iDrive 8 has only been around for a couple of years, having debuted in mid-2021 in the iX and i4 electric vehicles. Except for a few models such as the 1 Series, Z4, 5 Series, and the 8 Series, it’s now available in all cars. With the i7 M70 introduced this week, BMW is already beginning the transition to iDrive 8.5, which brings several changes to improve the user experience.

BMWBLOG was given the opportunity to take a tour of the latest infotainment system at the Auto Shanghai 2023 in China. We were joined by Stephan Durach, Senior Vice President BMW Group Connected Company Development, who explained what has changed compared to the original iDrive 8. With the revamped software, the updated Operating System now incorporates something called “QuickSelect” part of a reconfigured home screen.

The idea behind the change is to offer a higher level of customization and quicker access to often-used functions without having to navigate through submenus. One of the main reasons people are criticizing automakers for the proliferation of touchscreens is the difficulty to reach a certain feature, which used to be accessible at the press of a button. With iDrive 8.5, QuickSelect brings collections of icons in a vertical arrangement, making them accessible with a swipe of a finger.

As shown in the video, the iDrive 8.5’s home screen has lost the tiles in favor of a large map since BMW has done the research and concluded that’s what most owners want to see when they start the car. On the left side of the 14.9-inch touchscreen is the QuickSelect functionality we mentioned, providing access to groups of functions. The tiles are customizable to the user’s personal preferences.

Stephan Durach believes 99 percent of the time you won’t be going into the actual menu since the functions you’ll be looking for will be in the QuickSelect vertical tile. Another change has been made to the user interface in the Climate Control menu to make it more intuitive than before. In addition, you won’t have to dig as deep as before into the menu structure since BMW is now putting certain features belonging to a category atop the tile. For example, “Driver Assistance” has an icon for turning on/off the Lane Departure Warning without actually having to go into the separate submenu.

In the case of electric vehicles such as the i7 M70 shown at Auto Shanghai, iDrive 8.5 also brings improvements to how the information regarding charging stations is displayed. There’s more real-time data than before and BMW says it’ll be easier to plan longer trips than before and therefore minimize range anxiety as much as possible.

We’re also being told the response time for voice commands has been halved after changing the hardware from an Intel Atom chip to a Qualcomm Snapdragon. This has also paid dividends in terms of how quickly iDrive 8.5 responds to inputs, so the user experience should be even more similar to high-end smartphones.

The next model to get iDrive 8.5 is the 2024 5 Series Sedan (G60), scheduled to premiere in the coming weeks. Based on our knowledge, BMW intends to start production of the i4, iX, X5, X6, X7, and 7 Series with iDrive 8.5 from July 2023. The latest Operating System requires a new head unit, therefore it won’t be offered as an over-the-air update for existing models. Separately, the first two compact cars to get iDrive 9 will be the X1 and 2 Series Active Tourer from November 2023. We should point out that these timelines are subject to change.