 06/2013
X6 E71 10/2009 – 08/2014
Z4 E89 04/2009 – present
iDrive NBT
1-Series F20/F21 03/2013 – 03/2015
2-Series F22 11/2013 – 03/2015
3-Series F30/F31 11/2012 – 07/2015
3-Series F34 03/2013 – 07/2015
3-Series F80 03/2014 – 07/2015
4-Series F32 07/2013 – 07/2015
4-Series F33 11/2013 – 07/2015
4-Series F36 03/2014 – 07/2015
5-Series F07 07/2012 – present
5-Series F10/F11/F18 09/2012 – present
6-Series F06/F12/F13 03/2013 – present
7-Series F01/F02/F03 07/2012 – 06/2015
X3 F25 04/2013 – 03/2016
X4 F26 04/2014 – 03/2016
X5 F15 08/2014 – 07/2016
X5 F85 12/2014 – 07/2016
X6 F16 08/2014 – 07/2016
X6 F86 12/2014 – 07/2016
i3 09/2013 – present
i8 04/2014 – present
1-Series F20/F21 03/2015 – 06/2016
2-Series F22 03/2015 – 06/2016
2-Series F23 11/2014 – 06/2016
3-Series F30/F31/F34/F80 07/2015 – 06/2016
4-Series F32/F33/F36 07/2015 – 06/2016
6-Series F06/F12/F13 03/2013 – 06/2016
7-Series G11/G12/G13 07/2015 – 06/2016
X3 F25 03/2016 – 06/2016
X4 F26 03/2016 – 06/2016
1-Series F20/F21 07/2016 – present
2-Series F22 07/2016 – present
3-Series F30/F31/F34/F80 07/2016 – present
4-Series F32/F33/F36 07/2016 – present
5-Series G30/G31/G38 10/2016 – present
6-Series F06/F12/F13 07/2016 – present
6-Series G32 07/2017 – present
7-Series G11/G12/G13 07/2016 – present
X3 F25 07/2016 – present
X3 G01 11/2017 – present
X4 F26 07/2016 – present
X5 F15/F85 07/2016 – present
X6 F16/F86 07/2016 – present
3-Series G20 09/2018 – present
8-Series G14/G15 09/2018 – present
X5 G05 09/2018 – present
Z4 G29 09/2018 – present

2. By the interface

The majority of iDrive systems have specific interfaces, so it’s also worth checking out the look of the menu in comparison with other head units to identify the iDrive version.





NBT / NBT Evo ID 4








This Audi Can Predict When a Parking Space Will Open Up

WHEN THE WIFE and I head into San Francisco for a night on the town, I don’t bother entering the restaurant’s address into the sat-nav. I find the nearest parking garage and use that instead. It’s a helluva lot easier than endlessly circling the block in search of a parking space, wishing my navi could tell me where to find a space.

Before long, it will. Audi’s Urban Intelligent Assist research initiative uses big data, wireless connectivity and the car’s on-board navigation system to, among other things, tell you which street spaces are available and, even better, when a space will open up. It’s like Google Now for parking.

“The vehicle isn’t just a tool to get from one place to another, but a friend in an unfriendly environment,” says Dr. Petros Ioannou, director for the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology at the University of Southern California. Audi’s urban assistance project also includes researchers from U.C. Berkeley and the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, along with Audi’s own Electronics Research Laboratory in Silicon Valley.

It’s a transportation-focused version of Google Now.To transform your ride into said friend, Audi and its cadre of geeks created Driver Centric Urban Navigation. Before we set off on a demonstration run in an Audi A6, Mario Tippelhofer, a senior engineer at ERL, sets AT&T Field as our destination. He’s using an Android smartphone running an Audi-developed app that combines a calendar and navigation into sort of GPS-infused day planner.

With the destination set, the app queries current and historical traffic data and determines it should take about seven minutes to reach the ballpark. If it was a business appointment, the app would use the same data to push an alert telling me when to leave, and even provide a user-defined buffer – say, five minutes – to make sure I get there a little early.

iDrive vs. CarPlay vs. Android Auto: Which Is Best for Your BMW in 2020?

A decent infotainment system is a must for any modern car intended for everyday driving. The major auto manufacturers have all cottoned on, each developing their own systems in-house and making them available in most of their latest models. Hot on their heels is a proliferation of third-party hardware and software designed to add new features to your vehicle.

There are three main options for BMW owners to choose from: the native iDrive interface developed by BMW; Apple’s CarPlay system; and Android Auto from Google.

But which is the best option? We take a look at each in turn to see exactly what they have to offer.


iDrive from BMW

The iDrive interface has been a mainstay in BMWs since it was launched in 2001. Although this initial version was pretty cumbersome to use and wasn’t exactly attractive, the system has since come on leaps and bounds.


The iDrive interface has been a mainstay in BMWs since it was launched in 2001. Although this initial version was pretty cumbersome to use and wasn’t exactly attractive, the system has since come on leaps and bounds.


Firstly, perhaps the most obvious use for an in-car computer is for help finding the way from A to B. Most of us, though, are now used to carrying Google Maps with us wherever we go, and ditching that for iDrive’s far more limited navigation offering seems pretty counter-intuitive.

Secondly, although iDrive can offer mobile office functions, in-car telephony and more, these connected features are generally reliant on your smartphone. And unfortunately, compatibility isn’t exactly a given. Your smartphone, the version of iOS or Android it’s running and the iDrive software installed in your car can all influence what features will and won’t work. Buying a new phone can be more stress than it’s worth, when there’s no guarantee that the in-car features you rely on will continue to function with your new handset.

Finally, not everybody is convinced by the quality of the user experience. BMW has worked hard to improve the iDrive since it was first introduced, but there is still a long way to go to match the expertise of the likes of Apple and Google. These companies are able to draw on their vast experience creating the user interfaces that we interact with every day on our cellphones. The ubiquitousness of iOS and Android also means that CarPlay and Android Auto have the third-party support (be that hardware compatibility or app availability) that we as smartphone users now take for granted.

These factors taken together explain in part why auto manufacturers have been so quick to offer CarPlay and/or Android Auto integration in many of their newer vehicles.

BMW Apple CarPlay

Apple’s CarPlay system has been rising in popularity since its launch in 2014. It’s now being offered as a factory option in an increasing number of cars, including most of the latest BMWs (although you’ll have to pay a subscription fee). CarPlay-compatible head units are also available as a retrofit option in older vehicles and those lacking the appropriate hardware, and aftermarket CarPlay units like BimmerTech’s offer another way to get CarPlay into your BMW. More information about Apple CarPlay can be found in our other blog post, and we’ve also taken a look at retrofitting CarPlay into older BMWs.

BMW Apple Carplay

What is Apple CarPlay

CarPlay is Apple’s entry into the infotainment space, and makes it easy to use iOS apps on your BMW’s iDrive screen. If you’re an iPhone user and want to replace BMW’s native maps with Waze, make and receive WhatsApp messages while driving or stream music from Spotify or Apple Music, CarPlay is an obvious solution. Siri integration means you can also summon Siri with the voice command button your BMW’s steering wheel. Ask for directions, skip to the next track or makes calls, without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road.

The obvious consequence is increased safety; compared to the BMW native voice command, Siri is generally more capable, and with the iOS app ecosystem backing it up, you’re unlikely to miss out on features you need. There’s also the matter of familiarity — you’ll be able to use the same Siri commands you do on your iPhone. Though CarPlay can also be navigated with the rotary iDrive controller or touchscreen in compatible vehicles, voice-only control is a perfect fit when you’re on the road.

CarPlay is only available for iPhone users; if you’ve got an Android phone, you’ll need Android Auto, which offers a lot of the same features. We’ll take a closer look at it in a moment.

BMW CarPlay subscription

CarPlay is Apple’s entry into the infotainment space, and makes it easy to use iOS apps on your BMW’s iDrive screen. If you’re an iPhone user and want to replace BMW’s native maps with Waze, make and receive WhatsApp messages while driving or stream music from Spotify or Apple Music, CarPlay is an obvious solution. Siri integration means you can also summon Siri with the voice command button your BMW’s steering wheel. Ask for directions, skip to the next track or makes calls, without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road.

The obvious consequence is increased safety; compared to the BMW native voice command, Siri is generally more capable, and with the iOS app ecosystem backing it up, you’re unlikely to miss out on features you need. There’s also the matter of familiarity — you’ll be able to use the same Siri commands you do on your iPhone. Though CarPlay can also be navigated with the rotary iDrive controller or touchscreen in compatible vehicles, voice-only control is a perfect fit when you’re on the road.

CarPlay is only available for iPhone users; if you’ve got an Android phone, you’ll need Android Auto, which offers a lot of the same features. We’ll take a closer look at it in a moment.

New In-Car LTE Finally Brings Netflix Binges to Your Commute


GET READY TO tack on another device to your wireless bill. Audi and Cadillac are bringing in-car 4G LTE connectivity to their newest vehicles, with plans to expand the service across their range of products in the coming years. And it’s further proof that your car is just another data-sucking device living alongside your smartphone and tablet.

Limited 3G connectivity has been available in vehicles for the past few years, but with 4G/LTE, smooth streaming video and more visually detailed navigation–finally on par with smartphones–is here. By turning your ride into a rolling hotspot, passengers can hook up myriad devices to the car’s built-in data connection, while automakers and developers can begin to give drivers a wealth of new features and apps to boost the experience behind the wheel.

The Audi Connect system will supplement the car’s existing interface system with new features, including more up-to-date traffic data and the ability to find a nearby parking lot with a space available. Audi says the ultimate goal is to link up to drivers’ smartphones to reduce distractions, but the announcement also says drivers in the U.S. won’t be able to use voice-to-text messaging, although they will be able to get Facebook and Twitter updates–just what we need.

At launch, Audi is only including LTE in the 2015 A3 sedan, priced at around $30,000 and going on sale later this year. Data pricing is $499 for 30 GB over 30 months, or $99 for 5 GB over 6 months, but the connection will be free for the first six months. Currently, Audi’s 3G-equipped models get service from T-Mobile, with $30 a month buying unlimited data.

Cadillac’s OnStar 4G LTE takes it a step further, with availability on all new 2015 models and including remote starting, smartphone locking and unlocking, and hotspot hosting for up to seven devices. Caddy’s new system also integrates Apple’s Siri Eyes Free, allowing iPhone users to use the steering wheel-mounted voice control button to trigger Apple’s virtual assistant.

AT&T will be handling service for both Audi and Cadillac, and while the company hasn’t provided details on how it will bill customers, it should be an add-on for existing data plans–although it doesn’t appear that you’ll be able to draw from your family plan’s pool of data.

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