BMW’s next-generation iDrive system will debut in the upcoming iX

Some 20 years ago most cars didn’t have infotainment displays and their dashboards were crowded with buttons and knobs. Come 2021 and almost every car out there comes with a display, usually ranging from seven to 12.3 inches (so companies offer larger screens). But things are about to go wild, as Mercedes-Benz just unveiled the Hyperscreen, a massive 56-inch infotainment display that’s basically stretches over the entire dashboard. Needless to say, Mercedes stole the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show with it, but BMW also gets a piece of the action with a new-generation iDrive system.

BMW debuts new iDrive system at CES 2021, but Mercedes' Hyperscreen MBUX still reigns supreme
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There’s not a lot of info to run by just yet, but it’s pretty obvious that BMW lost the size battle. While Mercedes opted to stretch the screen over the entire dashboard, BMW is keeping it the old-fashioned way with smaller displays behind the steering wheel and on top of the center stack.

By "smaller" I mean smaller than Merc’s gargantuan 56-inch full dash. BMW’s new displays are clearly larger than before. There’s no specific info on size, but it looks like each screen is larger than 12 inches. We’re probably looking at the same 14.9-inch infotainment display that BMW showcased in the upcoming iX.

BMW’s new layout is similar to what Mercedes-Benz is currently offering in most of its cars. The instrument cluster and infotainment displays are set next to each other, so it looks like there’s a really wide screen stretching from the left corner of the dash to where the center stack meets the passenger side.

So what’s new beyond these large screen with high-resolution graphics? BMW says the new-gen iDrive bridges the gap "between analogue and digital technology" and relies on cloud-based services and real-time data more than ever. Most details are still under wraps, but this new infotainment system has access to a greater amount of information than the driver, so it can anticipate events and thus provide a safer journey through automated driving and parking.

BMW says it will receive and display hazard warnings from other BMW vehicles and make predictions on the availability of parking spaces at a destination. These are just a couple of examples, but BMW also claims that the next-generation iDrive "is set up to utilize the potential of an intelligently connected vehicle more extensively than ever and so make the mobility experience even safer."

When will the new iDrive system debut?

BMW debuts new iDrive system at CES 2021, but Mercedes' Hyperscreen MBUX still reigns supreme Interior
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The next-gen iDrive operation system will be officially unveiled "later in 2021" and it will find its way into dealerships in the BMW iX.

Showcased in concept form in 2018 and in pre-production guise in 2020, the mid-size all-electric crossover is scheduled to go into production in 2021. The iX will be the first luxury vehicle to feature built-in 5G technology and 20 times the on-board computing power of previous BMW models. It can process double the amount of data coming from cameras and sensors, which will translate into a higher level of automated driving capability.

BMW celebrates 20 years since the first-gen iDrive debuted

BMW debuts new iDrive system at CES 2021, but Mercedes' Hyperscreen MBUX still reigns supreme Interior
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Although it didn’t provide much info on the new-gen iDrive system, the German company used the event celebrate 20 years since it launched the first-gen iDrive version. Introduced in 2001 in the 7 Series, the first-gen iDrive stared a new trend that saw the amount of buttons and knobs disappear from dashboards as more and more controls were moved onto digital screens. The first-gen iDrive was followed by more innovations, such as the first production head-up display system (2004) and gesture control (2015).

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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