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Tips and advice

What is BMW ConnectedDrive?

We explain everything you need to know about BMW ConnectedDrive and how much it costs

BMW ConnectedDrive

Most newer vehicles are equipped with infotainment systems and features that many car buyers will have heard of, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are also driver assistance functions that will be familiar like blind spot monitoring and lane-keep assist that are becoming a requirement if a manufacturer wants to score well on Euro NCAP crash safety tests.

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BMW ConnectedDrive is an example of a manufacturer bundling its own software together under one name, to make its benefits easier to understand. Since 2008 the system has evolved to become an umbrella term for three key functions: ‘Digital Services’, ‘Driver Assistance Services’, and the ‘BMW Connected App’. All of these services are designed to work together to achieve the goals of improving the user experience, increasing safety, and enhancing convenience.

BMW introduced its earliest version of what would become ConnectedDrive over twenty years ago with an Assist package named ‘BMW Telematics’ and followed this up in 2004 with a built-in Sim card. The collection of electronic features that would become officially known as BMW ConnectedDrive became a reality in 2008 with a leap forward in 2014 as its online store opened. In 2018 the introduction of ‘over-the-air’ updates became possible and the German manufacturer now views its ConnectedDrive technology as fundamental to the future of mobility.

What does BMW stand for?What does BMW stand for?

ConnectedDrive sends and receives information via a sim card fitted to the car that’s connected to the internet. This information is displayed on the car’s central infotainment screen or on the ConnectedDrive app on your smartphone.

What can Digital Services do?

Digital Services offers support before and during journeys, and is split into four categories.

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‘My Assistant’ includes the option to have a real person guide you through Concierge Services, Intelligent Personal Assistant, Remote 3D View and Remote Services.

‘My Journey’ is intended to help you reach your destination on time and reduce stress for the driver. This means you can access real-time traffic information and share your location with someone else, so they’ll know if you’re likely to be late, eliminating the need to make phone calls.

‘My Car’ is just as it sounds, offering more information about your vehicle, including service information, the ability to carry out a remote software upgrade, information about your driving style and your Wi-Fi hotspot.

Finally, ‘My Life’ features a facility to stream music online via Deezer or Napster, as well as to play your own music from your smartphone via Apple CarPlay.

What can Driver Assistance Services do?

Driver Assistance Services offers enhanced safety features that are also intended to make journeys easier. Again, it’s split into three categories.

‘Intelligent Driving’ can do a number of clever things. These include helping you to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, keep you from drifting out of your lane, and avoid collisions in traffic by automatically applying the brakes.

‘Intelligent Vision’ is another safety assist feature that automatically turns your high beams on when appropriate and has a night vision function. It also provides speed limit information to the driver and indicates when you shouldn’t be overtaking.

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‘Intelligent Parking’, meanwhile, provides a surround view, using a rear-view camera and park assist. More impressively, you can even control the parking of your BMW remotely into perpendicular spaces from outside the car using the mobile app.

What can the BMW ConnectedDrive app do?

The BMW ConnectedDrive app is operated from your Apple or Android smartphone, smartwatch or even an Amazon Echo. You can use it to arrange your diary, remind you of meetings or programme destinations before you get into your car.

BMW Connected essentially turns your smartphone into a digital key, unlocking and locking your BMW before you. Much like a remote control, you can use it to flash your headlights, program the climate control, lock doors or sound the horn.

Can I add ConnectedDrive to my BMW?

Every new and nearly new BMW is equipped with ConnectedDrive for three years, after which BMW owners will need to pay annually for the service. New users with eligible models can register on the ConnectedDrive portal and link their car up using the VIN number and their personal details.

BMW 3 Series Touring driving - front view

How much is BMW ConnectedDrive?

It’s free to register with ConnectedDrive for all eligible BMW cars equipped with the software. It’s standard on most BMW models for three years. BMW recognises that some owners don’t want or need all the ConnectedDrive features, so offers most of the Digital Services features separately or as a trial.

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BMW charges different amounts depending on what the user wants from their vehicle. If you notice your navigation is missing recently built roads or buildings, you could purchase an over-the-air or USB map update for £79, providing a 12-month subscription.

Costs vary depending on the features required, and a subscription may not be required if you own an older model. Functions also can’t be added to a vehicle that does not have the required hardware from the factory. For example, the owner of an older BMW without heated seats already fitted cannot add the function by subscribing to it later on.

In all, there are 12 separate packages available. All are listed as being for an unlimited time frame (while the vehicle meets minimum technical requirements) unless stated below..

  • Online Entertainment Voucher - £179 (12 months)
  • High beam assist - £100 (12 months)
  • Apple CarPlay Preparation - £179
  • Adaptive M Suspension - £399
  • Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function - £750
  • BMW Drive Recorder - £199
  • Driver Assistance Plus - £350 (12 months)
  • BMW Safety Camera Information - £25 (12 months)
  • Front Seat heating - £150 (12 months)
  • IconicSounds Sport - £99
  • Map update package - £79 (12 months)
  • Steering wheel heating - £100 (12 months)

Some features, like a heated steering wheel, also have the option of being paid monthly, meaning you can choose to have them in the winter months, and then stop paying when you no longer need them.

Click here for a round-up of the current range of BMWs we’ve reviewed, which also come with ConnectedDrive.

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