2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo: Understanding BMW ConnectedDrive
July 02, 2014
When you order a 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo with the optional Technology package (as with our test car), it comes with a navigation system, an upgraded display screen and a head-up display. You also get BMW's latest telematics and smartphone app integration services.
But understanding exactly what you're getting with those services can be confusing.
A large part of the problem is that BMW has a bunch of different names for this stuff. There's ConnectedDrive, BMW Apps, BMW Assist, BMW Online, BMW Remote Services and MyBMWTouch Intellilink.
(Yes, I just made that last one up. Just checking to see if you're paying attention.)
ConnectedDrive is the umbrella name for everything listed here. Underneath that, Apps and Online are the connectivity-based features. Assist and Remote Services are the service-based ones.
The latter two are easier to understand. BMW Assist (which is actually standard without the Technology package) gets you basic emergency assistance and automatic crash collision notification. BMW Remote Services (comes with the Technology package) expands upon that with stolen vehicle recovery, remote door unlocking and use of the BMW Remote smartphone app.
BMW Online with MyInfo is the in-car information service. This is a Google-based service which allows you to access info (news, weather, etc.) or send information to your car for later use (such as sending a Google Maps location to your BMW, as seen in this commercial.)
BMW Apps is related to that, but it mostly refers to the main functionality for smartphone app integration. With this, you can use BMW Connected, which is BMW's main app you'll install on your smartphone. (And, again, don't confuse that with ConnectedDrive, which is just the overall branded name for all of this.)
By using Connected, there are various in-app functions you can use, including Web radio, Facebook, Twitter, Wiki Local and BMW's Eco Pro Analyser. The Connected app also supports the use of other apps, such as Pandora Radio, Rhapsody, Stitcher Radio and Audible.
I've only dabbled with these BMW Apps functions in our 328i Gran Turismo. I own an Apple iPhone 5S. The ratings and reviews in Apple's App Store for the Connected app weren't promising — just two stars, with many people saying the latest version wasn't working with their phones.
Personally, I didn't have any problems installing the app or connecting it to our car (with the USB charger cord). And the first "in-app" app I tried, Twitter, seemed to work fine. Our car was even reading tweets to me from fellow editor Mike Magrath.
I also tried out the Web radio, which also worked. Who wouldn't want to listen to "Power Turk" radio from Turkey while in Southern California?
Understand, though, that with all services like this, your phone is the link, and you'll be using your cellular data plan to power it.
So far, though, that's all I've tried. But going through this reminded me we've got a story with some tips on testing how well technology features work on a car before you buy it. The article is titled How To Test-Drive Car Technology.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor