Optimise your BMW e46 in-car entertainment

the greatest M3 ever created

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both great. Any system released before supporting those two technologies is going have its fair share of quirks, OEM frustrations, and compromises.

Thankfully, in the BMW e46 (+e53, e83, others), BMW put together a fairly tweakable system that you can probably get 95% of the goodness from Smartphone-enabled systems, with fairly little fuss.

We want to:

  1. enable iPod/iPhone integration
  2. make all the speakers louder
  3. get satnav maps from 2022
  4. get bluetooth compatible with our devices

Intravee 2 / iPod integration

A long time ago, folks in BMW forums put together a couple of devices to enable iPod integration with BMW systems that had the 6-CD autochanger installed. This was effectively replacing the input from the autochanger with a Alpine KCA 420i interface adapter for iPod and, what became known as the Intravee 2 — a neat little device for translating iPod into BMW Canbus to give full control of our iPod from the OEM BMW head unit. More here: https://forum.bmw5.co.uk/topic/18773-kca-420i-and-intravee-ii-install/

This neat little setup works with a whole bunch of BMW models from 2002 onwards and keeps the OEM units in place. You can buy both the Alpine and the Intravee here http://www.toysinyourcar.com/acatalog/intravee.html (or check eBay). I recommend the long AI-Net cable for boot/trunk installs as you can then run the cable with the KCA in the front of the car — where you and your iPhone are usually located.

BM54 Upgrade

CarPhonics, based in north London, do a wicked while-you-wait set of upgrades to the BM54 amp, commonly found in e46. The phase 2 upgrade gets you 50rms watts per channel, which, given the e46 is a relatively small car with fairly poor sound insulation, makes for quite the sound https://www.carphonics.co.uk/bm54upgrades.htm

Modern Maps

So the unit itself is still looking a little clunky. I can’t fix the DPI or wizard up HD, but we can upgrade the software, give it night-mode, TMC, and support up-to-date BMW Maps and speed camera notifications from Rusty Maps. Don’t let the worst website in the world put you off; it’s massively straight-forward https://www.satnavupgrades.co.uk/2020-high-dvd-v32-custom-p106878962

Bluetooth

Bluetooth has been through some changes over the years and if you’re lucky, your older car shipped with a unit. That unit is pretty much usless now, unless you can get hold of a HW v13 model (eBay patience) or pay a slight premium from CarPhonics, for an upgraded one https://www.carphonics.co.uk/bluetooth-ulf.htm. Your choice either way. a v12 unit also works with new iPhones so a bit of patience on eBay is all you really need.

Wrap-up

Sure, you can just rip out the old mk4 unit and put in some Android head unit if you really need to watch YouTube while you’re driving but with just a bit of patience, and some respect for the craft, you could live your best life instead.

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