BMW’s iDrive 7.0 interface is one of the best infotainment systems out there right now. Well, except for Android phone users (like myself), but that’s going to be fixed soon. The combination of a 12.3-inch touchscreen and rotary dial controls that are intuitive and easy to use makes for an enjoyable digital experience. I can’t say that about every infotainment system out there. Right now, the iDrive 7.0 software is available in the 2 Series Gran Coupe, 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, 8 Series, X3, X4, X5, X6, X7 and Z4.
The home screen consists of customizable tiles that let you choose what you’d like to display. I like the default tiles with the map, phone status and current media playing, but you can throw the trip, fuel economy and plenty of other data up there, too. We’ve had huge functionality issues with BMW’s wireless Apple CarPlay in the past, but experienced none this time around. The software loaded up quickly and seamlessly each time we turned the car on after the initial annoying connection process. It also displays CarPlay across the full widescreen display, which I prefer since it takes advantage of all the available screen real estate (you cannot split the screen to show CarPlay with an iDrive display such as navigation or radio info).
BMW has also managed to optimize its hardware and software to work just as quickly as our super-powerful cell phones do these days. Swapping through menus and swiping around the screens is a pleasant and stress-free experience. There was no freezing or glitching going on throughout my week of testing it, and I’ll genuinely miss using this infotainment system.
A couple new modes were introduced for the system. One of them is called “Experience Modes,” and the other is called “Caring Car.” Experience Modes offer up three preset modes to set the interior mood. For example, the “Executive” mode closes all the shades, turns on the ventilated seats and adjusts the ambient lighting. The Caring Car modes are even more intrusive. We enjoyed the “Relax” mode that plays sleep-inducing music, closes all the shades, sets the temperature warmer and serves up a consistent fan speed. Waiting for a friend you’re picking up has never been more relaxing. And yes, these modes are somewhat gimmicky, but this system is full of party tricks to impress your friends. BMW’s gesture controls are exactly that, and while there isn’t much new, they do work better and with greater accuracy and speed.
The BMW Personal Assistant is also onboard. It works when your phrasing is right, but owners should read up on how to talk to it before setting off to avoid frustration. You can activate it with a simple, “hello BMW.” But a touch of the voice button on the steering wheel is even quicker and easier. Its abilities are miles deep, and it doesn’t force you to weave through a maze of commands to get important functions rolling like navigation or song selection. Its voice recognition software is verging on above average, but it still mistakes our commands from time to time. Basically, don't expect it to be as good as the Google Assistant or Siri.
Watch the video above to see us walk through some of the screens and get a sense of what it’s like to use. In the hierarchy of luxury infotainment systems, iDrive 7.0 is right there on the same plane as MBUX and Audi’s MMI. Its ability to be controlled via the rotary controller is a huge plus in BMW’s favor, too. You can twist, rock and press while keeping your arm in a comfortable position cruising down the road — no awkward leaning or reaching toward a touchscreen as with Audi, or dealing with the added dexterity needed for MBUX's touchpad. The screen is close enough to the driver’s line of sight that it doesn’t take your attention totally away from the road, either. Now let’s just get Android Auto into the fold.