2016 BMW 340i: Adaptive Cruise Control is Just OK
by James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor on May 31, 2016
A great adaptive cruise control can make a road trip a far more pleasant experience, reducing fatigue and limiting the aggravation caused by left lane hogs and drivers who can't seem to figure out how to maintain their speed.
On the other hand, a bad adaptive cruise control system can infuriate, leaving too much space to the car ahead, slamming on the brakes when it isn't necessary and being slow to speed up once again.
In my experience, Mercedes-Benz's Distronic Plus is one of the best systems of its kind while Honda's adaptive cruise control is one of the least helpful. The "Active" Cruise Control system in our 2016 BMW 340i is somewhere in between.
Its biggest fault is the amount of space it leaves to the car ahead. Even at its closest setting, there is an unnaturally large gap that readily encourages one and all to cut in front of you. Doing so results in a demonstration of the next issue: overly aggressive braking.
The better systems in Mercedes and Chrysler brands leave a much tighter gap, so much so that I'll use a longer gap setting. However, should slower-moving traffic appear or cut you off, those same systems ease off the accelerator or gently kiss the brakes as a good driver would.
And yet the BMW system grabs the brakes, killing your momentum, creating even more of an unnatural gap, and likely annoying those behind you. It's not quite the panic, drop-the-anchor responses of Honda, but it's also not ideal. Accelerating again once speeds increase ahead is simply acceptable.
Despite these issues, I would still equip my BMW with ACC ("Active" Cruise Control in Bavarian marketing parlance). I'm a big fan of the technology in general and the BMW system's benefits still outweigh its negatives (its stop-and-go traffic capabilities are quite good).
Oh wait, you can't get ACC with the manual transmission? Damn. Never mind then.
James Riswick, New & Used Car Editor @ 3,395 miles