You are correct, the functionality is almost identical to the 6-disc changer. In fact, you have to remove the 6-disc changer to install the iPod adapter. When you access the iPod, you are actually picking CDC from the iDrive and it displays 6 'discs':
Disc 1 Playlists
Disc 2 Artists (Alphabetical and limited to 255)
Disc 3 Albums (Alphabetical and limited to 255)
Disc 4 Genres
Disc 5 Podcasts
Disc 6 Tracks (Alphabetical and limited to 1000)
You can't only synch selective playlists - It is 'all or nothing'. Also, when switching between 'discs', the entire loading process starts over again.
Oh, and one more annoyance - let's say that you actually wait for the entire loading process and use the iDrive wheel to spin all the way down the list of songs to a song that starts with the letter 'S' (it can take a while). Then, if you want to select a song that starts with the letter 'T', you have to start back at the beginning and scroll all the way back down through the list.
I am a CIO by profession and head up a large technology group, comprised mostly of software developers and systems architects. I don't know who designed this interface and system but it's clear to me that usability and performance were not priorities.
2008 650i Black Sapphire Metallic, Black Pearl Leather, Dark Birch Wood, Sport Package, Sport Automatic Transmission with Shift Paddles, Cold Weather Package, Premium Sound (SAT and iPOD), Heads-Up Display.