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2017 BMW 530i Long-Term Update 4: Is Our Bimmer Haunted?
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2017 BMW 530i Long-Term Update 4: Is Our Bimmer Haunted?


Electronic gremlins appear in our long-term BMW 530i

In German, BMW’s Connected Drive slogan is, “Vernetzt um frei zu sein,” which essentially translates to “Networked, to be free.” But given the glitchy software in our long-term 530i infotainment system, it meant something else entirely when I was muttering it under my breath.

For starters, anyone with multiple smartphones in their family might be faced with the same problem I found as the BMW rotated through our staff.

Any time someone else linked his or her phone to the car, the iDrive system wouldn’t recognize my iPhone even though it was still listed as a paired phone (the same thing happened when I upgraded to iOS 11). It often would take upward of an hour to reconnect my phone and get it to work in CarPlay. This is criminal when everyone from Chevrolet to VW has an almost instant recognition and pairing of smartphones with CarPlay or Android Auto.

Meanwhile, associate editor Scott Evans had a different, perhaps more obnoxious result: As soon as he got in the BMW, iDrive automatically opened Pandora on his phone even if he had left the car with the stereo set to satellite radio. Hence, a warning: If you listen to raunchy rap or naughty comedy stations on Pandora, you might want to change over to Chillwave or Sinatra before you take children or clients for a drive.

Most of the staff are unimpressed by the gimmicky “gesture control” system for audio controls. The only one that works consistently is twirling a circle for audio volume, but it also cranks up the sound if you or your passenger speak with your hands. But poking your fingers toward the screen to change radio channels works maybe once in 10 times. Never mind.

Not that everything about iDrive is awful. The scroll-and-push controller-wheel interface for navigating the myriad infotainment menus is quite intuitive once quickly self-taught (the built-in shortcuts help, too). The ability to spell things on the touchpad is useful and much less distracting in some cases than using the controller. And the iDrive screen is crisp and sharp.

One system that works very well, says testing editor Kim Reynolds, is the smart cruise control and lane keeping assist. Kim’s daily 35-mile slog up the 405 from Orange County is a perfect test. “It hardly needs inputs to the steering wheel and doesn’t pingpong in the lanes. Smart cruise is excellent in slow-and-go.”

However, BMW still is plagued by a coarse auto stop/start system. Upon restarting, it shakes the car like the engine has misplaced its balance shafts. To save fuel, the system also shuts down the engine if you’re slowing to a stop—but if you ease up on the brake pedal for a smooth limousine stop, it confuses the computer and the engine stumbles and fires back up.

Perhaps our BMW is haunted? When exiting the car, sometimes the audio shuts off along with the ignition, but sometimes it plays until the doors are locked, and sometimes it plays for several minutes until it perhaps realizes no one is around. We also frequently received a “fasten seat belt” warning for the unoccupied passenger seat. That got fixed in a software reflash during our 10,000-mile service. More on our service experience in our next installment.

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