At the moment, BMW may have the best in-car infotainment system on the market. With its latest generation iDrive 5.0, the new BMW 7 Series will utilize physical buttons and knobs as well as touchscreen and gesture controls.
The current-gen iDrive, available in all new BMW’s until the new 7er debuts, is already one of the best. But adding the new layers of control and even faster processing power and better graphics, the next-gen iDrive should easily take the infotainment crown.
BMW’s biggest rivals, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, make similar units but without the touch and gesture control. Both of those units are very good, though. However, there are other systems that compete with BMW’s iDrive that just don’t make the grade. Cadillac’s CUE is probably the biggest infotainment failing in the business. It’s dimwitted and slow to respond, if the touches even register at all. There’s haptic feedback, but it’s delayed and you usually don’t feel it until you’re touching the screen again after thinking the first didn’t register. Though, this being Caddy’s first unit, it’s somewhat excusable that it isn’t up to par with BMW, who’s been making its iDrive for almost a decade now.
However, this may be about to change because Cadillac will be adding Apple CarPlay to its cars starting in 2016. Apple CarPlay essentially mimics the user’s iPhone onto the touchscreen and allows the driver to swipe and zoom in the same manner that they would on the phone. This could be a massive upgrade over the CUE system, whose issues are more software related than anything else. Also, the CUE system is very confusing to use, so the familiarity with the driver’s own iPhone will help considerably. Cadillac will also be adding an Android based system later on, based on Android’s latest Lollipop operating system.
The CUE system is probably the biggest reason not to buy a recent Cadillac. Many of Caddy’s cars are very good, the CTS and ATS are definitely in the conversation with cars like the 3 Series and 5 Series. But it’s hard to want to actually buy one of them knowing that every time you want to adjust the volume or enter a destination, you have to use that awful CUE system. It ruins some very good cars. But with this new Apple CarPlay, and upcoming Android system, new Cadillacs may be ridding themselves of the thing that plagues them most.
Will the Apple CarPlay be as good or maybe even better than BMW’s iDrive 5.0? I’m not so sure, and it’s not because I don’t think Cadillac or Apple can do it. It’s just that BMW’s been in the game longer, so its iDrive is going to be more polished and user friendly. But this does speak a bit of trouble for BMW, as one of the main reasons people aren’t buying Cadillacs is the CUE system. Get rid of that and add something much better and the proposition of owning a Caddy becomes much more appealing. Does this Apple CarPlay increase sales for Cadillac in 2016? I don’t know, but it’s going to be interesting to find out and see how it stacks up against iDrive.