What are BMW iDrive and BMW ConnectedDrive?

04th Jul 2023

By Kenny Longdon

Why technology is important

The latest technology is always a sought-after commodity, and in the automotive world, the level of the technology offered on a car can be a deal breaker for many, especially with so much choice.

In recent years, we have been spoilt for choice with the cutting-edge technology available with cars. Perhaps the biggest and most obvious display of this, and something that appeals to many buyers is that of the infotainment systems cars come with, along with the shift from analogue to digital when it comes to a car's instrument cluster.

A slick infotainment screen has been commonplace in many BMW models for over two decades now, whilst a fully-digital instrument/infotainment mix has only really been implemented in the last couple of years on many cars.

As you can imagine, BMW have one of the slickest, most striking and impressive systems on the market incorporating BMW iDrive, ConnectedDrive and many more, all complementing BMW's technological line-up.

So what is iDrive? Is it just the collective term for BMW's infotainment? What about ConnectedDrive? Read on to find out more.

What is BMW iDrive?

BMW iDrive

In simple terms, iDrive is BMW's display and operating system. BMW themselves describe it as 'iDrive is more than just a control and operating system - it's a digital world of experience allowing human and car to interact with one another and exchange information'.

The first BMW iDrive launched in 2001 in the BMW 7 Series; the halo luxury car in the BMW model range at the time. Essentially, iDrive reduced the high number of buttons on the dashboard, by housing them in the 'Control Display' which could be accessed using the now iconic iDrive Controller.

The iDrive Controller is a rotary control device that can be rotated clockwise, anticlockwise, forwards and backwards to control the iDrive operating/infotainment system on a BMW.

Over the years, iDrive has evolved with technology. Screens have become sharper, operating systems in the iDrive have become quicker, faster and slicker. Later BMW models use touchscreens, but you can still use the iDrive Controller if you prefer, which will ensure your screen is kept free from annoying fingerprint marks.

iDrive operating systems have therefore evolved with each new generation of BMW models, allowing for more connectivity, apps, features and generally state-of-the-art technology we have come to expect from a brand like BMW.

What is BMW ConnectedDrive?

BMW Connected

The clue is the name. BMW ConnectedDrive keeps the driver completely connected when behind the wheel of a BMW. It offers apps and software to make your BMW fit more conveniently around your lifestyle and make driving easier, safer and more interesting.

In simple terms, iDrive is essentially the operating system, whilst ConnectedDrive is one of the features available within the overall system which uses the internet where possible.

BMW were the first premium car brand to offer online services, via BMW ConnectedDrive. BMW ConnectedDrive is essentially a software that allows you to be more connected. BMW themselves state it as 'BMW ConnectedDrive comprises all digital services that intelligently connect the vehicle with the outside world. In addition to telematics services, these also include driver assistance systems, connections for mobile devices, as well as entertainment offerings and traffic services'.

What does BMW iDrive/Connected Drive look like?

BMW iDrive

Since 2001, iDrive has evolved and today is one of the slickest and best looking operating systems and displays available in an automobile. It is forever evolving and this can be seen in brand-new BMW models, whilst slightly older used BMW models have earlier iDrive/ConnectedDrive set-ups.

That said, even older iDrive/ConnectedDrive set-ups still offer some fantastic apps and features.

ConnectedDrive on the other hand came along in 2008, demonstrating the constant evolution of technology and how BMW took iDrive and its available features to the next level when the technology was available.

Complementing software such as My BMW App come as part of ConnectedDrive. The app allows you to check the status of your BMW remotely, and even allowing some things such as locking the car and checking fuel and mileage remotely.

An M lap timer app is also available, first seen in 2013, which could be used to monitor your performance in your M car when out on a race track. This of course has evolved and is available for the latest M cars today, too.

BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant is also part of ConnectedDrive on newer BMW models and allows you to communicate with your BMW via voice command.

With many new BMW models featuring a SIM card, BMW ConnectedDrive Upgrades can also be downloaded to your BMW when available.

What are the advantages of BMW iDrive and BMW Connected Drive?


iDrive Advantages:

  • Iconic operating system in BMWs
  • Its history shows how iDrive has progressed with technology
  • Ever-evolving
  • Ensured BMWs have a leading infotainment set-up
  • Looks great and is straightforward to use
  • Easy to pair your smartphone to

ConnectedDrive Advantages:

  • Keeps your BMW up to date
  • Makes owning a BMW more convenient
  • Keeps you connected safely and legally
  • Allows updates to be sent to your BMW - keeping it feeling newer
  • Makes the ownership experience more interesting
  • My BMW App is pretty slick and cool 

What are the disadvantages of BMW iDrive and BMW Connected Drive?

BMW iDrive

iDrive Disadvantages:

  • Older iDrive operating systems can feel dated (updates can be done to some models)
  • Some drivers may prefer driver-focused analogue set-ups, like that of older generation BMW models
  • Latest digital instrument clusters may be a bit smartphone-like to some drivers

ConnectedDrive Disadvantages:

  • The complete shift to digital from analogue may not be for everyone, especially older generation drivers
  • iPad style infotainment/instrument binnacles again will not be for everyone
  • Some drivers may find the experience too state-of-the-art
  • Having to pay when subscriptions end - as most end after 3 months
  • Some apps/features cost money to use/download

Discover your perfect BMW with Stratstone

No matter what BMW from the modern era you are interested in, whether it be one of the latest models or an older model as far back as 2001, being a BMW, it is sure to have an excellent iDrive/ConnectedDrive set-up that is sure to keep you that little bit more involved with your BMW.

As an official retailer of BMW vehicles, Stratstone BMW can help you are looking at purchasing new or used BMW vehicles.

Stratstone BMW also offer multiple aftersales services. To find out more, simply contact your preferred Stratstone BMW retailer today.