BMW iDrive rotary controller to stay in certain models

Amidst improvements in touchscreen and voice command technology, BMW has pledged to keep the classic iDrive rotary control

BMW iDrive rotary controller

When BMW first revealed the new 2 Series Active Tourer, there was a glaring omission in the cabin - a rotary controller for the iDrive system. And it’s expected that the next-generation version of the X1 crossover - on the same platform - will also resort to touchscreen-only infotainment. 

However, with the new flagship 7 Series and i7 models the iDrive controller is present and correct, and when asked about the future of the rotary controller at a preview event for those cars, BMW’s Stefan Frick explained to Auto Express that the part’s inclusion will be model specific; it’s all down to the driver’s proximity to the screen.

“You have to think about the architecture of the car and the ergonomics. If the screen is not close enough it makes no sense [to remove the rotary controller], he said, adding, “In the 2 Series [Active Tourer] it’s a different architecture, and the screen is pretty close - it’s quite convenient to control with touch.”

BMW, much like most other premium manufacturers, has made big strides in both touchscreen and voice command technology, so you’d be forgiven for wondering if the brand would be looking to move away from this now-ubiquitous feature. 

It’s certainly something that Auto Express readers have been vocal about, many feeling that when on the move, physical controls are usually easier and less distracting to operate than touchscreens. However, it would appear that larger BMW models will continue to use the rotary dial. 

“We still stick with the iDrive controller, especially with this model [the 7 Series]. We have a 20-year history of iDrive controller,” concluded Frick. 

Click here to read our BMW 7 Series prototype review...

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