BMW iDrive 8.0: new infotainment OS debuts in iX

Published: 15 March 2021

► New BMW iDrive OS revealed
► Will debut first in iX, then i4
► More connectivity, fewer buttons

BMW has officially announced its iDrive version 8 – the new operating system that will be used in every new car from the brand, starting with the all-electric iX SUV.

Naturally, the new OS is full of buzzwords designed to move the brand’s technology forward – it’s more connected in various ways, offers a more sophisticated voice assistant and offers more personalisation.

What is it all based on?

BMW’s new curved display – again, first seen on the new iX. Sizing of the screens may differ in future models but, for the iX, the display is essentially two screens linked together – a 12.3-inch one for the instruments and a larger 14.9-inch one used in the centre.

Frank Weber, head of development at BMW, says the new iDrive 8 has five ‘super-brains’ controlling the software, which allows between 20 and 30 times the processing power of iDrive 7.

idrive 8 map

One of the key benefits of this new system is better over-the-air update capabilities, with Weber pointing out that BMW will have the largest fleet of updateable cars on the roads by the end of 2021 – more than 2.5 million.

I still spot a rotary controller…

One of the few things that remains from previous generations, the iDrive’s tactile rotary controller lives on. But more functions have been moved to the screens, including the air-con. BMW says that it thinks users actually use ventilation controls so infrequently that it can get away with not incorporating separate switchgear for the ventilation controls.

idrive rotary

While individuals can set these controls via the screen, BMW also points out that iDrive 8 will actually automate as much of the climate control as it can, based on data from more than 400 million journeys around the world in BMWs. If it’s cold, the seat, steering and air heating will turn on automatically, for example.

How else can I control it?

By voice, for a start. That in itself is nothing new, but BMW says it has developed a new, more natural voice assistant akin to Merc’s MBUX. You can name the assistant whatever you like, and appears like a bunch of orbs on the screen when it’s awake. It distinguishes who is asking it and from what seat of the car, and respond to that area more accurately.

idrive voice

Gesture control, a gimmick of iDrive 7, has taken a back seat, with Weber saying it’s ‘not a primary way’ of controlling the car and only useful for certain functions. You’ll still be able to twiddle your fingers to turn up or down the audio volume, or answer a call with it, but BMW is focusing more on voice control here.

How is it more personal?

On top of the voice assistant recognising individuals, the new OS introduces BMW ID, locked via a PIN. The account is set up via the My BMW app, and the car responds personally to each person with an ID account. When they get in the car, their personal settings (like climate preferences) are applied.

idrive 8 dials

There is also something called ‘Great Entrance Moments’. Ultra-wideband radio tech means the car will unlock when you get within 1.5 metres of it, slowly switches on both the exterior and interior lights and activates the climate control to your personal preferences.

Along with this, iDrive 8 introduces My Modes. Gone are the usual BMW drive modes of EcoPro, Comfort and Sport, replaced with Efficient, Sport and Personal. They still work roughly the same way; Efficient will be designed to maximise fuel and/or electric range, Sport is for driving situations that require sharper handling dynamics and Personal allows you to tweak parameters to your liking.

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