BMW CIC iDrive - all you need to know

Bianka Rommel
Jul 14, 2020

BMW CIC iDrive System

When investing in a new BMW, you’re not simply buying a car for transportation — you’re also getting a whole technological convenience experience brought to you by the iDrive head units. After their big launch in the BMW E65 7 Series in 2001, these in-car infotainment systems can be found in all current BMW vehicles. 

By 2020 they’ve appeared in a lot of different versions — from CCC, through CIC to NBT, NBT Evo and NBT Evo ID5/ID6 to the latest-generation MGU unit — which may get slightly confusing if you’re not a BMW expert. So, to broaden your knowledge about these systems, we will dig deeper into the specifications of the CIC head unit — one that's considered to be a major iDrive update and a highly popular head unit system. 

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What is BMW iDrive?

For those who are still in need of clarification, iDrive is a communication and control system introduced for BMW cars manufactured after 2001. The main purpose of iDrive is to combine all cabin control features in one system with a central computer (or as others call it ‘navigation’), which controls different areas, such as music, navigation maps, video units etc. It consists of an LCD display placed on the dashboard and a controller mounted in the center console.

Want to get more information on the iDrive system? Check out our blog post.

There are many iDrive computers depending on your car model and year, but the most popular ones coming from the Navigation System Professional head unit line are: CCC (Car Communication Computer), CIC (Car Information Computer), NBT (Next Big Thing) and NBT Evo: ID4, ID5, ID6.

What is BMW CIC?

The BMW CIC (Car Information Computer) system belongs to the 3rd generation of iDrives, and appeared in 2008 with the BMW F01/F02 7 Series, replacing the display, computer and the controller of its predecessor, the CCC head unit. It is manufactured by the Harman/Becker company and is based on the QNX operating system. Following the concept of modern iDrives, CIC supports internet connection and enables the driver to control all secondary vehicle features such as navigation, music, videos, car settings etc.. Each of them can be controlled from a single display right in the middle of the dashboard and a control knob placed between the two front seats.

Which iDrive do I have?

Not sure which head unit you have? There are 4 ways to determine your iDrive system:

1) By the production year

Checking the iDrive version through your car’s model year isn’t 100% accurate, because of the differences in BMW production months varying in each country. However, it might bring you slightly more awareness about your head unit. 

CIC (Car Information Computer) 1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 09/2008 – 03/2014
1-Series F20/F21 09/2011 – 03/2013
3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 09/2008 – 10/2013
3-Series F30/F31/F34/F80 02/2012 – 11/2012
5-Series E60/E61 11/2008 – 05/2010
5-Series F07 10/2009 – 07/2012
5-Series F10 03/2010 – 09/2012
5-Series F11 09/2010 – 09/2012
6-Series E63/E64 11/2008 – 07/2010
6-Series F06 03/2012 – 03/2013
6-Series F12/F13 12/2010 – 03/2013
7-Series F01/F02/F03 11/2008 – 07/2013
7-Series F04 11/2008 – 06/2015
X1 E84 10/2009 – 06/2015
X3 F25 10/2010 – 04/2013
X5 E70 10/2009 – 06/2013
X6 E71 10/2009 – 08/2014
Z4 E89 04/2009 – present

2) By the interface

Another way to distinguish your head unit is simply by looking at its interface. Most of them vary from one another, so it might be easy to tell which one you own.

For example, this is what the CIC iDrive looks like.

Which iDrive do I have?

3) By the iDrive controller

If you have one of these and your BMW was manufactured between 2008 and 2013 - you most likely have a CIC head unit. There are exceptions to this rule of thumb, but it still holds true in 95% of cases.

iDrive controller

4) From BimmerTech

Click the banner below, leave your name, email, VIN, and we will send you your car’s specifications including the head unit, i-Level (software version), etc.

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Want to know more about the kinds of iDrive systems? Hop over to our blog.

BMW Head Unit Retrofit

If you want to upgrade your older BMW one of your options is to retrofit the entire head unit. It’s a major change made to your vehicle, so before you take on this project have a look at the important differences between the most popular hardware upgrades.  

BMW CIC vs. CCC 

A lot of folks often wonder what is the difference between BMW CIC and CCC head units, and how they can upgrade from one system to another. To keep it simple, the main contrast lies in much more advanced hardware and internet support. While CCC used DVDs and CDs to store maps or music, the CIC comes with an 80 GB hard disk drive (HDD) that has updated map information from TeleAtlas and can store uploaded music and operating system files. CIC is also equipped with a USB connector in the glove box and 1 DVD drive, unlike its predecessor, which had 2 drives — one for CDs and one for map DVDs. 

The newer head unit is also known to have a faster processor, more powerful navigation, a much more extensive menu with many options, a more modern-looking interface, a higher resolution screen and voice control. Plus it allows you to enable Videos & Services in motion. CIC also outweighs CCC in terms of the screen dimensions — while CCC uses an 8.8” central information display (CID), the Professional unit screen of CIC can reach up to 10.25” depending on your car model.

If you want to retrofit a CIC iDrive in your older BMW with a CCC system you have to perform a complete hardware upgrade, including the screen, head unit, iDrive controller and trim. 

Check out BimmerTech’s CIC Navigation System retrofit and pack your car with advanced tech features.

BMW CIC vs. NBT

Upgrading your CIC iDrive to a new generation system is similarly to the previous retrofit a full hardware upgrade. The NBT iDrive has a newer screen than CIC, different head unit, controller and trim. Although the interface itself looks very similar, it contains higher image contrast and better graphics. Additionally, the BMW NBT retrofit has even faster processor and larger storage space on the hard drive of around 200GB, much more than CIC with 80GB.

Take a look at a brief iDrive systems comparison.

BMW CIC vs. NBT Evo 

When replacing your CIC iDrive with NBT Evo with the ID5/ID6 software, you’re signing up for a completely new infotainment experience. From now on you’ll be able to:

  • stream music and videos wirelessly and use all of your favourite mobile apps on the iDrive screen through Apple Carplay or Android screen mirroring 
  • have much higher screen resolution
  • have an iDrive Touch Controller
  • get access to the latest map versions for your region in 3D 
  • use the Siri functionality
  • and much more...

Upgrading CIC to NBT Evo ID5/ID6 is only possible in F-series vehicles.

What can you expect from NBT Evo ID6 retrofit? See it for yourself.

Learn more about BimmerTech’s NBT EVO ID5/ID6 Navigation System Retrofit kit. 

BMW CIC business vs. professional

Apart from dividing into different computers, iDrive systems (navigations) are also split into business and professional versions. 

Hop over to learn more about BMW navigation systems.

The main rule is that professional navigation systems are more extensive and superior to business ones. They come with higher resolution and wider screens, have improved connectivity and a more responsive interface. What’s more, they give better route-planning and a 3D map option, which helps out a lot with finding yourself in an unknown place. 

Business navs very often only carry out a more basic guidance role, in bird's-eye view, which is less intuitive for some people. Each of those systems, however, contains similar underlying map data. And that means you can update your road maps no matter which version you have.

BMW CIC navigation update 

Technology undergoes constant changes, so to keep your CIC navigation system up-to-date with the rapidly shifting tech situation is not the easiest task. To make sure your iDrive is not lagging behind your modern gadgets, it is important to update your BMW CIC software. Here’s how you can increase multimedia support and improve compatibility with a host of popular mobile devices by carrying out regular software updates provided by BMW or BimmerTech.

What are the kinds of BMW software updates?

There are 3 kinds of BMW software updates for CIC: full ECU software updates, ConnectedDrive updates and BimmerTech software updates.

Full ECU software update

These updates address all system issues and features of your BMW, upgrading every electronic control module (ECU) that needs it. In order to determine whether you are getting the right update, BMW computers first check the hardware number on all of your ECUs. This is the reason why such major software updates can only be performed by BMW dealers or stores equipped with professional programming equipment. But remember, if everything works correctly and you don’t have new equipment installed that needs to be programmed, we recommend not doing this kind of update. Unjustified upgrades can cause complications and may be risky for your BMW.  

ConnectedDrive software update

ConnectedDrive software update, or in other words media software update, is a lot more common than ECU updates. It allows you to update your multimedia, Bluetooth, internet connectivity and mobile compatibility with your iDrive system, and may bring you a lot of convenience, as you can install it all on your own as long as your BMW is equipped with a Combox. New NBTs and all current iDrive systems have Combox built-in, but it doesn’t mean older models have to go without it. At BimmerTech we offer a Combox Retrofit Kit that adds many multimedia features. 

BimmerTech iDrive software update

BimmerTech offers MINI/BMW iDrive software updates for BMWs with newly installed software or hardware, which is supposed to work with the latest software versions. It’s not a fully DIY process, as it requires a remote coding session with our technician, but it definitely gives you the comfort of doing it in your own home. 

How to update BMW CIC Software?

Updating your CIC software differs depending on which update method you’re using.

ECU software update

If you’re updating only selected ECUs the only way to manage the process is through a BMW dealership or a specialised store. BMW doesn’t recommend doing it alone without expert supervision and professional equipment.

ConnectedDrive software update

If you have a BMW with a factory-installed Combox, you check your current software version in 2 ways. The easiest way to do it is by following these few steps:

  1. Go to the iDrive navigation.
  2. Open the menu.
  3. Scroll down to the very bottom and select ‘Software update’.
  4. When you’ll see the button ‘show current version’, select it.

Another way to approach your software update is to look up the latest ConnectedDrive software on BMW’s software update website.

When you enter your VIN, BMW will search through its records to check which software version is currently installed in your vehicle. If there is a newer version you’d like to download, you can do it right from BMW’s website — they have the latest software ready to transfer to a formatted USB flash drive.  

BimmerTech iDrive software update

BimmerTech’s iDrive software update is performed via remote session and lasts no longer than 1 hour. When purchasing the update remember to add a coding cable to your cart. Once you receive it, you’ll be able to schedule the session for a preferable time. 

When the time of the session comes, just plug in the cable and follow the instructions of the BimmerTech technician. Importantly, during the entire procedure your BMW has to be connected to a battery charger with a minimum current of 15A. Otherwise, the car may shut down without completing the update and cause major errors.

Wonder when’s the best time to do software updates and how to properly approach them? Learn all about software updates in our blog post.

BMW CIC map update 

While the CCC iDrive stored its map data on DVDs that you had to switch out for an update, since 2009 CIC has had its maps saved on a hard drive. This means CIC maps can be updated by downloading the map update and manually saving it on the iDrive.

Fortunately, if your BMW requires manual map updating, the procedure is very simple and doesn’t include any software coding. All you have to do is plug the USB stick with map data into the USB port in your car’s glove compartment. The new map data will be automatically detected by the system, but you will be asked to enter a BMW-issued FSC activation code with your iDrive controller to start the installation process. 

If you’re interested in map updates for your CIC head unit, you can order one from BimmerTech. They are available for North America, Europe, Australia / New Zealand and other regions, requiring the Premium navigation version. We recommend updating your maps regularly every 6 months.

BMW CIC retrofit

Updating your BMW software and maps doesn’t satisfy you? If you’d like to give your car that extra pop and pack it with many different features to make your CIC head unit resemble the most high tech devices, here’s what upgrades you can add.

BMW CIC coding

The easiest way to make your BMW more suitable to your needs is through CIC iDrive coding. You can choose from many options (which of course depend on your exact vehicle configuration). The most popular ones are:

  • Video in Motion: Play movies for your passengers and entertain them through the whole trip (learn more about Video in Motion for BMW).
  • Legal Disclaimer Deactivation: Switch off the safety warning that turns on right after you start the car.
  • Enhanced Bluetooth: Improve the connectivity between your phone and your BMW (learn more about Enhanced Bluetooth for BMW).
  • RDC Safety: See your tire pressure displayed on the iDrive screen in the blink of an eye.
  • Battery Registration: Register your new car battery and maintain your BMW’s longevity (learn more about Battery registration).

At BimmerTech we offer almost 50 different coding options and you can get them through two methods depending on your car; cable coding and USB coding.

For vehicles with a CIC head unit it is often required to use the first option, as it offers more options for older iDrive systems. When you start the remote session you’ll just have to connect your laptop to your car’s OBD port with a coding interface cable and let the BimmerTech technician do the rest.

Learn more about BimmerTech’s Easy iDrive Coding for BMWs

CarPlay MMI Prime for CIC

Most BMW owners look for the ultimate convenience while driving their cars. And something that provides that comfort for newer generation vehicles is Apple CarPlay, which connects an iPhone to the vehicle and lets drivers use iOS apps on the built-in dashboard display. But what if your car has an older iDrive system not compatible with original BMW CarPlay activation?

At BimmerTech we’ve come up with a solution to that problem and launched a high-tech, beautifully designed upgrade that will for sure catch the eye of all retrofit enthusiasts — CarPlay MMI Prime Retrofit for CIC

CarPlay MMI Prime Retrofit for CIC

With CarPlay MMI Prime for the CIC head unit you can truly bring your older BMW’s multimedia system up to modern day standards, and acquire functionalities that would do no shame to the newest cars. This retrofit made specifically for the CIC iDrive system comes with a completely refreshed software and has a modern looking interface, which allows for easy use of iPhone and Android apps on your native dashboard screen.

BimmerTech’s CarPlay MMI Prime upgrade for CIC is compatible with E-series and F-series (only 5 / 6 / 7 and X3 Series) cars.

Check how to retrofit CarPlay into older BMWs.

CarPlay MMI Prime features

The CarPlay retrofit works as an extension integrating with the iDrive system, giving you multiple possibilities:

Wireless CarPlay capability

CarPlay allows for wireless iPhone connection. It takes only one wireless pairing of your phone with the MMI to let it recognize the device — after doing so, every time you enter your BMW you’ll get instant wireless connection without even taking your phone out from your bag. From then on you’ll get to use your favourite iPhone apps, such as Google Maps, Waze, Spotify, Messages, WhatsApp and more, right from the iDrive screen. Answering or making calls will also become a lot less distracting due to the hands-free connection.

Prefer to connect via USB instead? Feel free to do so. CarPlay MMI Prime supports both wired and wireless phone connections.

Wireless CarPlay capability

USB multimedia and charging port

Longer drives are especially improved with CarPlay MMI Prime. Its USB port not only lets you charge your phone but also play videos and music from a USB thumb drive — that’ll for sure keep your passengers entertained for the whole trip.

The MMI's USB port can also be used in the future for software updates.  So, even if you won't be using it for charging or multimedia playback make sure to place it in an accessible location.

Full-Screen mode

If you feel like your current display is a bit cramped in split screen, CarPlay will give it more space with the full-screen mode. The MMI’s 1280x480 resolution for larger screens and 800x480 for smaller, looks great on every screen size.

Full-Screen mode

Screen mirroring 

Using CarPlay’s Screen Mirroring option, you can cast the screen of your iPhone onto the iDrive display and stream audio through your vehicle's speakers. When creating the MMI Prime, BimmerTech also didn’t forget about all those loyal fans of Android devices. That’s why if you happen to have an Android phone, you can mirror it in a breeze onto the iDrive screen too.

Wireless Android Auto support

Do your friends or family members prefer to use Android phones? The MMI module, which allows for adding Android Auto to your BMW, can let all of your close ones connect their devices to CarPlay in no time. If your phone supports wireless Android Auto, you can definitely enjoy the wireless capability. However, in case your phone is not compatible you’ll still be able to use the Android Auto via USB as long as you have the Android Auto app installed. 

Lear more on how to retrofit Android Auto in your BMW.

Wireless Android Auto support

Control with iDrive 

Navigating through the menu and apps is much more convenient with CarPlay MMI Prime. You can either use Siri to give voice commands or the iDrive controller for manual navigation through the menu. 

Front and Rear View Camera integration

Thinking of adding front and rear view cameras to your retrofit collection? If you order them along with the MMI (Multimedia Interface) module, you may save some extra bucks, and make parking much safer. 

Front and Rear View Camera integration

High-quality audio with an 8-band equalizer

At BimmerTech we’re really passionate about vibrant, high quality audio. That's why we specifically selected the audio output circuit in the CarPlay MMI Prime for CIC to push all of that oomph to the iDrive AUX input and let you customize the sound in a way that you want. Something that’s also enhanced in our new MMI Prime is the quality of phone calls — we’ve managed to reduce reverberation, so that you can have clear and undisturbed conversations.

High-quality audio with an 8-band equalizer

Want to see how our CarPlay is different from original? Take a look at our Apple CarPlay and CarPlay MMI Prime comparison.

Apple CarPlay and CarPlay MMI Prime comparison


CarPlay MMI Prime software

Among the features of CarPlay MMI Prime for CIC that got improved, there is another aspect that was perfected to the smallest detail and surely shouldn’t be overlooked CarPlay MMI Prime software. Compared to previous versions, this one has a very high-tech, up-to-date feel to it, and definitely puts other aftermarket interfaces to shame. See for yourself.

CarPlay MMI Prime Software

CarPlay MMI Prime installation

When adding CarPlay to the CIC head unit there are no additional coding or permanent modifications required, however the process itself might be a bit tricky for those who have just begun their journey with BMW retrofits. Therefore, if you’d need a helping hand, here’s a list of our installers who will manage this process for you. 

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