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What is BMW iDrive?

The BMW iDrive system is one of the best on the market. Find out what features it offers and how it can improve your driving experience

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BMW offers an impressive range of features and technology in its models, so it’s only right that there’s something as advanced as the BMW iDrive system to help you take control.

The iDrive system has had many upgrades since it first launched, but you can expect it to help you make the most of your car’s tech.

Learn more about the BMW iDrive system in our guide.

What are the benefits of BMW iDrive?

BMW iDrive is an infotainment set-up within new and used BMW models that allows for the streamlined control and usage of a range of features and tech.

It offers climate control settings, vehicle diagnostics, driving modes, and navigation. Think of this as a personal assistant inside your car.

The iDrive system makes features accessible by touchscreen, rotary dial, steering wheel controls, voice command, and gesture control, rather than buttons on your dashboard.

This also means you’re likely to be safer on the roads without the distraction of your car's tech, making it a more intuitive user experience.

If car comfort and usability are important to you, the BMW iDrive system will be up your street.

How does BMW iDrive work?

BMW iDrive can be accessed in several ways, with the most iconic option being the famous rotary dial. This controller sits in between the two front seats in an ergonomic position and has become one of the most loved features in a BMW.

The reason why the rotary dial is so popular likely relates to its comfortable usability. Muscle memory allows you to navigate the features without taking your eyes off the road (although, you should pull over when it’s safe if you need to focus on your car’s functions).

In later BMW models, the rotary dial also doubles as a touchpad that can be used for writing characters.

Although most BMW models avoid an abundance of buttons, there are still a few that will allow you to select menus through shortcuts.

You can also talk to your car with the voice command feature and use the main touchscreen to navigate that way.

Steering wheel controls are on offer and are great for removing distractions, but the gesture control is a fun touch that gets most motorists excited. Here, you’ll just need to use hand movements to signal the camera that sits underneath the rear-view mirror.

With gesture control, draw a circle with your index finger to crank up the volume (or turn it down, we suppose) or try setting your own shortcuts to gestures in the ‘Gesture Control’ setting.

A close up of the BMW iDrive system

BMW iDrive features

The BMW iDrive system includes the car’s entertainment, media, communication and navigation controls, while also allowing for smartphone mirroring with Apple CarPlay.

You can also retrofit your BMW with Android Auto capabilities as this isn’t offered by the manufacturer. Just make sure you aren’t modifying a finance car without your lender's permission.

There are apps for news, weather information, and email access, plus an impressive navigation system.

The latest version of the BMW iDrive is the iDrive 8. It comes with some impressive updates, like a larger screen (this time, curved for the driver’s viewing), flashier graphics, and an onboard personal assistant.

Compared to the Mercedes-Benz MBUX system and the MMI set-up available in used Audi cars, the iDrive is still largely the favourite option on the market thanks to its range of features and ease of use.

How to set up BMW iDrive

There’s little set-up involved with the BMW iDrive system, apart from connecting your phone. There are a few easy steps you can follow to do this, depending on the iDrive model you have:

  1. On the iDrive system, select ‘Communication’, then ‘Manage mobile devices’, followed by ‘Connect new device’

  2. On your phone, visit the Bluetooth menu and select the BMW Bluetooth name

  3. This should prompt instructions on your phone that you can follow to pair your device

  4. After following these instructions, your phone will be paired with your iDrive system

Connecting your smartphone to your BMW iDrive system will allow you to receive calls and texts through your car and access your car’s settings through your phone with your ConnectedDrive username and password.

BMW Driver Profile setup

You can also set-up a driver profile in your BMW by navigating to the ‘Car’ section and then the ‘Driver profiles’ option on the iDrive system. This will then allow you to log in via the My BMW app or with your current log in details.

You can choose to transfer the current settings from your My BMW log in or set up fresh, allowing your car to remember features like steering wheel height, seat position, and the height of your heads-up display.

This is an impressive feature that ensures optimum comfort when driving your BMW, and can even remember who is driving the vehicle by the key the car is unlocked with.

A white BMW 2 Series Coupe driving in the sun

Which cars have BMW iDrive?

BMW iDrive was first launched in the 2001 BMW 7 Series model and the 2.0 edition was released in 2003.

All BMW models produced after the first launch of iDrive are fitted with an edition of the software, depending on how old the car is.

BMW iDrive 8.0 was launched in 2021 and is available in the BMW 2 Series, 3 Series, 7 Series, iX1, and i4 – to name a few.

Before that, the 7.0 edition was available in all models. This includes the BMW 1 Series, 4 Series, X4 and X5.

Can you add BMW iDrive to an older car?

You can retrofit a BMW iDrive system to an older car, but this requires a fair bit of work on the car.

You could just need to replace a few components, but there’s the possibility you may need to replace the entire iDrive system.

It will also depend on your car and the iDrive system you’d like to upgrade too.

BMW CIC was launched in 2008 and replaced the CCC software that came before it. If you want to upgrade from CCC to CIC in an older BMW, you’ll need to replace the screen, head unit, iDrive controller and trim in a full hardware upgrade.

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