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Comparing The Best Car Multimedia Systems: BMW iDrive, Audi MMI and Mercedes COMAND

Cars aren’t designed anymore just for driving between A and B. Nowadays, when looking for a car, one will be interested in the safety features, comfort and of course, in car entertainment to make long roads more bearable. But don’t expect just a CD player and a set of mediocre speakers anymore, since technology has advanced enough to allow the user to play his own songs from mostly any device. Gone are the days of burning audio CDs. 

As it was expected, automaker brands are fighting a constant battle for the top position in providing the best user experience out there. Below, three ICE media systems from three famous automakers will be taken under close inspection: BMW’s iDrive, Audi’s MMI and Mercedes Benz’s COMAND. Let’s see which one goes for the podium.

BMW iDrive

The iDrive was first introduced on the German automaker’s flagship model, the BMW Series 7, back in 2001. It has traveled long way since then, but at the time, the center-console rotary was something definitely taken out from the future. Since it was only in the beginning, iDrive featured a set of disadvantages, such as the difficulty in use due to a deep set of menus. You had to go through a number of options just to change the radio station playing at the moment.

The latest rendition of the iDrive multimedia system has evolved a lot from its ancestor. Now, all vehicle functions and infotainment system are accessed through the iDrive controller. The user navigates through the 6.5 inch screen roughly the same way as before, by moving side to side and up and down using the rotary wheel. Pressing the button will access an extra set of features.

2014 / 2015 / 2016 BMW iDrive Touch Infotainment Review

The best upgrade noticeable is the accessibility of the menus on the latest iDrive. Users can’t complain any longer about traveling through 10 menus just to get the radio station. Now, just by selecting one of the four main menus then scrolling down the list of options, the driver can access all iDrive’s features. Screen icons are easy to select and read, developing a less road distracting experience.

Audi MMI

In case you are wondering, MMI stands for Multi Media Interface. It was introduced by Audi on their A8 flagship model and, although it is definitely inspired from the iDrive, Audi took one step forward and refined the system, making it easier to navigate and to use.

2015 Audi MMI Infotainment Review

Unexpectedly, the latest version of the MMI hasn’t been introduced on the A8 as many may have expected, but on an entry-level product, the Audi A3. A high number of infotainment options are present on the latest rendition, such as music playback, GPS navigation and hands-free Bluetooth connectivity. The most expensive version of the MMI, featured on the flagship A8 model and the Q5 SUV comes with a 4G LTE wireless system, including a month free of charge. A great feature of the MMI navigation is the Picture Destination option, which allows the car to set the destination according to the geo-tagging of a photo.

In order to control the MMI, a rage rotating dial is accompanied by four buttons, each corresponding to an icon featured on the dashboard. To develop a less distracting way to use the MMI, Audi integrated to toggles to fast switch between radio, phone, media and navigation.

Mercedes COMAND

Mercedes has constantly revamped all its products in order to better suit the wide public. The latest renditions of its A class, GLA and even S class models have been designed to adhere the younger public, more attracted to technology than luxury. Keeping up with the mobile technology is a difficult task even for the multi-million euro automaker.

2015 S Class COMAND Infotainment Review

A bigger screen can be found on the latest version of COMAND, to accommodate all its features. There is also a relatively cheaper multimedia system offered by Mercedes, called Audio 20, being a basic infotainment system. However, all the premiums are found inside COMAND, acronym for Cockpit Management and Data. If Audi and BMW use separate systems for touch pad and controllers, Mercedes took a twist and released a touch-sensitive pad placed above the control knob from the center console.

It takes only a little bit of practice before one can expertly swipe through songs using the pad, and COMAND helps by being very efficient at ignoring touches done by mistake. Bluetooth works perfectly and there is a 10GB hard drive usable to store multimedia files for later playback. The audio playback interface supports compressed mp3 files as well as uncompressed AAC content. The player can be voice activated as well.

While all the in car entertainment systems presented feature great functions and are way more efficient than they first versions, one does stand out in the crowd. Mercedes has placed a lot of time and effort into complying with the latest mobile technology advancements, and the results didn’t take long to show. Lots of features are available for the tech-savvy drivers but maintained simple to use for the more conservative ones. COMAND is, indeed, the best designed and one of the most reliable ICE systems at the moment.

Video reviews by Alex L. Dukes  www.alexonautos.com