Should proof be needed we’ve reached the smart-car age, see Exhibit A: the BMW 330i.
The German luxury sedan is packed with intelligent functionality, dazzling displays and more than a few surprises and delights.
Start with the initial approach to the car, in which stylized puddle lamps light a pathway to the doors and the dashboard comes to life with brilliant graphics at the push of a button. All that is accented by the 330i’s striking patterned aluminum trim, ambient lighting, nicely styled leather seating and, as noted on one scoresheet, “a big, fat, cushy leather steering wheel.”
“The car makes a great first impression,” notes one judge.
But it’s once you start driving – and playing – that the 330i really establishes itself as a user-experience benchmark.
Separating the BMW from the pack are its multiple ways to access information or control functions. There’s the iconic console-mounted iDrive controller that enables quick scrolling through the 8.8-in. (20-cm) center touchscreen while driving. Our phones paired quickly and effortlessly, and the voice activation also is among the best we’ve experienced, with simple direct commands and no multistep processes required to change a radio station or adjust cabin temperature.
The voice system “never flubs a station,” notes one judge. “And you don’t need to say, ‘tune to.’ Just name the station or (tuning) frequency.”
There are additional hard buttons for the climate system and most other infotainment functions. And of course, there’s the pioneering gesture control that lets you turn up the sound system volume with a rotating index finger, answer phone calls, adjust rearview camera angle or access the navigation system. Until gesture control (pictured below) expands to more functions, it may be a bit of a parlor trick. But we’re really starting to like it.
Navigation also is spot-on with the 330i, easily finding locations via voice commands, mapping good routes and issuing detailed turn-by-turn directions through what one tester calls an “industry-leading” head-up display. “You’ll never miss a turn,” he notes.
The graphic-intense instrumentation is among the best in the business and includes horsepower and torque output gauges. “How cool is that?” asks one judge.
Our $59,920 test vehicle came with the full compendium of driver-assist features, including 3D surround view, active park assist and active blindspot detection. We found its lane-keeping, active cruise control and Traffic Jam Assistant technologies to be among the best we tested, as the 330i steered confidently through turns and accelerated and decelerated smoothly.
“I’d let this car pilot me on the autobahn, except the ACC cuts out above 130 mph (209 km/h),” writes one judge.
All that adds up to an open-and-shut case for the 330i’s inclusion on the 2019 Wards 10 Best UX list.