iDrive as we know it is about to change. BMW is introducing two new versions of iDrive – iDrive 8.5 and iDrive 9.0 later this year. The focus on the update is a refreshed home screen and a revised UI that should work better with BMW’s new curved display now available on most models. But the real question is; what models will get this new update?

Key to the update is what BMW is calling the zero-layer concept. Zero-layer means that all key functionality and information will be shown on a single level, making it easier to select a functions without having engage a submenu. Supporting this will be live widgets in a vertical arrangement on the driver’s side of the user interface. These function icons can be easily selected and also configured individually.

iDrive 8.5

iDrive 8.5

BMW Operating System 8.5 (or iDrive 8.5) is based on the technical and physical architecture in the larger CLAAR based BMWs. It’s a system that is both touch and multi-function controller based and will feel familiar to most BMW owners – so we’re told. We’ll see this system on the following cars (if they’re equipped with the Curved Display):

  • BMW 7 Series
  • BMW iX
  • BMW i4
  • BMW X5
  • BMW X6
  • BMW X7
  • BMW XM

This update will rollout gradually from July 2023. BMW is saying that further models will but is offering no specifics yet.

iDrive 9

iDrive 9

BMW Operating System 9 (iDrive 9) is a fully touch-based system that we’ll see on all smaller, front wheel drive FAAR based cars. This will be a bit more of an evolution in design with a focus on a customized home screen and new UI. It’s called iDrive 9 because the underlying Android system is newer than the technology underpinning iDrive 8.5. It also foretells BMW’s next steps which will likely see the iDrive multi-function controller being eliminated from the line-up entirely. Something that we aren’t excited about.

We’ll see iDrive 9 in the following cars:

  • BMW 2 Series Active Tourer from November 2023
  • BMW X1 from November 2023
  • BMW X2 (TBD)

Official Release: BMW Previews iDrive 8.5 and 9.0

The BMW Group has reached the latest stage of development with the BMW iDrive system. A new home screen with clearly arranged functions offers greater ease of use on the BMW Curved Display. The system’s QuickSelect concept additionally brings an improved menu structure that takes its cues from consumer electronics devices. The new BMW iDrive plays a unique role in delivering a focused, assured driving experience by showing the right information in the right place. The new BMW iDrive system will be gradually introduced in current models over the course of 2023.

“Today, BMW iDrive is more than just a control and operating system – it’s a digital world of experience allowing human and car to interact with one another and exchange information,” remarks Stephan Durach, Senior Vice President BMW Group Connected Company Development. “As we said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2023, we are continuously enhancing the associated user experience based on the latest available technology.” This translates into a broader offering of digital content for information and entertainment, shorter function update cycles, better information on charging points for electric vehicles and improved access to a host of specific online services.

With its new graphical interface and optimized menu structure, BMW iDrive will in future focus even more squarely on interaction by using the touchscreen and natural language. The BMW Curved Display will continue to serve as the point of interaction for the multi-sensory BMW iDrive experience.

New home screen shows functions on a single level and enables rapid access. 
The next-generation BMW iDrive turns the home screen on the BMW Curved Display into a permanently viewable user interface. Other individually configurable graphics can also be displayed here at all times as an alternative to the navigation system’s map view.

The QuickSelect functionality makes it possible to directly select entertainment programmes, contact lists and vehicle settings, start interaction with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant or activate other menu options, all by touch. And once the relevant settings have been chosen, a quick tap on the home icon at the lower edge of the display is all it takes to return to the home screen.

BMW orientates itself on today’s operating habits and offers a user experience that fits the high standards of the brand. 

The operating concept for the new BMW iDrive therefore aligns with user habits established with today’s consumer electronics devices. The new, flat menu structure makes activating functions and settings much faster and simpler. At the same time, the system goes a long way towards enriching the driving experience in a BMW. The digital content is – just like the hardware, in the form of the BMW Curved Display – designed to enhance the driver focus for which BMW is renowned. BMW iDrive provides the right information in the right place and at the right time.

To ensure intuitive interaction whilst driving, the graphical interface and menu structure feature a layout developed by BMW Group Design that is both consistent and characteristic of the brand. As a result, customers can enjoy a signature BMW user experience at all times.

BMW Operating System 8.5 and BMW Operating System 9 lay the foundations. 
The new BMW iDrive with QuickSelect is a further development of the BMW Operating System 8 fitted in current BMW models with BMW Curved Display, and is based on the latest-generation infotainment head units, which is also responsible for graphic processing.

The new BMW Operating System 8.5 will be gradually introduced in all midsize, executive and luxury model ranges1) from BMW. It will continue to be based on Linux and will be combined with the largest version of the BMW Curved Display.

The digital experience on the specific BMW Curved Display of the compact-class models2)with the new BMW Operating System 9, based on Android Open Source Project software, is being developed.

The transition from push, turn and press to swipe, tap and natural language. 
When the BMW iDrive system was first launched in 2001 with the new BMW 7 Series, its main purpose was to use one display and one interactive element for as many functions as possible in order to cut down on the number of buttons, controls and displays. The BMW iDrive Controller therefore acquired the status of universal control device as we knew it from a computer mouse. Scrolling and clicking on a desktop became turning, pushing and pressing in a car – intuitively and with minimal distraction from the road ahead.

After about 20 years, the digital user experience is dominated by touchpads, touch-sensitive smartphone displays and voice assistants. Swiping, tapping and speaking are the most common methods of interaction. The BMW Curved Display’s touchscreen functionality and dialogue using natural language represent the contemporary form of interaction between human and car.

2) BMW Operating System 9 compatibility by model and start of production:
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer from November 2023; BMW X1 from November 2023; further models to follow, subject to change