BMW unveils next generation iDrive 7.0 infotainment system

Pioneering BMW iDrive system gets a sophisticated makeover and should appear first in the new BMW X5

BMW has unveiled a sophisticated infotainment system that's set to debut on the X5 SUV later in 2018 – and it doesn't rely on touchscreen technology.

BMW was among the first companies to rethink the car's media, information and settings controls. For years, a car's stereo and air conditioning system involved dozens of confusing buttons, many of which only had a single purpose. Initially appearing in the 2001 BMW 7 Series, the iDrive system did away with most of the buttons in favour of a single rotary controller and a series of menus.

iDrive got off to a rocky start. Originally, the rotary controller could be moved in eight separate planes, each of which led to a specific menu. This was criticised for being too complex, and later versions abandoned diagonal movements but retained the horizontal and vertical planes. Through years of refinement, iDrive has become one of the most intuitive infotainment control systems in the industry, and one that many prefer to fingerprint-prone touchscreen systems.

In recent years, interactive in-car technology has made huge leaps forwards, and BMW's latest – officially dubbed BMW Operating System 7.0 – combines the proven iDrive system with state-of-the-art gesture recognition. Even if you're new to BMWs you should find it easy to find your way around the iDrive 7.0. The high-resolution centre screen is now more sensitive to touch than previously, and swipe gestures are recognised. Alternatively, the rotary controller remains in place within reach of the driver's seat, and voice control is also at hand.

At the centre of the iDrive 7.0 experience is a 'home page' that's unique to anybody with a 'profie' set up on the car – every key can be assigned a separate profile, or you can call a profile up with a pin number. The home page can be customised with up to four 'widgets' for frequently accessed menus and commands, and each can lead to up to ten pages. This makes features such as parking information or weather information accessible with just a few screen swipes or twists of the rotary controller.

Another big change is the instrument cluster, which now forms an integral part of the iDrive system. The famed round BMW dials are gone, replaced by purely digital information on a high resolution screen behind the steering wheel. As shown by these presentation images, there are several 'themed' displays, with different colours and information styles depending on the driving mode selected. Also, like Volkswagen's Active Info Display, Audi's Virtual Cockpit and Peugeot's iCockpit, navigation mapping can be displayed with driving information superimposed on top.

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