Cars are getting smarter. Ford has led the pack when it comes to ensuring even entry level vehicles are “connected” but other manufacturers are starting to catch up. Last year, BMW announced their ConnectedDrive offering would be made available to South Africa. A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to drive the BMW 330d for a week. The sedan was fitted with ConnectedDrive and it gave me chance to play around a bit and see what I liked (and didn’t like).
I know my focus needs to be on the actual tech BUT, tech aside, this vehicle was an absolute pleasure to drive daily. It handled extremely well and I had to keep stopping myself from putting my foot flat along highways (blasted speeding cameras). For fear of feeding stereotypes, I’m not all that comfortable in a big sedan and yet, I never once felt like I was driving a “long” car (there’s parking assist to thank for that). It was also extremely economical on fuel. I’ve said it before but I drive a decent 120 to 130 km a day. I kept the vehicle in Eco Mode and was rather shocked by how little diesel it actually consumed. Kaching!
The premise behind ConnectedDrive is rather simple. Technology allows car manufacturers to give you a large amount of safety options and also make your life a little bit easier. Sitting in traffic for an hour a day is dead time. You can get nothing done and, if like me, you’re a bit of a workaholic, the urge to check and respond to emails, make business calls and take a quick glance at Twitter may be slightly overwhelming. We all know we shouldn’t be on our phones but we are any way. Something like ConnectedDrive is able to stop that.
The car basically replaces your phone. So you’re able to respond to emails, read out messages and obviously give you hands free functionality. BUT, we have that in other vehicles. ConnectedDrive offers a few other rad add ons. The remote services are impressive. Snuck in to the mall for a spot of lunch time shopping? Can’t find your car when you get back to the parking lot and worried about missing that meeting? No problem, your BMW will hoot and flash its headlights to show you where it is.
By downloading the BMW Remote App on your iPhone and Android device you have access to far more than your vehicle hooting at you. Ask anyone who has driven with me, my constant fear is that I haven’t locked my car. I’m known to get up and check 5 minutes into a dinner date. With the remote services I can check if the vehicle is locked and, if I did forget, actually lock it via my smartphone. You’re also able to set the heater or aircon to run a few minutes before you leave a location so your car is already cool (or toasty) when you set off on your next adventure.
I zoom around Jozi at night a lot and, being a girl on my own, I obviously have some safety concerns. I liked that the BMW ConnectedDrive automatically changed small things like the strength of my headlights during the time of the day. There is an Intelligent Emergency Services option (which I didn’t have to try, thank goodness) that allows the car, with the click of a button, to contact emergency services. While driving you also have the option of something called Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go. Utilising radars the vehicle constantly scans the road and adapts your speed accordingly.
The extra stuff
BMWs with ConnectedDrive have internet in the car. That means the on board GPS system and navigation doesn’t need to eat your phone’s data. Though be warned, after one week I still couldn’t get the car to understand my voice commands or location requests. Manual input was easy enough though and it always got me to where I needed to be. The GPS also gives you real time traffic notifications so for one week I was able to avoid traffic jams and robots not working. I’ll miss that. It was like having my own Jarvis warning me about stuff ahead of times.
It also parallel parks for you which is possibly the most underrated technological advancement of our time… 3 guesses who cannot parallel park?
There is also a Concierge Service that I didn’t use. It gives you information about the area you are in, tells you about decent restaurants around the vicinity and even lets you make bookings. Fancy.
Driving the 330d with BMW ConnectedDrive for a week was an absolute pleasure. The vehicle itself is a pleasure and handles incredibly well. It never felt too big and is optimally designed. ConnectedDrive is extremely easy to use and you’ll figure it out rather quickly – though you may need some time to play.
My biggest gripe? Most of us cannot afford a brand new BMW (the ConnectedDrive technology has only been made available in selected new models that rolled out after July 2014). It would be nice to see this technology in all entry level vehicles from the majority of manufacturers, if only to improve safety on the roads.
Disclaimer: I was given the BMW to drive for a week. I used the indicators (yes, it has those!)