2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo: Cruise Control Counterpoint
April 23, 2014
I feel compelled to add a "yeah, but" regarding the cruise control system in our long-term 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo. Dan Edmunds reckons that its cruise control is pretty dandy; nay, the best ever.
I agree with Dan regarding the aspects of its effectiveness he identified. These are calibration-related performance factors, and in this regard the system is very good. However, the system's ergonomics fall short of many other automakers' systems...and even BMW's own previous efforts.
Here's where I take issue. The primary glaring issue with the 328i Gran Turismo's cruise control system is the on/off/cancel button. Namely, this cruise defaults to off upon every key cycle. Yes, this means you have to re-turn on the cruise control every single time you restart the car.
This is unnecessary and aggravating in any car but is made especially so since previous incarnations of BMW's cruise didn't include an on/off button at all. In the past, it was always armed: You want to set the cruise? You set it. Bam. Done. You never needed to turn it on before turning it on. This system (known as the BMW paddle or stalk) was the best cruise control interface in the history of controlled cruising, for this and other reasons. The next-best approach in this regard to the BMW paddle is an on/off button with a discrete state for either setting, so once on, it stays on, even after a key cycle. A few other automakers employ this strategy.
Where were we? Right, the Gran Turismo's cruise control system. The buttons themselves also lack tactility. Aside from the prominent rocker lever (which works quite well) to set speed up/down, the resume and on/off/cancel buttons are all rather smooth and same-same-y, with minimal distinct features to facilitate finding the right button quickly and by feel alone. Instead, they appear to be designed for aesthetic symmetry among the steering wheel spokes rather than for ergonomic functionality. See for yourself in the photo above.
Yeah, go ahead and say it, I'm being nitpicky. Sure. But it's just a shame to see such weaksauce ergonomics from the same company that already produced the ideal cruise control interface years ago.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor