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First demonstrated at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September of 1999, the iDrive concept became reality, the first in a production model, at the 2001 Frankfurt Auto Show.

iDrive knob iDrive was first announced for the E65/6 7 Series, and it is now available on the E60 5 Series and E63 6 Series models.

Instead of a bewildering array of switches, knobs and buttons, the BMW iDrive cockpit is divided into two separate sections: the driving zone, containing all controls essential to driving, and the comfort zone, where a central console serves to easily and smoothly regulate all the vehicle's comfort functions.


how it works

Here's how it works:

The functions most important for motoring and safety on the road have been moved to the direct vicinity of the driver. 

All primary driving functions are in the area around the steering wheel, offering the driver more immediate access to key controls. 

Second level functions are controlled by conventional switches on the instrument panel, like the lights switch or the air conditioning temperature setting.

Many controls are operated with a single large, multifunction knob located in the console between the front seats. The control consists of a combination rotary and push button for selecting functions. Confirmation of the selected mode is displayed on a dash mounted screen. 

Users can change functions -- from communications to climate control, navigation or entertainment -- by pushing the console knob forward or back, or side-to-side. By twisting the knob, they can scroll through menus. And by clicking a button located in the middle of the knob, they can select functions. 

"iDrive" takes into account the fact that comfort, communication and driver assistance functions are only rarely adjusted while driving. The operating unit in the center console gives the driver direct access to many other driving functions and information and communication options. Several hundred functions can be controlled with this device.

6 Series
6 Series iDrive

5 Series Interior
5 Series iDrive

A computer-type monitor is positioned directly within the driver's line of vision to the road ahead. The large monitor in the center of the dashboard displays all the information the driver needs, apart from the speedometer and tachometer, which are conventional analog instruments. The monitor is positioned within the driver's field of vision, allowing it to be viewed while focusing attention on the road ahead.

The third generation Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) enables the wireless services used by iDrive, with data transfer rates of 2 Mbps.




E65/6 7 Series was the first to use iDrive. iDrive was demonstrated on the BMW Z9 concept car.

E60 5 Series and E63 6 Series models were the first to use second-generation iDrive, with a simplified 4-position menu. detailed description of iDrive. page on iDrive used in the 7 Series.

Pistonheads review of iDrive.

iDrive uses the Microsoft Windows CE operating system. Press release from Microsoft.


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