• Jun 9, 2008

The scholars over at Automobile magazine have handed out their "Funky Ergonomics Awards" this year. As expected, BMW's iDrive and 7 Series interior (shown above) remains their favorite pincushion. Rightly so. Their list includes convenience keys that are downright inconvenient, window switches that are out of reach, touchscreens that are dangerously slow to respond, all center-of-the-dashboard mounted instrument clusters, complicated navigation systems, reverse-action manu-matic transmissions, and dimly lit interiors.

While we generally agree with their list, our own ergonomic pet peeves include spinning seat adjusters mounted inaccessibly outboard (yeah, by the doors), cruise control stalks hidden out-of-sight by the wheel itself, and manual modes for old-fashioned "slushbox" automatic trannies. Oh yeah, the list goes on and on...

[Source: Automobile]



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  • 28 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I never realized that about BMW's Comfort Access, and the fact that it costs 1K throughout most of their lineup (500 in the 3er) goes to show you that it aint worth it. Whomever at BMW felt that starting/stoping a car should be a two step process needs to try again. Non-comfort access keys require you to stick the key in the ignition, put your foot on the brake and hit the start stop button. After all of that why not just use a regular key or offer Comfort Access as standard equipment.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Non-comfort access equipped BMWs require you to stick the key in the slot before you attempt to start the vehicle.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You don't need to stick the key in the ignition. Only kooks who haven't read the manual stick it in there.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This incarnation of the BMW 7 series with it's Bangle Dodge Stratus inspired rear end and droopy face along with the ergonomic flaws begs replacing.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't necessarily disagree with what Automobile Magazine had to say in this case, but I take everything they say with a grain of salt because of all the manufacturer-paid advertising sections they have which often include Automobile staffers shilling for said product. For example, the front page of their website currently has an advertisment for the Saab 9-3 Turbo X "hosted" by magazine editor Jean Jennings. How can anyone these guys seriously as objective journalists?
      • 6 Years Ago
      At least you can get nightvision with it, for when you become ashamed of owning one of these and decide to only go out at night with the lights off
      • 6 Years Ago
      Flsashpoint, it's funny that BMW's seat controls are so bad that you think the S class's insanely overcomplex seat controls are well designed. Seriously, they're needlessly complex. The way Toyota/Lexus combines the switches into much fewer controls is way easier to use, instead of 6 buttons that only go one way or another left for you to guess.
      • 6 Years Ago
      VW's seat reclining knob. high end GLI with Recaro seats and the best they can do is worse than a simple lever. a knob that has about 5% of recline for every complete rotation of the screw/ dial. as well as placement. scrape knuckles and takes forever.
      fuggeddaboutit
      • 6 Years Ago
      As a Saab owner, I'm obliged to point out that everyone car maker but Trolhatten's finest have their ignition key in a really stupid place. Aim a stick at a hole hidden behind the steering wheel? Yeah that's smart. And then the rest of the keys dangle and bounce across your right knee.

      The absurd placement goes back to the shift interlock requirement of the early 70s. But at the time steering wheels had thin spokes, rather than the fat-hubbed airbag-equipped button laden devices they have since become. Can't anyone but these few Swedes adapt?

      Not that Saabs don't have their share of ergonomic foibles, by any means. The push-button auto climate control alone betrays a twisted Nordic sense of humor, but I do wish other makers would copy the key thing.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The Saab key placement is also primarily a safety feature to avoid significant damage to knee in a crash caused by the solid metal lump that is the lock assembly. Nowadays the advent of keyless systems makes that less of an issue but it demonstrates Saab's commitment to logical thinking in te pursuit of safety. The million-button dash, whilst impressive to look t admittedly was flawed and has since 2006 been replaced with Saab-retor knobs, bit of shame but more practical no doubt.
      • 6 Years Ago
      How ironic that BMW keeps falling in quality surveys and gets pinata'ed by the ergonomics police yet continues to sell sell sell. I know it's a cliche but have we truely reached the point where products don't matter and image is everything?

      Apple is another example: They release a phone on a crappy network with features many other phones already have and it's front page banner news with people lined up around the block to get one. Why? Image.

      On the one hand you have to admire the marketers for having the skill to create something from nothing but then you feel sad that human beings are so easily manipulated.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm sure many people buy BMWs because of image... but have you driven one?

        A lot of people who judge BMW's ergonomics only test it out, therefore not really giving it a fair shot. New technology takes time to get used to; there is a learning curve.

        BMW's iDrive, often slammed by automotive journalists, is fairly intuitive and easy to use once you get used to it.

        Sure there is a flair to driving a BMW, but there are also a huge population of people who don't care whether they're SEEN driving a BMW, but love DRIVING a BMW.

        There are some great cars in my stable, including an E63, 997 Turbo, and an S550. They are great, beautiful cars, but ergonomically, there are more buttons in those cars than on a keyboard, which I believe ultimately takes away from the driving experience.

        Everytime I get into my 335 and DRIVE, I have a grin on my face.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "I'm sure many people buy BMWs because of image... but have you driven one?"

        I've not only driven one, I owned a 5 series I bought new in 2000 for 6 years. They're great cars for impressing neighbors and strangers alike but it's probably the worst money you'll ever spend. Mine was always broken too but at least the warranty covered that, plus I got to drive a lot of cool cars as loaners while mine spent days up on the rack waiting for some unobtainable part from Bavaria.

        If I had been the slightest bit smart I would have bought a car that cost half as much and invested the other half. If I had done that I'd have almost $60,000 in the bank right now instead of eating an average of $420 in depreciation every month so I could idle in traffic behind the wheel of a cool (yet unreliable) car. Live and learn I guess.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Because Bimmers look good?

        lol.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Design has alot to do with it...
      • 6 Years Ago
      I find it shameful that BMW, which was renowned for some of the best/most ergonomically designed interiors of the 80's and 90's has been reduced to a 7-Series dashboard that wouldn't look out of place in a 1974 Chrysler Imperial
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have a 6 series. I love it. But the iDrive is a really cool concept: You don't have to take your eyes off the road to adjust your inboard "stuff". You don't take your eyes off the road to shift your stick, likewise "shifting" the iKnob is the same concept. If journalist only realized that, they would give it a break.

      On the other hand, the worse thing about iDrive is that it's so damn slow to respond, so you *DO* take your eyes off the road wondering if iDrive ever registered your command, or wondering if it will ever get your command.
      So yes, it does deserve about half the criticism that it gets.

      The other problem with BMW's interface is that they provide hotkeys for often used functions that don't drill down to a useful functionality. So you can't hot key "Call mom." But you can hotkey "turn on phone mode" which is pretty lame when you consider you might save yourself one "push" of the iKnob.

      • 6 Years Ago
      My vote is for my 2008 Explorer that has a parking brake release that you can't reach with your seatbelt buckled.
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