What is BMW iDrive 8?

Jessica Shea Choksey | Mar 29, 2021

BMW has unveiled a new version of the company's ground-breaking iDrive infotainment system. With numerous enhancements at play, including 5G connectivity, the iDrive 8 interface delivers a more intuitive and interactive in-car experience than before. The system will first appear in the upcoming BMW iX and i4 electric vehicles due to arrive later this year, with other models in the BMW lineup following soon after.

BMW iDrive 8 in BMW iX Electric SUV

iDrive History - Find the best BMW deals!

BMW first introduced its iDrive system 20 years ago in the 7 Series sedan. The technology intended to simplify in-car infotainment, but it was such a radical departure from existing conventions that it instead caused confusion and consternation. 

The original iDrive used a dash-mounted screen and a rotary dial located on the center console, surrounded by main screen menu shortcut buttons. The design eliminated the clutter of dashboard buttons and allowed control of all infotainment and telematics operations with a single operating tool that, with practice, drivers could use by touch. 

Two decades later, iDrive's original approach remains, but BMW also offers touchscreen control, voice control, and gesture control to supplement the still-present rotary control knob on the center console.

The New Face of iDrive - Find the best BMW deals!

As applied to the BMW iX electric SUV, the new face of iDrive 8 is a long, curved glass screen combining a 12-inch instrumentation display and a 12-inch infotainment system display all in one. The high-resolution screen stretches almost half the dashboard's width and offers three different layout configurations depending on the amount of information and detail the driver wants to see.

iDrive 8 Operation - Find the best BMW deals!

As with recent iterations of iDrive, the new iDrive 8 gives drivers four primary ways to use the technology from behind the steering wheel:

  • The center console-based rotary controller that has been at the core of iDrive since its inception 
  • Touchscreen capabilities for direct interaction with the infotainment system's navigation, telematics, and vehicle information elements
  • Gesture control functionality to allow drivers to use simple hand motions to accept or decline a phone call, to adjust the stereo volume or tune the radio, and to change the rearview camera angle, among other actions
  • Voice control via BMW's AI-based Intelligent Personal Assistant

The iDrive 8 system is enhanced with 5G connectivity depending on availability.

BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant - Find the best BMW deals!

The new BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant uses a voice-recognition system that understands natural dialogue and speech patterns. In other words, the driver or front passenger can speak with their BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant in the same way they would converse with other passengers in the vehicle.

With its advanced language processing capability, the system responds to a wide range of spoken commands, from adjusting climate controls and lighting to providing vehicle information derived from driving history and the user manual. It can also search out points of interest, provide weather updates, find media content, and perform numerous infotainment functions.

Cloud-based Navigation and More - Find the best BMW deals!

BMW iDrive 8 integrates digital navigation and electric vehicle charging services into the cloud-based BMW Maps system in an organic and user-friendly way. For example, in the BMW iX, the system monitors the vehicle's battery charge level and locates nearby charging stations whenever the need arises.

In terms of data presentation, the navigation system has three modes: reduced, adaptive, and expanded. Each is designed to give varying map detail levels.

BMW ID Custom Personalization - Find the best BMW deals!

BMW ID customizes and remembers specific settings such as seating positions, infotainment modes, and safety settings through machine learning. 

After the owner creates a BMW ID, the vehicle automatically adjusts to the driver's preferences when it detects their approach. BMW ID is AI-based and becomes more familiar with the driver's behavior over time. Furthermore, each driver has their own ID that will follow them from one BMW vehicle to another.

The My Modes feature allows further personalization of the driving experience via performance settings and display configurations. The iDrive 8 system offers three primary driving modes: Efficient, Sport, and Personal. Using Personal, drivers can fully customize the driving experience. Additional modes may arrive in the future through over-the-air (OTA) updates.

OTA Updates - Find the best BMW deals!

to the vehicle. With automotive technology advancing rapidly, OTA is the best way to make fast, real-time improvements to the iDrive system. Even more complex software updates in areas such as advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) are possible with the iDrive 8 system.

Summary - Find the best BMW deals!

Like BMW iDrive systems of the past, iDrive 8 aims to create a strong connection between people and their vehicles. Packed with new features, including AI integration, natural language recognition, and 5G capability, the system elevates connectivity, convenience, and personalization like no previous iDrive platform in history.

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