BMW has officially provided full details of its eighth-generation iDrive system, which was previously previewed in January during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The system will make its first debut in the iX later this year and will also be featured in the upcoming i4.
The latest version of iDrive is a combination of both hardware and software, with the former being headlined by the BMW Curved Display. On the iX, the curved panel has two screen areas, including a 12.3-inch instrument cluster display and a 14.9-inch main touchscreen, both with high resolutions that contribute to a pixel density of 200 pixels per inch for each screen.
Aside from the touchscreen, occupants can interact with the system via the brand’s familiar Touch Controller. A huge departure from the first iteration of iDrive that arrived 20 years ago, the latest dial in the iX is dressed up in a glass-effect finish and encircled by a bezel painted in Gold Bronze. For the driver, there’s a scroll wheel on the steering wheel to cycle through various displays in front of him or her.
On the software side of things, the latest iDrive is powered by the BMW Operating System 8, which carries improves upon the visual appearance of its predecessor with strong and eye-catching graphics, modern colours as well as futuristic textures and forms.
Drivers will have three layout types to choose from – Drive, Focus and Gallery – with each accompanied by widgets according to personal preference or the driving situation at hand. With Drive the centre of the information display shows the selected information, while Focus is designed for dynamic driving situations. As for Gallery, it minimises driving information and provides more space for the widget content, be it navigation or media information.
Those widgets are also found on the main touchscreen and are updated with live information accordingly. Drivers can choose what they would like to have on their home screen in whatever order, and they provide direct access to vehicle functions.
BMW says that despite the contemporary look, the driver won’t be overwhelmed with information thanks to “Act, Locate and Inform” principle, which ensures everything displayed is distributed clearly and screen redundancy is avoided.
The company adds that buttons and switches have been reduced by almost half in the iX, and this sees the climate controls being incorporated into the BMW Curved Display. To simplify the process and reduce the need to fiddle around with the settings, the climate control system takes into account the number of occupants, intensity and direction of the sunlight, and the target temperature for each climate zone, adjusting itself accordingly.
The reduction in physical buttons means most of the interaction with the iDrive system involves a touchscreen, gesture or voice control, the latter handled by the latest iteration of the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant.
The in-car digital assistant now handles natural dialogue even better and users can also provide it with a name of their choice, which they then use as a prompt. With tight integration, a variety of vehicle functions can be accessed with just your voice, and continuous over-the-air software updates ensures near features become available.
Beyond these features, the new iDrive also comes with My Modes, which modifies ten different parameters, including the powertrain, display layout and others to “set the mood” for driving. At launch, there will be three modes to choose from – Efficient, Sport and Personal – with more set to be added as development continues.
Joining this is Great Entrance Moments that takes advantage of ultra-wideband (UWB) radio technology to “welcome” drivers as they approach their vehicle. As BMW explains, when a driver is within three metres of the car, the exterior lights play a dynamic lighting effect and a soft, subdued light comes on in the cabin, accompanied by a “light carpet” showing the way to the driver’s door and illuminated door/boot lid handles.
Approaching 1.5 metres, the vehicle automatically unlocks no matter whether one is carrying their UWB key or a smartphone with BMW Digital Key Plus. Upon opening the door, the seat’s entry assistance feature and comfort settings come into play, with a welcome animation displayed on the curved screen. The goal here is to provide a pleasant user experience from the point when the driver first approaches the vehicle until the journey commences.
Other upgrades include an improved BMW Maps, with artificial intelligence (AI) learning and anticipating the destination the driver is likely to head for next based on past trips. Important services like parking and charging are also integrated into the cloud-based system, making them easier to locate.
Finally, full integration of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay ensures the functions work well with the relevant displays, and third-party apps can also be added on in the future. For China, BMW Operating System 8 enables extensive integration of the Alibaba and Tencent services for customers there.
All preferences and settings are linked to a BMW ID, so you can bring your personalisation to any BMW with the supported iDrive, including the previous version of the brand’s operating system.
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