BMW Drops Touchscreens And Returns To The iDrive Dark Ages

Technology / Comments

BMW has stopped putting touchscreens in its cars. For now.

We're not big fans of touchscreens because they take your eyes off the road for too long. Especially right in the beginning, when you're still getting to know a new car.

Having said that, touchscreens are better than trying to interact with a screen via a dial or a touchpad. Mercedes-Benz's old COMAND system was infuriating, and the silly mousepad-like touchpad found in many a Lexus comes exceptionally close to ruining the entire car.

That's why we were surprised to learn that BMW has made a choice to drop touchscreens from their cars. This comes as a result of the global semiconductor shortage, which gives manufacturers one of three options: Either use all your chips in high-demand cars, sell cars without certain features, or stop building vehicles for good.

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Since Mercedes-Benz and other leading experts believe that the shortage will last until 2023, the latter option is a no-go.

BMW is settling for the second option, which is removing a feature. More specifically, the touchscreen interface. The news first emerged on the Bimmerfest forum, and BMW confirmed it to Edmunds. The cars will still have the center infotainment display but without the touch functionality. Essentially, BMW is returning to a time when you controlled the interface via the iDrive rotary controller. In BMW's defense, it was the best out of all the click, slide, and push interfaces. And you can still control the primary phone and music functions from the steering wheel, which is how most drivers do it anyway.

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The models affected by this choice are the 3 Series, all 4 Series models apart from the i4, Z4, X5, X6, and X7. We're not sure how well this will go down with customers shopping at the higher end of BMW's range, but we're not particularly bothered. Cars that don't have touchscreen functionality will be marked with a sticker, and the price will be reduced by $500. More importantly, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will continue to work just fine. Cars equipped with the Parking Assistant Package will also lose the backup assistant.

It also appears that retrofitting won't be an option, so it's worth keeping that in mind if you plan to buy a new BMW.

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