What is Audi MMI? Is it worth it?

For many years, Audi’s in-house infotainment system has been known as MMI, or Multi-Media Interface. Several different versions of MMI are currently used, with varying levels of capability. Let’s break down what’s what.

  • How does MMI work?
  • What can MMI do?
  • Which Audi models have MMI?
  • Dual touchscreen systems
  • Is Audi MMI any good?

How does MMI work?

All new Audi cars have some form of MMI. The heart of the system is a dashboard-mounted display screen. In some models, such as the latest Audi Q3 Sportback (above), it’s integrated into the dash. Others, like the A4 (pictured below), have a freestanding screen on top of the dash.

Regardless of where the screen’s placed, you can operate it like a normal touchscreen – just like your phone. In previous years, not all Audi models came with touchscreen functionality, so Audi fitted a rotary scroll wheel to the centre console that you could use to navigate through the system’s menus. These days, that’s being phased out and replaced by a laptop-style touchpad as shown in the Audi Q5 below.

You can use this to swipe through menus, and also for writing in letters of an address, using your index finger, into the sat-nav. Being mounted to the driver’s left, right-handers might find the touchpad difficult to operate, but Audi’s system is very good at recognising letters – no matter how scrawled and distorted they may be.

See how this works in the latest Audi A3.

MMI also comes with a digital instrument display that Audi calls the ‘Virtual Cockpit’. Put simply, it’s another high-definition digital screen in front of the steering wheel that replaces conventional analogue dials.

You can configure this to show a range of driving info and sat-nav directions using buttons on the steering wheel.

BMW and Mercedes offer similar systems. BMW’s display mimics the shape of a traditional instrument binnacle – just like Audi’s – but Mercedes had opted for a single square widescreen design that joins up with the central touchscreen like the one in the Mercedes GLA above.

What can MMI do?

MMI controls all of the car’s audio, communications and navigation functions. These features do vary depending on which specific Audi you buy.

The entry-level Audi A1 Technik comes with MMI Radio Plus, shown below. It includes an 8.8-inch touchscreen display, a 10-inch digital instrument display, DAB radio, Bluetooth, USB port for charging and connecting your phone, and voice control.

There are a couple of interim grades, but many Audi models now come with the MMI Navigation Plus system as standard. And you can often pay extra to have it fitted as part of Audi’s optional Technology Pack. This typically costs between around £1500 and £1700, depending on the model. It’s well worth the extra cash.

MMI Navigation Plus includes a touchscreen display of at least 10-inches; 3D sat-nav with zoomable maps and a street view function that shows a 3D representation of the buildings around the car; a route assistant that learns your most frequent journeys, monitors traffic conditions on them and reroutes around jams; a 10- or 12-inch digital driver’s dials (which Audi calls ‘Virtual Cockpit’) that can be configured to show whatever information the driver wants; Android Auto and/or Apple CarPlay, depending on model; and, in some cases, wireless phone charging.

Then there’s Audi Connect, which links MMI to the internet. Every Audi model gets the Safety & Service package, which offers assistance for accidents and breakdowns and can be used to book a service. It works in conjunction with the myAudi app on your phone, so you can remotely lock and unlock the car, see vehicle status reports, track its location and get theft alarm notifications.

The Navigation and Infotainment Services system can show Google Earth images, information on flight times, fuel prices and parking charges. It also allows access to certain online audio streaming services and you can dictate messages through it. Various third-party apps for useful services are available as well. Essentially, it’s Audi’s home-brew version of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

It’s worth noting that Audi Connect services are subject to subscription charges, but Audi includes up to the first 36 months for free.

Audi’s MMI system comes with a basic voice-control feature that lets you make phone calls and change the radio station without lifting a finger. But, BMW’s Personal Assistant (above) and Mercedes’ ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice-recognition software is far superior. Both let you adjust a wider range of car settings, and they’ll respond to plain speech instead of the rather robotic-sounding commands you need to use with Audi’s system. For example, saying ‘I’m hot’ will trigger the BMW and Mercedes systems to lower the temperature of the climate control.

Audi MMI in action

Take a look at the Audi Q3 Sportback infotainment system in action.

Which Audi models have MMI?

As previously mentioned, all Audi models come with some form of MMI. If the model you’re interested in has one of the lower-grade systems, the top-spec MMI Navigation Plus system can usually be added as an option. It’s typically included in the Technology Pack, which bundles together some other useful features. Exactly what those features depend on the model. The Pack is typically priced between around £1500 to £1700, which represents a fairly hefty saving over speccing all the features individually.

Dual touchscreen systems

The very latest upmarket Audi models, such as the Audi A8 and Audi Q8, have a dual touchscreen system. The second ‘screen, mounted below the MMI display, replaces physical heating and ventilation controls with an extra touch-sensitive display. It works fairly well and uses haptic feedback that produces clicking sensation when you press an icon, but some people may find physical controls easier to use when driving.

Is Audi MMI any good?

The BMW iDrive system had set the benchmark for infotainment systems but we reckon now the latest system in Mercedes, called MBUX, is the best around.

It looks lovely, the menus are easy to use, the graphics are simple to read and the tech, such as the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice commands works well. That leaves the Audi MMI system in a firm third place out of these premium German brands.

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital driver’s display is still easier to configure and looks nicer than the similar screens you get in many modern BMWs, however. The graphics are easier to read, and unlike in BMW’s system, the Audi’s speedometer and rev-counter graphics read in a conventional (and less distracting) clockwise manner.