Hyundai: Genesis won’t repeat iDrive controversy

SEOUL — For years, auto writers and drivers have criticized BMW’s complex iDrive, in which drivers use a knob on the console and other buttons to control the radio, fan, heater and many other functions.

Despite the criticism, Hyundai is using a similar device on its new Genesis sedan, complete with large knob on the center console.

Complex interfaces are necessary to control electronics that buyers demand. The key is simplification, and Hyundai says it has hit that mark.

“It’s much simpler than iDrive,” said spokesman Jake Jang. “I was one who really criticized first (iDrive) models. After they have used it for many years, customers now understand iDrive.”

Jang says that with so many functions on luxury cars nowadays, controlling systems require learning time. The knob also means drivers don’t have to look away from the road to touch a screen, he says.

Harman/Becker Automotive Systems designed Hyundai’s system, as well as iDrive and Audi’s similar system.

“We knew they wanted to be above market,” says Tomas Metzger, a vice president at Harman/Becker. “It feels like a BMW or Mercedes, but it’s very Hyundai.”

Taking cues from Audi, Hyundai surrounded the knob with six menu buttons and one “back” button to expedite navigation. BMW’s latest version of iDrive, has a similar arrangement.

The Genesis knob is about 2 inches across. It can be moved up, down, left and right, and can be spun in both directions. Pushing it makes selections. The menu buttons cover the radio, phone and other functions.

But those who dislike the iDrive won’t find solace with Hyundai’s device. They still must navigate elaborate menus. They will have to learn the system’s habits and memorize paths they expect to use a lot.

The Genesis, with rear drive and a V-8 or V-6, arrives in U.S. showrooms in the spring. In Korea, the base sticker is about $43,000.

No decision has been made on whether the knob controller will be optional or standard in U.S. models, Hyundai says.

Hyundai unveiled the Genesis last month in South Korea and at the Detroit auto show.

Feb. 4, 2008 | Automotive News