BMW has expanded its partnership with Rara to offer integrated music streaming in the majority of its new cars.
The system was launched in the 5 Series last summer, giving users unlimited access to a database of more than 22 million songs, licensed by all of the major and leading independent record labels.
How can I get it?
Rara is now available on all 1-,3-,4-,5-,6- and 7 Series models, plus the new X5. It’s also expected to be offered on the electric i3 and i8 models in the coming months.
You must spec Rara when ordering your new BMW – there’s no retrofit option at present – and it’s only available on cars fitted with the ‘professional’ navigation system.
This system is standard in some high-end models – including all versions of the 6 and 7 Series, but is an expensive option on lesser BMWs, costing up to £1990.
How does it work?
Listening to a song or album couldn’t be easier; you simply use the BMW’s iDrive system to search for an artist or song title, and then hit play.
There’s a lengthy pause while the system begins to download the first track. However, Rara automatically caches (downloads) the next three songs in your play queue, so there are no subsequent delays between tracks.
The system also saves every track you play, allowing you can play them instantly at a later date, even if you’re driving in an area without a 3G signal.
The quality of the music streamed is a relatively low 48kbps (this can’t be changed), although our short test suggests you’re unlikely to be disappointed with sound quality.
Music is streamed directly through the infotainment system using the car’s permanent 3G link, so there’s no need to plug in a separate phone or dongle.
What’s more, you can stream an unlimited amount of music in five European countries – Italy, France, Germany and Spain – without incurring extra charges.
How much does it cost?
Rara costs £325 for the first year (which includes installation) and £225 for each subsequent year you decide to continue your subscription.
This price does include access to Rara from your PC, smartphone or tablet, which means you can also listen to music when you’re not in the car.
However, Rara is also available on your computer or Smartphone separately for as little as £4.99 a month, rising to £9.99 for a premium subscription.
This is a significantly cheaper way to access unlimited music, because rather than pay for a separate 3G connection in your car, you utilise your mobile phone’s 3G link, or any WiFi network.
There are certainly cheaper ways to stream music in the UK, then, but none is as neatly integrated into a car’s infotainment system.