BMW 330d M Sport with ConnectedDrive - iDrive

By Jeremy Laird



The main remit for our reviews is in-car tech and in the context of contemporary BMWs that inevitably makes the iDrive infotainment platform the hot topic. In our test car, iDrive is part of the broader BMW Professional Multimedia Package. A hefty £1,935, it includes BMW's top spec navigation system, a Bluetooth phone interface, ConnectedDrive and Voice Control as well as a multimedia system with support for MP3 playback and storage, iPod connectivity, DVD playback and more. It's not exactly cheap, but at least you get a lot for your cash.

Your window into the iDrive interface comes courtesy of an impossibly crisp 8.8in LCD panel. It has an ultra-wide aspect ratio and a monster 1,280 x 480 pixel grid (well, it's monster for an 8.8in in-car panel). As well as the ability to display high quality graphics, the screen's pixel density and wideness allows BMW to implement a useful split screen mode with navigation cues on the right-hand third while the remainder of the display retains focus on whatever function the driver chooses.

iDrive, of course, took a bit of a mauling from the specialist motoring press when it first appeared in the previous generation E65 7 Series. But much like BMW's Bangle-era flame surface styling, it has proved extremely influential - shades of iDrive are detectable in most competing systems. Admittedly, the original iDrive presented users with a pretty steep learning curve. But we think the criticism reflected crusty, outdated attitudes as much as it did the shortcomings of iDrive.

Still, with the latest revision BMW has addressed the one major critique of iDrive. By surrounding the input wheel with a range of shortcut keys, users are able to jump directly to the top level of several of the main menu entries including navigation, telephony and radio.

Further speeding up navigation through the iDrive system is a bank of eight shortcut keys located along the CD/DVD aperture. At first glance they look like track selection buttons for the single-disc optical drive. But they're actually fully programmable, enabling users to quick-jump directly to any part of the iDrive interface. It's a feature we suspect will prove extremely handy over time, allowing instant access to the most commonly used features.

As before, once in the relevant subsection it's the usual iDrive routine of using the wheel to scroll through and highlight on-screen options for selection. Similarly, as with the previous generation, the first impression for iDrive newbies remains one of moderate impenetrability. But once the initial user interface hump has been surmounted, we reckon even technophobes will quickly appreciate just how well thought out and polished iDrive really is. The wheel is tactile and accurate and for the most part the overall interface is extremely well optimised for wheel navigation.


April 28, 2009, 1:16 pm

A hideously looking monstrosity of a car. BMW's of late look absolutely vile! And don't get me started on the X6....


April 28, 2009, 5:44 pm

@Steve - You’ll get no argument from me, I think that the 3 Series saloon is an ugly beast. Although at least the rear light clusters on this facelift model aren’t as rank as the ones on the original. Of course my trusty coder Rich will argue to the death that the 3 Series saloon is stunning, but at least he’s otherwise sane.

Personally I just can’t believe how big the 3 Series is now. The 1 Series coupe is about the size that the E30 3 Series coupe was! There’s no denying that the technology that BMW is squeezing into its cars is pretty impressive though.


April 28, 2009, 7:24 pm

Regarding Information Plus - I'm sure that Fiat had something like this about five or six years ago in the Stilo. Anybody remember? If you went for the satnav option and installed a simcard, you could press some sort of 'Help' button and be put through to a call centre where they could send e.g. a local hotel (or garage more like) to your Nav.

Or am I dreaming again? If not, it's surprising how long it takes for tech to make it's way through cars...


April 28, 2009, 10:27 pm

@Mario: Sounds like you're thinking of SmartNav. That's not particularly new or impressive technology and it's not confined to Fiat. It's not quite the same thing either. If you asked the SmartNav lady for the atomic weight of Boron, she'd probably hang up on you whereas a BMW lady would kindly oblige.

The closest I've heard of is the 'concierge' service that used to come with a VW Phaeton, although that was more for restaurant reservations, theatre tickets and the like.


April 28, 2009, 10:58 pm

I still think the previous generation 3 series looks far more 'premium' that the current version. The interiors have always been solid but at the same time looked a little old fashioned too, eg. the dials haven't changed much over the years. However, you just can't argue with the way they drive, they are all excellent cars (begrudgingly even the X5 & X6, for what they are), and the latest generation of diesel engines are in a league of their own, returning some amazing Co2 results alongside some serious performance figures.

Anyway, there has to be a point when all this tech gets distracting to the driver, but then seeing as we spend more and more time stuck in traffic jams, having lots of functionality might actually help preserve our sanity!!

Mark Peter

April 28, 2009, 11:49 pm

"open out the iDrive platform" - now there's a thought. It's one thing to brick your iphone with a dodgy app but messing up your traction control system opens up whole ranges of interesting possibilities...


April 29, 2009, 3:48 pm

@ChrisC: The facelift gives it a far more 'premium' look. The new creases in the bonnet lend some aggression and the new rear and light clusters are far more distinctive. The previous rear clusters were ripped straight from a Mitsubishi Charisma, the most inaptly named car in history.

Also, look out for some impressive new diesel engines from Mercedes and Jaguar. Merc's new 4-cyl C250 CDI does 0-60 in 7.1, returns 'over 50 mpg' and pumps out 138g/km CO2.

Jim Fulton

April 30, 2009, 1:31 am

I drive an 07 335d Coupe, with the earlier generation iDrive. I agree with a lot Jeremy says, I went for upgraded speakers and they make a big difference to the sound, much cheaper than the horrendously expensive Harmon Kardon option. As for the quoted range, you'll find that a bit optimistic. 600-650 miles, certainly, I manage around 500-550 in the 335d at a steady 75-80 on a long run.

Agree with Chris, the new Jaguar XF engine with the twin turbodiesel is getting great reviews, must be worth a look.

Rich 42c5

May 1, 2009, 7:53 pm

A stunning, stunning car. I'd hit it


July 27, 2010, 5:43 pm

Thanks for the great info on connected drive. I have just bought a new F10 5 series that includes the same system, and was looking for more in depth tech info that you described.

Overall it is a great system, I am just waiting until the third party hackers start on it so we get things like custom POI (speed cameras) for the NAV, video interface for iPod etc.


June 3, 2013, 10:39 am

Beautiful car man

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