It will be called iDrive 8.5, not iDrive 9.
BMW will debut an updated iDrive 8.5 operating system in the next-generation BMW 5 Series, internally called the G60, which is slated to begin production this July as a 2024 model. The first production examples are scheduled to arrive in dealerships in late 2023. The German automaker's Senior Vice President of Connected Company Development and Digital Experiences, Stephan Durach, confirmed the latest iDrive news to gathered media at CES in Las Vegas.
What about iDrive 9? It's also coming but Durach told CarBuzz it will debut first in something smaller. "Expect iDrive 9 to debut with our compact cars, specifically Minis, the next X1, and X2. 8.5 will be in the new 5 Series later this year." The reason why the G60 5 Series won't have iDrive 9 at launch is that BMW prefers to release the next-generation software in smaller vehicles rather than more expensive models.
BMW says this strategy allows it resolve any issues that may arise in models that sell in fewer numbers. Flagship-level and pricier vehicles like the 5 Series simply have a higher bar. iDrive 9 will also be the first BMW operating system that will be entirely Android-based. Up until now, iDrive systems, including 8.5, have been Linux-based.
iDrive 8.5 will look similar and have a lot of the same functionality as 9, though there is one key exception: owners won't have access to the app store. Some of the features iDrive 9 will include are 3D navigation and flexible touch layouts. To compare, the current iDrive 8 boasts a column-based controller and optimized layout.
Another advanced feature iDrive 9's user interface will offer is what BMW describes as a "Customer Digital Ecosystem" that includes social media, news, email, and apps. Just a few of BMW's tech partners for these applications are Amazon, Apple, Google, and Alibaba.
BMW further made clear it will maintain using Android open source as opposed to the licensed Google Automotive Services (GAS) which enables full off-the-shelf integration of an Android infotainment system. Polestar, Volvo, and Ford, for example, utilize GAS. But BMW prefers to build its own software stack because, for example, if the vehicle loses some functionality, its team of global software engineers will be able to access that data and make a fix. GAS cannot gather that information.
Lastly, not all iDrive 8 models will not be able to upgrade to 8.5 because different hardware is required. The list is not complete yet but it will definitely include the latest 3 Series sedan.