We’ve recently picked up a brand new 335i sedan. While picking out the options, we’ve decided go for the GPS navigation system, which is controlled by the infamous iDrive. The iDrive in theory is suppose to be very smart. It’s the same system that is controlling pretty much the entire vehicle’s electronics, including: automatic door-lock, day-time running light, audio, navigation, and much more settings.
Unlike most GPS systems found in Japanese vehicles, the iDrive is not touchscreen-based. Its based on a round jog dial selector; like a joy-stick, it moves 8 directions (at least it was suppose to, I could never manage to get it to shift the map diagonally). I have been cursing at the damn system everytime I drive. Here is why:
1. Too Slow: The iDrive is too damn slow to react… I constantly find myself sitting in a parking spot idling five+ minutes for the system to load up the information from the map in the DVD drive (which is badly located in the middle of the dash with an eject button exposed and sits right beneath the actual audio CD drive, this was a real bone-headed design). I think the new Mercedes C class sedans will be equipped with built in hardrive to eliminate this problem. I’d figure BMW would atleast run on a faster CPU or provide a bigger cache to store and recall map data much faster.
2. Crappy Control: The iDrive counts on the jog selector for almost everything, between rotating the knob and selecting in 8 directions, this is how you scroll through the menus, input street addresses and more. It is often that you find yourself scrolling forever to go back and forth between the alphabets or and numerical values. As mentioned earlier, because the system is so slow, I often pre-select faster than what the system can keep up thereby causing it to take me to the wrong menu screen or inputting the wrong value. BTW, if someone decided to pull that jog dial off the console, I’ll have no access to anything… because so much is relied on that one little dial. When a list of results come back, the iDrive's mechanism often stops it from rotating because it thinks I've already reached to the bottom of the list, even though its because it was not fast enough to know the system is still pulling more reference data off the DVD drive. Another part that really sucks is sometimes, as you use it to rotate for FM stations, as it approaches to the end of the spectrum, it would not always go to the high spectrum channels, yet it does some of the times. Very unpredictable. I fear I'll break the mechanism sometimes because I don't know what to expect from it.
3. Not Informational: The iDrive is so freaking useless, while searching for a destination or Point-of-Interest (POI), it wouldn’t display the physical address or phone number for your confirmation, your only option is looking at approximately how far it is from your current position (which is often off) and select it as destination. For me to verify, I have to add that location each time to the address book (which takes forever as mentioned in point 1 above.) Again, if I want to verify the location by scroll on the map, the DVD is often too slow to react to my demand in zooming the map in or out and scrolling it in my directions… plus, the diagonal direction from the job dial never seems to work right. In addition, if you want to find common POIs like ATM/Gas/Food, you can’t! I could never get the “real time” traffic information to do what I want… it doesn’t always re-route for me all the time.
In hindsight, I should have just opted out of this GPS system and bought a Garmin Nuvi with touch screen. Its portable and has gotten nothing but good feedback and would have cost me less.