Is BMW iDrive Worth The Cost?

With nearly 20 years under its belt at this point, iDrive is no longer the new kid on the block when it comes to BMW technology. iDrive has gone through several iterations over the years and it has become a more and more useful infotainment system in that time.

But iDrive also has a reputation for being relatively finicky and with updates and new generations coming out all the time it can be difficult to keep up. With the latest BMW iDrive 8 rolling out this year you might be wandering just how good iDrive actually is. You also have the option of converting the interface to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto depending on your cellphone, but are they any better than iDrive’s stock interface?

BMW’s iDrive is widely considered one of the leaders in best infotainment systems. Nowadays, iDrive has a variety of features such as heads up display, real-time traffic information, an automated personal assistant and an extremely well done map system. iDrive has become interconnected with most aspects of your BMW which provides added luxury and ease of use to the driver and passengers.

So now we know from a high-level what some of the benefits of iDrive are. Let’s take a deeper dive into what actual customers say about iDrive, both the good and the bad. Let’s then take a look at alternative interfaces.

What Does iDrive Actually Do?

“iDrive” is BMW’s infotainment system and it has gone through a number of transformations over the past two decades. Over the years, iDrive has become increasingly sophisticated and useful to drivers. Previously, iDrive had only been offered as an option on most model BMWs, but in recent years iDrive has become a stock feature of every new BMW that comes out of the factory.

Here are just a few of the interesting features that comes with the latest iDrive:

  1. Intelligent Personal Assistant. This is a cool feature and reminds me of my Amazon Alexa. You can ask your personal assistant questions and the assistant will respond. The assistant can also explain functions of the vehicle and will learn your preferences as you drive the vehicle.
  2. BMW Maps. This is a smart map system that uses learning technology to predict your destinations overtime. This is a nice feature to have as it allows drivers to often skip plugging in their destinations.
  3. Automated Climate Control. Again, another nifty feature that learns user a/c preferences overtime. The goal here is to avoid drivers from having to adjust a/c settings all the time.
  4. Cellphone Integration. Cellphone integration has been a component of iDrives in the past, this feature has just continued to get better. iDrive uses the “My BMW App” to connect your phone to a number of maintenance and entertainment components in the vehicle. From keeping you updated on the basics such as tire pressure, charging progress, fuel and battery levels or connecting to your phone’s Spotify and Pandora accounts, iDrive goes a long way to connect your cellphone.

Here is a great video on the latest iDrive functionality.

What Are The Downsides of iDrive?

Here at A Better BMW, when we review BMW models and components we typically review based on the quality of the product/vehicle and how reliable it actually is. The latest iDrive generation is “BMW iDrive 8” and it has been around for less than a year, which is a little premature for a verdict on overall reliability.

That being said, we can get a great overall idea of how reliable iDrive is based on its lengthy history and we can also detail the downsides of the BMW iDrive 8 functionality.

As far as functionality of the latest iDrive 8 versus iDrive 7, it is certainly a mixed bag for most people with some customers expressing a strong disdain for over-reliance on touch screen technology and the removal of one touch center console buttons. These critics make a good point and we suspect that BMW will get rid of the rotary controller sooner rather than later in the next generation or two, moving almost all functionalities to touch screen. This can be a serious annoyance for many users that would prefer not to have to navigate through a maze of touch screen functions to turn on their heated seats.

With that being said, BMW will likely respond to these complaints overtime by expanding voice commands, which many drivers will find is just as, if not more convenient than one press buttons.

As far as reliability goes on iDrive units, head unit failure after a few years of usage is not uncommon and there are a variety of other minor nit problems that come with having a complex infotainment system. Issues requiring significant repair or replacement of the iDrive head unit can often cost upwards of $1,500.00. If you are having any mechanical issues with your iDrive you can check out some of our repair articles here.

When it comes to minor nit issues, the good news here is that most of the technical issues and bugs are worked out a few months after a new generation is introduced and the software engineers have had time to work out the flaws in the system.

Should You Swap iDrive’s Interface For CarPlay or Android Auto?

BMW CarPlay

Swapping iDrive’s interface with CarPlay or Android Auto is generally going to be a personal preference. I have a strong preference for Google Maps personally and I don’t like iDrive’s map system as much. Besides that, the other obvious reason is that I am already familiar with the CarPlay interface, as it is very similar to a standard iPhone.

Android Auto has become very similar to CarPlay in recent years. In the past, Android Auto took a different approach, as the interface was not built out like a cellphone screen. This was a double-edged sword, as Android Auto came off as a little more functional as a car interface, but on the otherhand, it was not as intuitive for android users as CarPlay was to iPhone users. Nowadays though, Android Auto has been repurposed and basically looks like a Samsung screen.

My recommendations is to try out on of the phone interfaces (depending on your cellphone of course) and test it out. If you prefer the phone interface, keep it! As mentioned previously, we think that the iDrive interface is pretty good, but google maps is a much better tool than BMW’s in-house interactive map.


In this article we have discussed the benefits and functions of BMW iDrive and what exactly a sophisticated infotainment system actually does. iDrive is an extremely useful system and has become more useful over the years. Criticisms of over-complexity are not ill-founded in the modern iDrive, however, the benefits certainly outweigh the costs of complexity and repairs.

Stephen Metellus

I am a BMW enthusiast and owner of! I have been repairing, flipping, and parting out BMWs for nearly ten years. I love these vehicles and I hope you will find my articles and YouTube channel helpful for whatever BMW project you have in store!

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