BMW iDrive 8.5 Bringing a More Smartphone-Like Experience

  • BMW’s iDrive 8.5 infotainment update is designed to mimic smartphones more than before.
  • The updated operating system’s home screen will allow for faster access to features and a more configurable layout.
  • This summer, iDrive 8.5 will be available on models that currently have iDrive 8; this includes all EVs, the X5 SUV through the new plug-in hybrid XM, and the 7 Series.

The first iDrive system that appeared on the E65 generation BMW 7 Series in 2001 included a control knob intended to mimic a computer mouse. The proliferation of smartphones over the past decade plus has conditioned many people to pinch, poke, or swipe their fingers on a screen to make things happen.

BMW is in the business of giving consumers what they want, which is why the iDrive 8.5 infotainment update the company is releasing this summer will be more smartphone-like than ever. For models that currently have iDrive 8, the revised infotainment software will be available via production or an over-the-air (OTA) update. The list of BMWs includes the 7 Series, the electric i4 and iX, the mid-size SUVs (X5, X6 and X7), and also the plug-in hybrid XM.

BMW says iDrive 8.5 will feature a home screen designed to make smartphone users feel more, well, at home. Along with clearly arranged functions, the updated infotainment system is said to have a menu structure similar to, say, an iPhone. People using iDrive 8.5 will have the ability to customize and reconfigure the home screen.

The updated interface will also have fewer layers, which means less menu diving, which should translate to less distraction. With iDrive 8.5, there is a vertical section on the driver’s side of the infotainment screen that allows quick access to functions such as media, navigation, vehicle settings and more. To return to the home screen, people can simply touch the “home” icon at the bottom of the screen.

bmw idrive 9 infotainment home screen


These newly introduced infotainment features coincide with BMW’s stated mission to prioritize touch and voice controls. This philosophy develops further with the introduction of iDrive 9, which will debut on the 2024 BMW X1. Unlike version 8.5, which uses a Linux-based operating system, the ninth installment of iDrive will feature Android software.

Unfortunately for those of us who prefer physical controls like those found in the E65 7 Series, the future of BMW’s iDrive seems deadlocked.

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Senior Editor

Eric Stafford’s car addiction started before he could walk, and it fueled his passion to write news, reviews and more for Car and Driver since 2016. His aspiration growing up was to become a millionaire with a Jay Leno-esque car collection. Apparently, getting rich is harder than social media influencers make it seem, so he eschewed financial success altogether to become an automotive journalist and drive new cars for a living. After earning a degree from Central Michigan University and working at a daily newspaper, the years of basically burning money on failed project cars and lemon-flavored jalopies finally paid off when Car and Driver hired him. His garage currently includes a 2010 Acura RDX, a manual ’97 Chevy Camaro Z/28, and a ’90 Honda CRX Si.