iDrive is a computer system, which is used to control most secondary vehicle systems in many current BMW cars. iDrive's user interface consists of a LCD panel mounted in the dashboard and a controller knob mounted on the center console.
iDrive allows the driver and front-seat passenger (in recent cars it is available to back-seat passengers as well) to control such amenities as the climate (air conditioner and heater), the audio system (radio and CD player), the navigation system and communication system.
iDrive (1st Gen)
Debuted in September 2001 with the BMW E65/E66 7-Series and was based on Microsoft Windows CE for Automotive.
This can easily be seen when the system reboots or restarts after a software crash displaying a "Windows CE" logo. 
iDrive Business (M-ASK)
M-ASK stands for MMI Audio System Kontroller and is manufactured by Becker. This is a limited version of the iDrive computer with a small 6.6" display and is what you get when ordering a 5-series, 6-series, 7-series, X5 or X6 without navigation option.
In addition it can optionally be ordered in Europe on the 1-series and 3-series as "Business navigation", in which case it has basic navigation abilities. Early versions of the Business navigation could only display directional arrows, but the latest version can also display 2D maps. iDrive Business Navigation uses a different map DVD then iDrive Professional Navigation. In addition because only one optical drive is available you cannot use both navigation and listen to a CD simultaneous.
When iDrive Professional is ordered the M-ASK system is replaced by either the CCC or CIC in addition to a larger display.
iDrive Business is available on the following cars;
- iDrive Business Navigation (optional)
- iDrive Business (default when navigation is not ordered)
Note that the above list can vary depending on the region. For instance North American 7-series come by default with CCC or CIC.
Debuted in 2003 with the E60/E61 5-Series and is based on Wind River VxWorks, a real-time operating system.  CCC stands for Car Communication Computer and uses a larger 8.8" wide-screen display. It was available on the following cars as an option;
- 1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 manufactured until March 2007
- 3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 manufactured until March 2007
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured until March 2007
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured until March 2007
- 7-Series E65/E66/E67/E68 from September 2004
CCC based systems use a map DVD from Navteq in a dedicated DVD drive.
CCC - update 1
This is a minor update to iDrive Professional debuted in March 2007. It adds additional programmable buttons in the dashboard to directly access frequent functions and it removes the haptic feedback from the iDrive controller. It is available on the following cars as an option;
- 1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 manufactured between March 2007 and September 2008
- 3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 manufactured between March 2007 and September 2008
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured between March 2007 and September 2008
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured between March 2007 and September 2008
- X5 E70
- X6 E71
CCC - update 2
This is a minor update debuted in September 2008 to iDrive Professional equipped cars that did not get the new CIC based system. These cars get the new iDrive controller that is also used on cars with CIC. The actual iDrive computer (CCC) remains the same. This update is available on the following cars;
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured from September 2008
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured from September 2008
Debuted in September 2008 with F01/F02 7-Series. CIC stands for Car Infotainment Computer and is manufactured by Becker. It is available on the following cars as an option;
- 1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 manufactured from September 2008
- 3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 manufactured from September 2008
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured from around January 2009
- 7-Series F01/F02
The CIC system is a major update to iDrive, replacing the display, computer and the controller. The display is a higher resolution and the system is much more responsive then the old CCC system to address the common complaint about iDrive. The system also supports internet access. 
CIC based systems uses maps from TeleAtlas which are installed on an internal 2.5" 80GB HDD. This HDD can also store up to 8GB of music files for playback. For uploading music files to this HDD a USB port is provided in the glove box.
The design rationale of iDrive is to replace a confusing array of controls for the above systems with an all-in-one unit. The controls necessary for vehicle control and safety, such as the headlights and turn signals, are still located in the immediate vicinity of the steering column. iDrive also allows the On-Board Diagnostics computer to provide detailed information to the driver and service technicians in plain-text, rather than limited and confusing symbology like a "Check Engine" light.
Since the climate, audio, navigation and communication systems are adjusted only occasionally, the idea was to move them into an easy-to-use central location. However, iDrive was filled with controversy and many disapproved of it.
Controversy and Critics
iDrive has caused significant controversy among users, the automotive media, and critics. Many reviewers of BMWs in (automobile) magazines disapprove of the system. Criticisms of iDrive include its steep learning curve and its tendency to cause the driver to look away from the road too much . Most users report that they adapt to the system after about 1-hour of practice, and the advent of voice controls has reduced the learning curve greatly.
A new iDrive system (CIC) was introduced in September 2008 to address most of the complaints.
How It Works
The iDrive M-ASK and CCC systems are based around the points of a compass (north, south, east, west) with each direction corresponding with a specific area. These areas are also colour coded providing identification as to which part of the system is currently being viewed.
- North (blue) for communication
- East (green) for navigation (In some models without navigation, this option is replaced by the On Board Computer)
- South (yellow) for entertainment
- West (red) for climate control
Also, at the iDrive home screen, the control knob can be pushed downwards to provide access to the car's control panel (iMenu), which gives access to a variety of operational parameters:
- date/time settings
- System language localization (generally, English (US/UK) and native language of the vehicle's location is provided.)
- Bluetooth settings
- Flat tire sensor settings,
- lighting behavior, etc.
- custom steering wheel buttons
- Power Output (BMW M series, for example, 400 hp, 500 hp).
Starting in 2007, perhaps in response to critics, iDrive added 6 programmable buttons (6 USA/Japan, 8 in Europe) to the dashboard, breaking tradition of having the entire system operated via the control knob. Each button can be programmed to instantly access any feature within iDrive (such as a particular navigation route, or your favorite radio station). In addition, a dedicated AM/FM button, and a Mode button (to switch between entertainment sources) were added (only USA)
iDrive is controlled by manipulating the control knob. This can be pushed north, south, east, west; pushed inwards (down), nudged left and right, or rotated left and right. The control knob contains an element of 'force feedback' so the knob can not be rotated further than there are options on the screen. It will also kick back slightly as it scrolls through options. This makes it easier to use while driving and keeping your eyes on the road.
From the home screen, each option can be reached by pushing the control knob in the desired direction. From any other screen, pushing the knob in the desired direction and holding in place for a few seconds will jump to that new area. (For example, in the Entertainment screen, pushing the control knob to the right for a few seconds before letting it go will jump straight to the Navigation area). The iDrive system includes a button marked Menu behind the control knob which provides quick access to the home screen.
iDrive is unique among its competitors by using a widescreen display that is split into a 2/3 main window, and 1/3 "Assistance Window". This allows the driver to use any function or menu, while simultaneously maintaining secondary information. For example, if the driver is not in the Navigation menu, he can still see a map on the assistance window. Other information that can be displayed includes navigation route directions and a trip computer.
The latest generation of the BMW iDrive in the 2009 BMW 7-Series features a large 10.2 inch high resolution LCD panel with a 1280x480 resolution. It has a full featured web browser that connects to the internet via BMW ConnectedDrive using EDGE.
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