Andrea Tarr published this great blog post outlining all the new features in 2.5. The three new features that will be promoted heavily in Joomla 2.5's marketing are multi-database support, the new search engine and even easier updates.
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Joomla 2.5, due out in January 2012, will have a host of new features including new search functionality, multi-database support, and update notification. The following article describes these features. Many people in the community have contributed to making these features possible, some of whom are listed here. Moving from 1.7 to 2.5 can be done with the one-click upgrade within Joomla and most extensions that run on 1.7 should also run on 2.5.