The BMW 5 Series has been with us since 1972. When it first made its debut, it offered little more technological gadgetry than your average toaster. Compare that with the all-new, 7th generation 5 Series and we can appreciate just how far BMW has come in the development of its most important driving machine. During a recent 5 Series press drive I attended, I had some time to ponder five of my favorite new technologies found on the 2017 BMW 5 Series.
1. Active aerodynamics. Active aerodynamics is a term usually reserved for conversations regarding supercars and race cars. However, BMW has used this technology to improve the efficiency of its new 5 Series. Moveable slats are placed behind the conventional kidney grille and lower air intakes, offering control over airflow into the engine bay. If airflow is needed to cool the engine, these slats will open up offering a path for fresh air to reach the radiator. When cooling is not required, these slats can block airflow, diverting it over the hood and around the sides of the car, reducing drag. This aerodynamic feature means that the overall drag coefficient of the new 5 Series can be as low as 0.26 (0.26 for rear drive, 0.27 for xDrive models).
2. 3D Surround View. Bird’s eye view parking cameras are impressive technologies, but they aren’t anything new. BMW has taken this type of tech one step further with its 3D Surround View system. Wide angle cameras located in the front and rear bumpers and under both wing mirrors capture the car’s surroundings. When these four images are stitched together, they form a 3D projection of the area surrounding the car. The driver can then explore this image to see if there are any potential hazards such as closely parked cars or other obstacles. The BMW Connected App further augments the system. When logged into the app, you can bring up the 3D surround view from anywhere in the world, helping you to keep an ever watchful eye on your pride and joy.
3. Display Key. Display Key was first available on the current 7 Series, and now the technology is also available on the new 5 Series. It does away with the old hat key fob that could merely lock and unlock doors. It replaces it with a touch-screen device that can convey key information about your car, and even remotely control it.
Swipe through the five functions and you will come across basic information such as remaining range and window/lock status. However, the last two functions are more special. The Preconditioning Settings allow you to set the temperature of the interior prior to starting your journey, which is a useful gadget to have on those blisteringly hot or bitterly cold days. But the fun really starts with the final screen: R/C Parking. See my next favorite thing.
4. Remote Parking. We have all been there haven’t we? You get back to the parking lot, only to find that the two cars on either side of you have parked too close. Previously, the only way to get into your car is to open the door as much as is possible and slide your way in; most undignified. This is no longer the case with the 5 Series. Using the Display Key, you can stand clear of your car and pull the car out of the parking space. You use the touch screen interface to start the car, then slide a picture of a car forward or backward to pull out of the spot. The system uses a plethora of sensors including ultrasonic Parking Distance Control (PDC) and video cameras to see where it is going. Once the car is in or out of the space, you can turn off the engine, all without ever entering the car.
The remote control parking function only works in a straight line though, as anything over 11 degrees from true will throw an error. For more assistance with your parking woes, you will need the automated parking feature. That leads us to my final favorite thing.
5. Automated parking. If R/C Parking can help you pull in and out of a tight space, what if you need a helping hand with parallel or perpendicular parking? BMW has you covered there, too. If you’re driving alongside parking spaces at speeds under 22 mph, and with your turn signal on, the car is actively scanning for a space large enough to fit in. If it finds a space that is more than 30 inches longer than the car itself, a notification will appear on the infotainment screen making you aware that the automated parking function is available. To initiate the procedure, you need to press and hold the parking button on the center console. From this point on, the car takes full control. Steering, gear selection, acceleration, and braking are all controlled by the car’s electronic brain, while you just sit back and relax. The car uses the PDC sensors to check its proximity to nearby objects. It parked itself almost perfectly every time we tested the feature.