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BMW Head-up Display: True Safety Feature Or A Whim?

Bianka Rommel

Feb 10, 2022

BMW Head-up Display: True Safety Feature Or A Whim?

When you think of the TOP 10 must-haves for your Bimmer, what technology comes to your mind? 

I bet the BMW head up display (HUD) shows up within seconds of processing that question – even more so if the other day you were scrolling through the browser in search of anything remotely high-end for your car.

Praised by many car manufacturers and drivers, there’s no doubt this safety feature should be a standard option on all of the latest BMWs, yet with the current semiconductor shortage it’s far from happening in the near future.

So for the unlucky ones, is it even possible to upgrade the HUD if you’re not equipped with it from the factory? And if it is, will the dollars be worth the hype? 

We’ll try to dispel these and more doubts in the following article, so that perhaps this evening you won’t have to immerse yourself in your tenth discussion on a BMW forum ;) 

BMW Head-up display

NOTE: BimmerTech doesn’t offer BMW head up display retrofit as of yet. This article was prepared purely for educational purposes. To check our retrofits and coding options, go to our shop.

What is head up display in BMW?

But first for the newbies who still wonder what a head-up display is.

BMW head-up display is a transparent screen displayed on the windshield, which projects driver-relevant data straight into the driver’s line of sight. Made with the aim of helping drivers maintain their focus on the road, it actually reduces the time required to absorb  information by more than half compared to glancing at the cockpit or the central BMW iDrive screen. Anyone who drives pedal to the metal especially treasures that feature at high speeds.

Depending on your vehicle model and the options you pick BMW head-up display can show the following information: 

  • RPM
  • Vehicle Status
  • Warning Messages
  • Collision Warning
  • Navigational Turn-By-Turn Directions
  • Telephone and Call Information
  • Entertainment Menu
  • Check Control messages
  • Lane Guiding
  • Road Speed
  • Speed Limits
  • Overtaking Restrictions
  • Active Cruise Control

BMW speed limits

If your car is additionally equipped with BMW Night Vision, you can also leverage your BMW head-up display to alert you about approaching pedestrians.

 

How does head up display work in BMW?

And how does that technology work exactly? By the magic of coordinating 3 components: a projector, a projection surface and an optical module. LEDs act here as a light source, the TFT (thin-film transistor) screen as an imaging unit and windshield as a surface for projection. 

How does head up display work in BMW?

So how it works is the image you choose to display is rotated and mirrored by the system’s optical modules to be then shown on the windscreen covered with a wafer-thin coating – used to avoid double images and adapt to the brightness of the ambient light. The driver can at that point see all relevant information and warnings in real time about two meters away in the line of sight and easily process them no matter the time of the day or night. 

How to turn on the head up display on a BMW?

There are different approaches to turning on or off the BMW head-up display depending on its generation and your vehicle model. 

If your BMW was produced between 2004-2018 you’ll most likely be able to do that by a push of the HUD button placed next to or beneath the headlight control, and can adjust its settings in the iDrive menu.

In later date cars, made between 2019-2022, you may have to get into your BMW iDrive Settings to turn on the BMW head-up display. 

How to adjust the head up display in BMW?

If viewing issues occur, or you simply want to adjust the parameters or type of information displayed on your HUD, you can do it all in your BMW iDrive settings.

  1. Go to Car.
  2. Enter Settings.
  3. Check the BMW Head-Up Display Box.
  4. Here select the information you want to display by simply checking the boxes.
  5. To adjust the HUD settings check the setting you want to modify and with the use of your BMW iDrive Controller set up the brightness, height and rotation. 

M-type BMWs can modify even more head-up display settings. See how:

BMW head up display update and Apple CarPlay

Much to the delight of Apple fans, BMW head-up display can be also used with certain functions of Apple CarPlay. If only your BMW software is up-to-date (or 07/2020 version at least) and you’re equipped with BMW iDrive 7.0, you can display your Apple Maps and the current music track from Apple Music on the screen, and have it running in the background while scrolling through other radio stations. 

Need to unlock BMW Apple CarPlay on your iDrive? We can do it for you!

Keep in mind, the BMW head-up display works only with OEM Apple CarPlay. BMW CarPlay retrofit won’t be compatible with that feature.

Don’t have OEM BMW Apple CarPlay in your car? Get a CarPlay retrofit for 2008+ BMWs.

When did BMW start putting in a head up display?

As innovative as it may seem, BMW head-up displays are not new to the automotive industry, or the tech industry in general. The first such screens were made for military purposes back in the 1940s where they appeared in World War II jet fighters to improve pilots’ ability to simultaneously process the instrument and environmental data.

When did BMW start putting in a head up display?

Skipping 60 years forward, BMW introduced its own HUD version in 2004 5 Series E60 as an integral part of BMW ConnectedDrive, which initially could only display speed information in a monochrome orange color. Almost 10 years later, in 2013, the first BMW full-color head-up display appeared, boasting 50% growth compared to its predecessor and ensuring much better readability and projection quality. 

Currently the full-color head-up display can be found on the following BMWs produced after 2013:

  • BMW 2 Series
  • BMW 3 Series
  • BMW 4 Series
  • BMW 5 Series
  • BMW 6 Series
  • BMW 7 Series
  • BMW X1
  • BMW X3
  • BMW X4
  • BMW X5
  • BMW X6
  • BMW i8

Is the head up display included in a BMW package?

Don’t get too excited though ;) Unfortunately not every BMW you see on the lineup has a head-up display on them. You’ve got to be equipped with either the Technology Package, Innovation Package or Premium Package to find it on your option list, but at times even that doesn’t guarantee its presence – especially if you’re based in Europe.

Since the semiconductor crisis has escalated in 2021, some countries such as Germany have withdrawn BMW head-up displays from a number of vehicles with the Innovation package. That includes:

  • BMW 1 Series F40
  • BMW 2 Series F44 Gran Coupe, G42 Coupe
  • BMW 3 Series M340i, M340d, 330e
  • BMW 4 Series G22 Coupe, G23 Convertible, G26 Gran Coupe
  • BMW X3 30e
  • BMW X4 M40i, M40d
  • BMW Z4 Roadster G29

The availability of OEM BMW HUD may vary from country to country so it’s always advised to contact your local dealer about the latest rules.

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Head-up display in MINI

MINI drivers are also not left out of enjoying the comfort of the head-up display. Although, we must say it’s even less common on the British make than on BMW vehicles. 

MINI head-up display was first introduced to cars produced after 2014 with the optional Navigation Pack Plus. The list may include:

  • MINI Clubman
  • MINI Countryman
  • MINI Electric
  • MINI Hatch
  • MINI Convertible

See how to use and adjust MINI head-up display:

How to upgrade your head up display BMW?

So let’s say you lack it on your option list. Can you add a head-up display to a BMW? Absolutely! You can either go for a more time-consuming solution, which is changing up your entire windscreen to install the OEM HUD, or simply add a BMW head-up display retrofit. Although, the latter won’t be a HUD per se – more of a HUS (head up screen) ;) – that acts almost like the BMW OEM head-up display with the difference of projecting the data onto a standalone transparent OLED screen instead of your windshield.

BMW manufacturers introduced the BMW head-up screen retrofit in 2014, so that no driver would have to compromise his or her safety in an older date vehicle. Just like the BMW OEM head-up display, this original accessory,allows you to see nav instructions and real time vehicle information in your field of view, and can be mounted on top of the cockpit in many BMW models. The list includes cars with navigation system (option 606/609) and instrument cluster with extended content (option 6WA): 

  • BMW 1 Series (E81, E82, E87, E88, F20, F21)
  • BMW 2 Series (F22, F23, F45, F46)
  • BMW 3 Series (E90, E91, E92, E93, F30, F31, F34, F35)
  • BMW 4 Series (F32, F33, F36)
  • BMW 5 Series (F10, F11)
  • BMW X1 (E84)
  • BMW X3 (F25)
  • BMW X4 (F26)

As for the range of functions, the BMW head-up display retrofit shows the fuel gauge, car speed, power, temperature drop warning, traffic jam warning, output, torque, cruise control, speed limit, the altitude above sea level and more – all of which you’ll easily read even in direct sunlight. Should you feel like adding a few adjustments to the brightness or type of info displayed, you can do it via the BMW head-up screen app for Android and iOS devices. Your HUS will receive its navigation data through WiFi and modify the info accordingly.

To download the apps visit Google Play store or iTunes store – both apps are free.

BMW head up display vs head up screen - cost

Again, depending on the type of upgrade you choose the price will differ. While replacing the entire windshield with a BMW OEM head-up display may cost even up to $2K, the BMW  heads up screen price can oscillate around $450 – the final charge is as always contingent upon your region.

Is the BMW head up display worth it?

There are a few drivers who would deny that. The BMW head-up display may be considered only a military gadget straight from an F-22 Raptor, yet those who’ve used it will tell you the complete opposite. Once you experience the comfort and safety of not taking your eyes off the road while controlling core functions of your iDrive, you’ll loathe going back to your previous setup… at least that’s how many drivers feel after the first month of cruises.

So BMW head-up display – you’re much appreciated ;) Even if only for giving that slight thrill of feeling like Tom Cruise in Top Gun for just a few more minutes.

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