Some details has surfaced on the internet about the next generation BMW iDrive. First is something that has been already implemented on new 2009 European BMW models. These models will be getting hard drive based iDrive navigation systems, which should result in much faster navigation performance compared to the current DVD-based systems.
The downside is you will have to bring your BMW back to the service center to update the maps rather than just getting a DVD and replacing it in the DVD slot of your iDrive system, but I think this is far outweighed by the performance benefits of a hard-drive based navigation system, which is what Mercedes-Benz is using.
The other thing is something coming in the future: the possibility of customizing iDrive via a computer connected to iDrive via a USB-interface. According to Channel4, drivers will be able to configure customised screen-savers, menu themes, the sound clip used for seatbelt warnings and other sound alerts. Other new features include pre-heating of the seats or remote activation of air conditioning.
A more “functional” higher level of personalisation rather than just aesthetics will include being able to automatically tune to preferred radio stations are different times of a day, such as listening to the hitz.fm morning crew in the morning but another radio station on the way home in the evening. Different horn tones can be set for different situations – a friendlier tone for notifications and a more aggressive louder tone when you want to do the equivalent of flipping the bird when someone cuts into your lane in a dangerous manner.
Higher end models will have various variable settings via iDrive such as engine, suspension, transmission and level of power steering assistance. The new Volvo S80 has this feature where you can set how heavy the power steering is via the on-board computer.