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BMW Australia says it will continue to offer Apple CarPlay as a cost option rather than providing it for free like many entry-grade brands do, because it feels the latest iDrive 5 and iDrive 6 systems render it unnecessary.

The German premium brand’s local arm charges $479 for the software download from its ConnectedDrive store that you can upload yourself to iDrive version 5 and up — or $623 if you purchase it with the car from new, on account of luxury car tax.

This approach is contrary to a growing number of mainstream brands that use the phone mirroring software (alongside Android Auto) to give cheap cars much greater infotainment than before.

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Audi and Mercedes-Benz also offer the systems for free on various models, too.

In fairness, BMW’s iteration of CarPlay is a step above most, because it works wirelessly. Other versions (for now) requires you to plug you phone cable into the car’s USB port.

BMW Australia product planning chief Shawn Ticehurst explained the company’s rationale to us last week, saying it had been keen to offer the tech, but changed its mind once it analysed what the system offered.

“I think Apple CarPlay is great tech for entry level cars where it introduces lots of features like navigation,” he said.

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“But for us we already have those features [on all cars], we have industry benchmark navigation, the best phone connection, Siri voice control already works on iDrive 5, so much of the technology exists. We felt it wasn’t adding anything on top, and in some cases actually took it backwards.

“I completely understand the role it plays in entry cars, but in our range we didn’t see any real benefit for the price increase it might have included.”

Given you can get Apple CarPlay on sub-$20k cars such as the Skoda Fabia and Suzuki Ignis, we still think BMW Australia is a being a bit rich charging extra. How about a free download from the ConnectedDrive store?

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