BMW X1: That's infotainment

  • Our X1 is fitted with the Professional multimedia pack
  • It can do all sorts – even read the news headlines to you
  • iDrive controller and smart graphics make it nice to use

There’s no shortage of options fitted to our long-term test BMW X1. The most expensive is the Professional multimedia system, priced at £1,990. Cheap it ain’t, but it does include a dizzying array of high-tech features to entertain, help and/or distract you when you’re out and about.

A quick run-down of its party tricks includes sat-nav with real-time traffic information, DVD video playback (not while you’re driving) and a hard disk memory for storing music and map data.

BMW iDrive X1

BMW's iDrive rotary controller is straightforward to use

It’s all displayed on an attractive 8.8-inch widescreen display in the centre of the dashboard and controlled via BMW’s ‘iDrive’ rotary controller near the gear lever. When the first-generation iDrive system was introduced back in 2001 it was roundly criticised for being confusing and clunky to use but these days it’s been honed into a slick and user-friendly interface.

I must admit I always feel happier using a rotary controller to navigate through menus rather than prodding a finger at the touchscreens in vogue with many car manufacturers at the moment, because it allows you to keep your eyes on the road for longer.

You can also use voice control commands – something I’ve not quite got the hang of yet.

BMW sat nav

Widescreen display is clear and attractive

One thing that marks BMW’s multimedia interface out is the clarity and general attractiveness of its graphics and displays. The navigation maps, which can be configured in a top-down or 3D format, look crisp and sharp and are generally very easy to follow.

One slight niggle in our car is that it sometimes takes a little while to respond when you zoom in or out, so if you want to take a closer look at a complicated junction on the map while you’re sitting at the lights, for example, then by the time you’ve managed to zoom in the lights have often already changed.

As well as the navigation system, our car is also fitted with internet connectivity, enabling you to browse through internet pages while the car’s stationary.  It’s a little slow and frustrating to use if the signal’s not great, however.

Accessed via a built-in 3G connection, it costs £95 for unlimited access for a year. You can purchase another year’s access when the 12 months are up by ringing up BMW direct or, from the middle of next year, you can do it online.

BMW internet

News headlines from around the world can be accessed via BMW's Connected Drive service

The internet connectivity also gives you access to various other ‘BMW Connected Drive’ functions, including news headlines from around the world. So as to avoid distraction, you can have the headlines read out to you while you drive by a robotised voice – which is a somewhat bizarre experience, to say the least.

Oddly, despite this, it’s still possible to scroll through and read headlines while the car’s in motion, which perhaps isn’t the safest of features.

To make the most of the Professional media package you also need the ‘enhanced Bluetooth telephone preparation’ option (£175), which enables music audio streaming from your phone. It’s also possible to play tunes via an iPod, USB device and store tracks from good old-fashioned CDs in the system’s on-board memory.

BMW Google

Google search functions can be used in conjuction with the sat-nav system

It’s worth mentioning at this point that the stereo itself sounds really rather good and DAB radio is standard.

There’s a conventional set of favourites buttons on the stereo fascia, but in the X1’s case they’re not just for radio stations – you can use them to save various iDrive jumping off points, including navigation destinations, ’phone numbers and various menu shortcuts.

Another nice feature is that you can switch the screen off altogether. It’s nice to have a break sometimes.

As a footnote, if you fancy a less expensive navigation system there’s also a cheaper ‘Business’ setup available for a full £1,000 less. You get a smaller screen that doesn’t take advantage of the dashboard’s widescreen design and a system that’s primarily based around navigation without the many bells and whistles of the Professional kit – for many drivers, though, that’ll be all you need.

Find out more in our full BMW X1 review here.

Total mileage: 4,799 miles

Average mpg: 39.0mpg