Word is out that BMW's updating its high-performance M line of vehicles for the 2009 model year. Featuring a host of external tweaks, such as new taillight designs and exterior mirrors, the most noteworthy updates are the inclusion of the new iDrive across the M line, a competition package for the M6, a new hard drive-based navigation system, and what BMW calls ConnectedDrive.
On the performance front, the entire M line will see incremental power upgrades and suspension tweaks, but the M6 gets the biggest bump with the addition of an optional competition package. This primarily suspension package consists of lower ride height (12 mm front/10 mm rear), adapted suspension control, and new forged allow wheels. Cosmetically, the competition package M6 will include a new, more aggressive hood.
The new iDrive control system, which we first saw in the 2009 BMW 3-Series preview, will be standard in M5 and M6 and optional in the M3. The rotary controller has been redesigned and the menu structure has been revised to make functions easier to find. BMW says this new system is simpler to use and more intuitively operated. The old iDrive system was harshly criticized by the automotive press for being extremely difficult to use, so any improvement is a welcome improvement.
BMW's new navigation system will dump the old DVD-based storage for an 80 GB hard drive that will store 3D map data, a travel planner and music for quick access times. The system can rip music from a CD, MP3 player, or USB stick to the hard drive for playback. BMW didn't state how much of the 80 GB is reserved for music archival.
Finally, BMW's ConnectedDrive is an in-car Internet access option that allows users to browse the Web on the vehicle's display using the iDrive controller. For safety reasons, the system only displays when the vehicle is stopped and offers enhanced remote functions similar to GM's OnStar system (remote unlocking, etc.). We have our reservations about using the iDrive knob to navigate Web pages with any level of efficiency, but we'll have to wait until we can test the system to make any judgments.