BMW 335d Review

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In-vehicle Technology

Inside the cabin, the 335d has the fourth generation of BMW’s iDrive cockpit controller system.  The controller itself has four direct selection keys (for CD, phone, navigation, and radio) and each key has a different shape, making it possible to find the right button by touch alone. Other car makers have function buttons, but the driver still has to look down to pick the right one.

The car’s 8.8” central information display (CID) offers the highest resolution I’ve seen in a vehicle display and new menus, symbols, icons, and graphics make the system easier than ever to use.

Navigation also benefits from many enhancements including a full-screen map display, photo-realistic 3-D map views, satellite image maps, a preview function for selecting routes, and a choice of efficient, fast, and short routes.  The newest iteration of BMW’s navi allows drivers to speak an entire address without pause – and the system always seems to get it right.  BMW’s commitment to fuel-efficient driving continues with the nav system’s option to select an “efficient route” that will use the least amount of fuel (as opposed to the fastest route or the shortest route).

Bluetooth integration is superb, as always, although the system still has problems with contacts from BlackBerry devices and imports them in last name, first name order (rendering the system’s speech-to-text dial-by-name feature close to useless).

The iPod integration is well done, although BMW still doesn’t have a main menu choice for podcasts, a significant omission, especially since earlier BMW iPod integrations supported this functionality quite nicely.  Starting with September 2010 production, BMW is supporting iPod Out, which should alleviate this problem.

BMW online services have been greatly enhanced.

Google Local Search connects the driver to the entire Google Maps address database. BMW Online filters the results based on the vehicle’s current location and final destination, showing the relevant data for these areas.  The results include an address and phone number. The address can be selected as a destination for the navi and drivers can place a phone call with one click.

The My Info service allows drivers (or their friends) to send destination information directly to the vehicle from any computer connected to Google Maps.  A short text message can be included as well.

BMW Online, an optional offering, provides world and national news, financial market information and news, and local weather information.  Drivers can also see nearby fuel prices (sortable by distance, fuel type, and price).  In addition, the system supports geotagging: with a few clicks, the driver can e-mail friends and family his current location and destination information.

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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