BMW iDrive (Physical Controls)
By the middle of the last decade, BMW’s iDrive looked like an absolute disaster–it was driving customers away from cars like the 7 Series and frustrating nearly every critic who touched it. Many years (and a few updates) later, iDrive is the veteran system in a world of upstarts (like Cadillac’s CUE), and it shows: where whiz-bang tech features like capacitive touchscreens stutter and falter (and in CUE’s case, smudge with oily fingerprints), iDrive’s physical controller (skinnier and less clunky in its second generation) moves through menus with relative ease. iDrive’s coup de grace over similar systems like Audi’s MMI and Mercedes-Benz’s Comand is its layered menu approach–where a tilt of the controller to the left or right shifts between menus–and its array of shortcut buttons flanking the controller. In comparison, Audi’s MMI makes users rely on soft keys and the back button, and Mercedes-Benz’s Comand forces drivers to push the controller up or down–a clumsier motion to perform while driving.