In-Car Tech

BMW's next-gen Digital Key offers smarter tech, safer connectivity

BMW owners can use their smartphone instead of a traditional key fob.

Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW will introduce the second generation of its Digital Key this winter, ushering in a smarter, safer way for owners to connect with their luxury vehicles.

From their smartphone, BMW owners were able to lock and unlock the vehicle, start the engine and share the key with others using the BMW Digital Key as part of BMW Connected on the smartphone.

The next-gen system (2.0) will use a security chip that works separately from the smartphone operating system. This chip can be used even if a smartphone has run out of battery. This system arrives in vehicles later this year.

BMW Digital Key 2.0 3.0 Users will soon be able to take advantage of more safety and security features.Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW isn't stopping there. They have already announced plans for Digital Key 3.0, which include the implementation of ultra-wideband-based technology. The automaker says that this technology will, "offer maximum anti-theft protection and enable precise localization between the device and the vehicle. As a result, the mobile phone must no longer be held directly up to the door handle to unlock the car, but can conveniently be left in the pocket."

In 2017 BMW Group joined the Car Connectivity Consortium, which is working to establish cross-industry, standardized technologies and security standards. Representatives from smart device creators and other automobile manufacturers are also a part of the organization.

"Our customers want cross-vendor interoperability. Standardization is the only way to achieve this; proprietary solutions are no longer beneficial," said Dr. Olaf Müller, head of Development Digital Access Systems at the BMW Group.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The navigation in the forthcoming versions of the F-150 and Bronco employs a combination of Telennav and Ford technology.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

You May, but your Ford F-150 or Bronco will not get lost on the trail. That's thanks to the automaker's partnership with Telenav, which powers the navigation technologies inside the new versions of the two iconic vehicles.

The SYNC 4 system that will be in the two vehicles will include the Telenav system, which includes specialized route suggestions for towing and off-roading. The two systems, working in tandem, will store maps and continue routing even when drivers go outside of cell coverage.

Ford SYNC 4 Navigation The system also lets drivers know of hazards ahead.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

"Customers want connected vehicle technologies to work more like smartphones with real-time, personalized services – and that is exactly what we are offering with Ford SYNC 4 innovations such as Telenav's navigation system," said Gary Jablonski, manager, Ford Connected Vehicle Infotainment Systems. "F-150 and Bronco drivers now can get richer, quicker location search results, tow more confidently with custom routes and keep following off-road trail maps where other navigation systems go dark when cell coverage ends."

The routing system also has specialized options for customers that are towing anything from a boat to a 4x4 to a camper and beyond. When determining a route for navigation, the system guides users to routes best suited for the dimensions of their trailer to help avoid sharp turns, narrow bridges and low overpasses. Off-road enthusiasts can navigate to and on many 4X4 trails across North America, with additional trail maps to be added over time.

During traditional vehicle usage, the mapping system will give F-150 and Bronco owners the latest maps for reliable, time-saving navigation and be capable of providing location information such as finding cheap and available parking or a well-reviewed restaurant to eat at along the way.

SYNC 4 doesn't rely on strictly touch screen inputs. Ford's digital voice assistance may be used for many of its features.

Additionally, SYNC 4 offers users the ability to see landmarks and their descriptions and user ratings from Yelp.

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The 2020 BMW X6 M Competition is a standout during track days and as a daily driver.

Photo courtesy of BMW

When a kid in the school yard is bigger and stronger than all the others, it's often thought that they're a bully. The sheer brawn of the person makes them stand out on matter how much they try to fit in, even if deep down, despite their athletic prowess, they're just a gentle giant. That's pretty much the story of the 2020 BMW X6 M Competition.

It's the largest of the high-riding hatchback-style sports activity vehicles that BMW sells and it's easy to think of it as the SUV opposite of the BMW X7, which is noted for its long body and three rows of seating. If you're picturing a slightly larger version of the BMW X4, you'd be on the right path.

2020 BMW X6 M Competition The SUV is more of a high-riding hatchback than what you'd typically think of as a sport utility vehicle.Photo courtesy of BMW

The model was redesigned for 2020 giving it more width and length, and a longer wheelbase. It's also an inch shorter. The result is a muscular vehicle that isn't horribly attractive, but it's not the ugliest in the BMW lineup either thanks to the design of the new 4 Series Coupe. It gets the full M design treatment, complete with blacked out exterior elements that are traditionally covered with chrome, like the fenders, mirror caps, tailpipes, badging, and rear diffuser.

The X6 M Competition's twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine is a beast delivering 617 horsepower, 553 pound-feet of torque, and dismal fuel economy (15 mpg combined). But, it can get from zero to 60 seconds in 3.7 seconds so the trade off with Mother Earth's ozone layer almost feels worth it, especially when you're pressing the limits of acceptable speed heading into a corner only to have the model stick the pavement like a champ.

The elegant shifter pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission to deliver smooth shifts but moving the SUV into Sport mode and utilizing the paddle shifters is why you're spending the extra tens of thousands on this particular X6. Go for it. Enjoy.

2020 BMW X6 M Competition BMW's standard center console experience works well here too.Photo courtesy of BMW

Together, the beef and the brawn make sense - they're complimentary, well-engineered, and typically BMW.

The X6's interior is rather ordinary for the BMW family. There's no design risks, bold strokes, or surprises. With as much effort as was put into the powertrain and drive dynamics, it falls flat, tumbling right from the BMW playbook, despite the best efforts of the SUV's glossy carbon fiber accents and two-tone quilted leather upholstery.

That's not to say that it's too perfectly functional to be good. BMW routinely delivers one of the best user experiences for in-cabin tech and that continues in the X6. The finely crafted interior features materials befitting the car's price tag (starting at $117,600) and it delivers a quiet drive experience when your foot isn't toying with the accelerator.

2020 BMW X6 M Competition The cabin is appropriately refined.Photo courtesy of BMW

Along with BMW's finely-tuned engine performance comes BMW's finely-tuned stopping power. This was, unfortunately, put to the test as I made my way through my neighborhood in a classic scenario where a ball rolled out into the street and was followed by a small child who didn't look to see if there was a car coming. A quick swerve, a slam on the brakes, a little curb rash on one of the SUV's standard 21-inch wheels, and the ball and child were safe.

While many cars could perform this type of behavior, it's important to note that safety technology didn't step in during this scenario, despite the X6 being loaded up with BMW's latest and greatest. It was up to human engagement. The model, despite being engineered for exhilarating performance on a track at high speed, is just as good performing in mundane life scenarios, like stopping quickly at low speed.

2020 BMW X6 M Competition The model is available with offset 21-inch wheels up front and 22-inchers at the rear.Photo courtesy of BMW

That ying and yang is the anthesis of the X6, really. It's the brawny big brother in the crowd who isn't afraid to let its more gentle soul show through when required.

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