BMW introduced iDrive on a production car with the 7 Series (E65/E66) back in 2001. However, we remember first seeing the multimedia controller in 1999 on the Z9 concept. There was an even older car with an early version of the system as the ZBF prototype had it in 1996. The iDrive has gone through multiple iterations since its launch over two decades ago, reaching the 8.5 version for the bigger, RWD-based models.
Some of the compact cars are transitioning to iDrive 9.0 but models such as the X1, X2, and 2 Series Active Tourer no longer have the actual iDrive knob. Next year’s 1 Series hatchback and 2 Series Gran Coupe will lose it as well. This is a sign of things to come because the Neue Klasse models arriving from 2025 will also do away with the signature BMW controller. The announcement was made by Head of R&D Frank Weber this week in Silicon Valley where BMW Group Technology Office USA celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Many of you probably saw this coming considering the Vision Neue Klasse concept didn’t have it either. You’ll be using that large touchscreen to access in-car functions, as well as voice controls. In addition, BMW will install haptic buttons on the steering wheel to access certain features. Lest we forget the concept unveiled in early September at the IAA Mobility show in Munich also lacked an instrument cluster. Instead, it did have a dashboard-wide head-up display we’ll be seeing on road-going Neue Klasse EVs.
Neue Klasse will underpin all BMW models, but that won’t happen overnight. These new electric models will peacefully coexist with CLAR-based EVs for several years, so there will still be cars with the iDrive controller on sale in the latter half of the decade. The next-generation iX3 will get the ball rolling for NK in 2025 when production is scheduled to start at the new Debrecen plant in Hungary. An i3 sedan will follow shortly.
BMW has promised to have at least six NK-based models on sale by 2028. The iX3 crossover and i3 sedan are the only models confirmed thus far but we’re hearing there will also be an i3 Touring and an iX4. M versions of these four models are expected, starting with the sedan as early as 2027.