BMW puts self-driving in the spotlight with new 5 Series
As autonomous driving creeps closer, manufacturers seem to be trying to cram as much self-driving tech into their cars as possible. Though Tesla Model S has caused problems by pushing the boundaries, Mercedes has used the E-Class to show exactly what current radar-guided systems can do. Now, BMW has unveiled its seventh-generation 5 Series, loaded to the gills with semi-autonomous driving systems to make life easier for the driver.
There's a lot more to the 5 Series than just a set of radar-driven cruise control systems – it's a brand-new car under the skin, after all – but that's where we're going to start. Along with the basic lane-keeping assist and cross traffic alerts, which are now standard fitment on low-end hatchbacks, the new BMW midsizer will take care of acceleration, steering and braking up to 210 km/h (130 mph).
Using a camera mounted on the front, the system will also automatically adapt to changing speed limits, although drivers can force the car to push 15 km/h (9 mph) above it if they want. Just don't blame BMW when those speeding tickets start rolling in.
All this self-driving hardware is built on top of a brand new platform, which has contributed to a 100 kg (220 lb) weight saving. The new Cluster Architecture (CLAR) also makes the new 5 Series stiffer than before, which will help with safety and handling.
One of the areas in serious need of improvement was the outgoing car's interior. Although it was on the cutting edge when the sixth-generation 5 Series launched back in 2010, Mercedes and Audi have moved the game forward considerably since then, and the latest generation car has been totally overhauled to match them.
Although it doesn't look quite as flashy as some Mercedes cabins, BMW has essentially made the seventh-generation 5 Series look like a shrunken 7 Series inside.
The new car's interior should be much smoother and quieter than the one it replaces. Special windshield glazing and a redesigned engine bay work to keep the driver isolated from any unpleasant vibrations and sounds, as does a redesigned headliner.
The 10.25 inch central touchscreen and infotainment system can be controlled using the latest generation iDrive touch/twist controller. Smartphone users can charge the battery wirelessly, and a gesture control system allows drivers to change audio volume and answer calls with a swipe of the finger.
Under the hood, you'll find a range of more powerful and efficient turbo engines. When the car launches in February 2017, the set of petrol motors will kick off with the 530i putting out 185 kW (252 hp) of power and a useful 350 Nm (258 lb.ft) of torque. Those after more power can stretch to the 540i, with an extra 65 kW (87 hp) of power and 100 Nm (74 lb.ft) of torque on tap. Diesel will be represented by the 520d, which pumps out 140 kW (190 hp) and 400 Nm (295 lb.ft) of torque.
The initial launch set of engines will be joined by four more in March, headlined by the V8M550i xDrive making 340 kW (462 hp) and 650 Nm (479 lb.ft) of torque. A 530e iPerformance hybrid will also be offered, with an all-electric range of 45 km (28 mi) from its compact electric motor. All these engines are more efficient than the ones they replace, thanks in part to the new car's improved aerodynamic efficiency. In its most aerodynamic trim, the new 5 Series has a drag coefficient of just 0.22.
All models will be available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and all-wheel drive is available on all models except the base level diesel and the hybrid. Along with better grip, all-wheel drive brings with it rear-wheel steering which turns in the opposite direction to the front wheels at low speed, and in the same direction for greater stability at high speed.
The new 5 Series will make its market debut on February 11 2017. Pricing has yet to be announced.
You can check out a launch film of the car below.