Less expensive, more compact offerings may lose it altogether, while more upmarket cars will still keep it.
BMW has just taken the wraps off its all-new 7 Series and i7 luxury sedans and one of the major talking points is the number of touchscreens and other displays littered throughout the cabin of each of these cars. As you'd expect, both cars come with the latest iDrive 8 infotainment technology, which has a new interface that still retains a rotary controller on the center console. But as these cars get bigger and more screens are added, is it really the right idea to rid the modern cabin of physical controls? The answer, as it turns out, is both yes and no.
Part of the reason that this question is pertinent is that BMW last year revealed the new 2 Series Active Tourer, and its snug cabin debuted with the glaring omission of such a rotary controller, meaning that most infotainment functions would be handled by touching the screen. In a car as compact as this, BMW's Stefan Frick believes that the lack of a controller is not a huge drawback as the screen is within reach, but in larger cars, it's a different story. Speaking with Auto Express at a preview event for the new 7 Series, the executive has revealed that the next BMW X1 will also eschew an iDrive controller, but that this decision is made on a case-by-case basis, with certain types of cars requiring certain approaches.
"You have to think about the architecture of the car and the ergonomics," said Frick. "If the screen is not close enough, it makes no sense [to remove the rotary controller]," adding that BMW "will stick with the iDrive controller, especially with this model [the 7 Series]."
Essentially, it seems that this is something of a cost-cutting measure as less upmarket models will be getting fewer components while larger (and more expensive) cars that see occupants seated further from the screen will retain the traditional touchpoint in the center console. While we understand that economics plays a big role in the decision-making process, forcing one to look away from the road while driving is not safe and is not ergonomic. Hopefully, voice control technology will soon improve to the level that this issue becomes a moot point.