• Jan 13th 2010 at 4:58PM
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Audi's all-new Multi Media Interface – Click above for high-res image gallery

Audi's Multi Media Interface, or MMI, may not have been all things to all people when it launched in 2004, but Audi has been continually improving the system, making it the defacto way to access media in your Quattro-equipped sled. It's getting better still, with the third generation MMI (3G MMI) getting a boost courtesy of NVIDIA mobile graphics and providing some impressive visuals in the process. While attending CES, we took a bright green Q7 TDI for a spin and then walked inside to check out what's due to arrive later this year: the 2011 Audi A8's dashboard with Google Earth integration.

Naturally, Audi and NVIDIA are touting both systems' ability to enable a rich user experience while minimizing driver distractions. That's great in and of itself, but we were more interested in how the upgraded system performed. The 3G MMI experience is buttery smooth, whether scrolling around the Strip from above or zooming out to get a satellite view of the nation. The default view is an isometric perspective that, up-close, includes 3D representations of buildings. Back it up a bit and the buildings go flat and the terrain and coloring take center stage.

The tweaks to the interface are minor compared to the earlier versions, with the same iDrive-style dial flanked by four buttons, along with a "Return" button below and rows of buttons on either side to toggle through functions. A small joystick built into the top of the knob is new and allows the user to scroll through the navigation system and other screens. Although the MMI stands in good stead compared to other luxo-wart operated systems, we're not so sure about the new joystick. The position on top of the dial is less than optimal and not particularly intuitive; we'd prefer the dial to move side-to-side rather than fumbling with a little thumbstick.

Thankfully, Audi seems to realize this, ditching the joystick for the 2011 A8 and replacing it with a small touchpad. You can use this to type in numbers, scroll across maps and even write letters using character recognition. The rest of the physical interface is much the same, with the major change being Google Earth integration, providing a satellite view and a much nicer looking interface. The system pulls data through an integrated modem, either using a SIM card inserted into the dash or by cloning the owners' phone (in the European market). Exactly what Audi will do in the U.S. remains to be seen, but the hope is something similarly straightforward will be available to avoid additional monthly data fees.

Overall, the experience on either system is impressive. The screens load and display quickly, and scrolling around the 3D map shows off the NVIDIA Tegra chipset's added oomph. Unfortunately the truly good stuff is only hitting the flagship A8 and not until later this year, but it's sure to filter throughout the range in due time.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Let's hope these work better than some of Nvidia's notebook GPUs, which have generated recalls over the last couple of years.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ mnmlist:

        The easy answer to your questions is simply because it's what sells. A business's only job is to earn profit... first and foremost.

        Second, I think with all the talk of making cars smaller this past year, it seems like your request is being heard.
        • 5 Years Ago

        What do you mean? Plenty of people are working on better fuel efficiency, lighter weight, driving enjoyment, etc. Does that mean people can't also work on in-car entertainment? As much as I love a good drive up a twisty road, that's not the only thing I do in my car and I would love to have more techy stuff at my fingertips, not just at my toes.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @dukeisduke - considering audi's been using nVidia for a while, and is the only carmaker at current with dedicated hardware acceleration for their MMI, I'm guessing they'll continue to be fine.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Again, why does high tech have to focus on nav systems and electronic displays. How about lighter weight, better fuel efficiency, and more focus on the fun aspect of actually driving the car. I miss my go-kart.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Let's hope the car works better than some of VW group products, which have generated recalls over the last couple of years.
      • 5 Years Ago
      so can i play modern warfare 2 on this or what?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Nope but Burnout is available
      • 5 Years Ago
      If they are like notebooks' chips they call them Audi ROASTED instead of ROADSTER
      • 5 Years Ago
      Next up: touchscreen capability.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Customer: "Help! my display's gone all wonky!"
      Audi Tech Support: "Have you tried updating the driver?"
        • 5 Years Ago
        • 5 Years Ago
        To which the caller responded:

        "But I tried the new Nvidia 201.5231 beta 3 version, which fixed the display but made the NAV voice sound like Cartman! and every other word was ^$#!'d. I was told that version was to have the voice of Taylor Swift..."

      • 5 Years Ago
      Ok, Audi... what is with the knight rider steering wheel... :D

      "I am sorry michael... it seems that I have been decapitated, and put into an Audi display."

      I always kinda thought a completely blacked out R8 might make a good KITT...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Love the sound of those TDI engines in the background...
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