BMW reveals upgraded iDrive infotainment system

BMW reveals new iDrive infotainment system

Will make debut in upcoming iX electric SUV

BMW HAS unveiled the newest version of its iDrive infotainment system, due from later this year in the new iX electric SUV.

First introduced on the 7-Series in 2001, the iDrive system centres around a rotary dial that allows the driver to control a number of their car’s functions — a set-up that has inspired similar technology installed in competing cars from Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

The biggest physical upgrade to the system, now in its eighth generation, is the introduction of a curved touchscreen, which BMW says will make the cockpit of the BMW iX — as well as the i4, in which it will also appear — more ergonomically friendly. Jaguar Land Rover’s latest models also feature curved touchscreens, though BMW’s curves horizontally across the dashboard, rather than vertically as in the new Jaguar F-Pace and XF.

A rudimentary version of BMW’s screen has already been previewed in pictures of the iX last November. It will see the digital driver’s display merged with the infotainment display to form a single, seamless unit.

BMW iX interior

BMW says that the curved screen makes touchscreen operation easier, while resolution has been dialled up to 220ppi (pixels per inch) — around 27ppi fewer than the screen on a modern MacBook Air.

Minimalism also seems to have been a driving force during design — the number of buttons and switches that control the iDrive system has been reduced by almost half, claims BMW, while control panels on the centre console and instrument panel have been redesigned for clarity and ease of use. A “pre-filtering” system means that only information that is immediately relevant to the driving situation is shown to the driver.

Drivers can choose between three layout types: the neutral Drive mode; the more performance information-biased Focus option; and an infotainment-driven Gallery setting.

Although the comparatively analogue, characteristic bezel remains, BMW is attempting to shift the burden of control of the iDrive system further towards its Intelligent Personal Assistant. The upgraded version of the tech allows for interactions between the driver and voice assistant that are closer to interactions between real humans than before.

As with the current system, the assistant can be given a name by the driver, which then acts as an activation prompt. The assistant can also distinguish whether the driver or passengers are speaking, so it knows which seat to heat, for example, and its on-screen presence will appear on the part of the screen nearest to the person who issued the command.

This is part of an effort by BMW to create a higher level of emotional connection between the driver and the iDrive system. For example, when the driver approaches the vehicle, it begins to “wake up” with a light signature designed to make entry to the car easier and more ambient. Individual profiles can also be set up, with each driver of the car receiving a personalised greeting.

A new “My Modes” function changes up to 10 functions in the vehicle to conjure a different atmosphere for various driving experiences. These include lighting, the layout of the displays, and the sound of the engine or electric powertrain. The new iDrive system will launch with Efficient, Sport and Personal modes, before others are added through over-the-air updates.

BMW iDrive navigation

In the newest version of iDrive, the system can recognise and learn from repeated situations, then suggest to the driver ways that functions can be altered to provide a better driving experience.

Other lessons garnered from BMW’s worldwide fleet of vehicles, as well as information available online, are implemented via over-the-air updates. This has reportedly improved navigation capability, with the system learning which recommendations to make based on driving habits.