Since the 2023 CES (Consumer Electronics Show), there’s been some confusion about the future of BMW’s iDrive. While at CES, during a tech panel, Stephan Durach, BMW Senior Vice President Connected Company Development, spoke about iDrive 8.5 and 9, two new versions of iDrive that would have different user interfaces and upgraded functionality. However, neither system will make it to every BMW and there was some confusion as to which models would be getting the upgrades. As it turns out, very few. For now.
BMW iDrive 8.5
On their faces, BMW’s iDrive 8and iDrive 9 are basically the same thing. They’re going to look the same and they’re going to have the same UI. The only caveat: the Android-based iDrive 9 will get access to the Android Apps Store. However, they’ll have some functional differences, which are hardware related. The lesser iDrive 8.5 is going to be used in basically just one model for now—the 7 Series. The new 7 Series currently uses iDrive 8 but it has an upgraded, Linux-based head unit behind it all, which gives the 7 Series greater technological capabilities than every other BMW on the market.
That means the rest of BMW’s current cars will be stuck with the current iDrive 8 or even iDrive 7, depending on how old they are. Not every BMW has been switched to iDrive 8, as cars like the X3, 5 Series, Z4, X5, and X6 are all still using iDrive 7. However, some of these cars will either be updated to iDrive 8 soon (thanks to a facelift X5 and X6) or be replaced entirely in the next couple of years.
Some current iDrive 8 models will be given the new head unit that allows them to run iDrive 8.5, such as the BMW iX. However, as most cars get replaced, they’ll skip over 8.5 and move straight to iDrive 9. Which brings me to the next section.
BMW iDrive 9
At the moment, there’s only one U.S. car planned to iDrive 9—the BMW X1. It gets a bit confusing because the current X1 still uses the older Linux-based head unit, so X1 models currently on the road won’t be able to get upgraded to iDrive 9. However, the new X1 will soon get a head unit upgrade, to a newer Android-based one, and that will allow it to run the all-new iDrive 9.
There’s much more information to come about both systems but, for now, the most important thing about both new systems is that they’re going to be quite exclusive for a bit. To start off, the 7 Series will be the only BMW with iDrive 8.5 and the X1 will be the only BMW with iDrive 9. The rest will stick with iDrive 8 until they’re replaced with new models or get new head units.