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BMW iDrive vs Audi MMI vs Mercedes COMAND: which is best?

Mercedes, BMW and Audi produce some of the best infotainment systems on the market, but how do they compare? We spent hours sat in a Mercedes E-Class, a BMW 5 Series and an Audi Q5 to try them out.

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Mercedes COMAND vs BMW iDrive vs Audi MMI prices

The Mercedes E-Class gets an 8.4-inch infotainment system with Garmin-designed sat nav tech as standard. You can spec a larger 12.3-inch screen with Mercedes’ own sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility for £1,495. You can pay an additional £495 on top of that for a screen in place of the traditional dials. Across the Mercedes range this pricing structure is repeated with all cars getting a basic infotainment system with a larger, more advanced version offered as an option.

BMW’s iDrive infotainment system gets a 10.3-inch screen as standard on the 5 Series. Screen size varies across other models in the firm’s range but all cars feature sat nav as standard. However, Apple CarPlay costs extra and iDrive doesn’t yet support Android Auto compatibility. Again, like Mercedes, all BMWs get a basic infotainment screen as standard with a larger one with more functions offered as an option.

The Audi Q5 features a seven-inch version of the company’s MMI infotainment system. It gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, and can be upgraded to 8.2-inch display with a faster processor a for between £1,100-1,600 depending on the model. For an extra £250, you can spec Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit on many newer models, replacing analogue dials with a configurable screen.

Head-up displays that project sat nav directions and speed limits on the windscreen ahead of the driver’s line of site is available on all three marques’ models. This costs around £995 for the BMW, while the same option costs roughly £825 and £900 on the Audi and Mercedes respectively.

Mercedes COMAND vs BMW iDrive vs Audi MMI display

Based on the latest systems we tested, BMW’s iDrive is generally the clearest to read and most colourful of the lot. Audi’s MMI with its 3D Google maps is very close in quality to the iDrive, but the menus don’t quite have the same logical sense of progression as the BMW’s. While the Mercedes boasts a very large screen, its graphics look a bit dull compared to the other two and the on-screen options tend to crowd the display, making it look fussy and confusing.

Mercedes COMAND vs BMW iDrive vs Audi MMI navigation

BMW’s latest iDrive was the quickest of the three on test to load a sat nav route, followed by the Mercedes, while the Audi took the longest to load, although it plotted three different types of route at once. On the road, all three work relatively smoothly, although the Mercedes’ COMAND system seemed a bit optimistic with its estimated arrival time.

Mercedes COMAND vs BMW iDrive vs Audi MMI usability

Users have a number of different input options for BMW’s iDrive. They can use a rotary wheel on the centre console, physical shortcut buttons in front of it, a touch sensitive writing pad on top of the wheel and voice commands. On BMW’s 5 and 7 Series models you can use gesture control – waving your hand in mid air – to control various features, although we found it a bit hit and miss in terms of responsiveness.

Both Audi’s and Mercedes’ systems come with a similar rotary wheel to the BMW, but their layouts are slightly different. The Mercedes features a touchpad that curves over the rotary dial and is a little clumsy to use, requiring you claw your hand over the touchpad to rotate the wheel. Additionally, the physical buttons aren’t located next to the controller, but on the centre console so don’t seem logically connected to it.

Audi’s layout is about as easy to use as BMW’s setup, with the scroll wheel located behind a large touchpad and physical shortcut buttons are also right next to this wheel. Some Audi models incorporate the touchpad into the top of the rotary dial in a similar manner to BMW, making writing postcodes with your finger comparatively easy.

Mercedes COMAND vs BMW iDrive vs Audi MMI interface

BMW’s infotainment features are laid out on the iDrive’s home page as icons in a tile layout – appearing similar to the layout of most modern smartphones. Audi’s MMI layout is also fairly simple with its circular home screen mirroring the control wheel. The Mercedes’ layout is a little fussier than the other two, with horizontal menu bars appearing from the top and bottom of the screen, and with little consistency between their functions across various infotainment features.

Mercedes COMAND vs BMW iDrive vs Audi MMI extra features

One of BMW’s unique selling points on its larger saloons is the digital display key – a small touchscreen on the car’s key fob that lets you remotely control the car’s functions. This includes pre-heating the car’s cabin, checking fuel levels and closing the windows. It sounds clever, but struggles to elevate itself much beyond a fancy gimmick and does make the key fob rather bulky.

Much more useful is Audi’s Virtual Cockpit – a 12.3-inch digital screen with configurable layouts prioritising the speedometer, maps or infotainment functions in place of the traditional dials. BMW doesn’t yet have a version of this technology – although that will probably change soon – while similar digital dials can be fitted to the E-Class.

Mercedes COMAND vs BMW iDrive vs Audi MMI connectivity

BMW’s upgraded iDrive Professional system – available across most of the BMW range, including the 1 Series – features an optional WiFi hotspot that offers internet connectivity for up to eight mobile devices. Audi’s MMI offers a similar optional extra with cars equipped with MMI navigation plus – allowing internet connectivity, including a WiFi hotspot.

Mercedes offers a WiFi hotspot in its upgraded COMAND Online system found on models such as the E-Class and S-Class – it uses a built-in SIM card. The firm’s entry-level COMAND system also lets you connect to the internet by tethering the car to a smartphone.

All three can be specced with wireless charging – it costs £250 in the Mercedes and £475 in the BMW, while it comes as standard on the Audi’s upgraded system or as a £325 option on Audi’s basic infotainment system.

All three systems offer a range of online apps, including weather reports, local fuel prices, while iDrive and MMI allow you to use social media apps. BMW also offers a concierge service that allows you to speak to 24-hour call centre to arrange sat nav directions or seek roadside assistance – Mercedes also provides a similar service for its COMAND system.

Mercedes COMAND vs BMW iDrive vs Audi MMI verdict

Mercedes’ COMAND system looks slick and colourful but fiddly controls, a confusing layout and underwhelming graphics mean it’s not quite as good as the other two systems. Audi’s system looks fantastic, is easy to use and, when paired with the Virtual Cockpit, feels the most futuristic of the lot. BMW’s iDrive is still the best of the trio, however, thanks to its razor-sharp graphics, easy-to-use controls and logical menu layout.

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