Testing The BMW 5 Series Executive Sedan, A Car Re-imagined As Tech Gadget – Forbes
Douglas Coupland wrote of the ‘extreme present’ the ‘super future’ where we are living inside the future day and night. The author and artist’s words come to me as I find myself alone in the 5 Series on a long stretch of highway. And although I am practically in the middle of nowhere, I cannot be more connected to my work, the family and the wider world. If I snooze, my car will alert me, perhaps take to a little autonomy. It is unlikely I’ll get lost given the sophisticated navigation on-board. So, I get to sit securely behind the wheels, car in auto, cruise control monitoring my speed, whilst I catch up on my emails through voice recognition and listen to my new Spotify playlist.
BMW’s latest executive sedan represents the motor car in 2017. It is a wise and complex tech machine and it indicates how we will move around in the foreseeable future. For, as evocative as some of the fabulously futuristic driverless fantasy concept cars are, that is exactly what they will remain – fantasy. The reality is consumers are more conservative than they would like to admit, and it is intellectual cars like this 5 Series, ones that don’t need to shout about their credentials, that will lead the way to the second life of the motor car.
That is not to say the 5 Series is dull. BMW tends to have a pure relationship with design. Here too the design is measured; the car has a serene sensibility evoking a European refinement which has come to define the marque. The exterior and interior are premium and polished in a manner only the likes of BMW and Audi can achieve within this model range. There is no ornamentation here – no element of the 5 is frivolous styling. You know where things are; the touch and feel is refined and, in this context, I quite like it.
The 5 Series narrative is centered on advanced technology. This is one of the most intellectual vehicles in its class. BMW is committed to making all its cars as connected, piloted and advanced as possible and, crucially, responding quickly to new technology. The marque, I am told, is repositioning itself as a tech firm. It now has a dedicated site near the Munich manufacturing facility in Germany to help speed the application of technology – keep up with our other gadgets by working towards a four-week delivery time for app updates. Given that a car typically takes some five to seven years to produce, this is a remarkable achievement.
I recall speaking with director of BMW Group design Adrian van Hooydonk in 2011 as he explained the Vision ConnectedDrive study car. We were beginning our reliance on smartphones and, looking back, the ideas presented seemed so far-fetched. Now, these are pretty much standard in many premium cars. Meeting again with him at the Geneva Motor Show, van Hooydonk admitted he is diversifying his creative team, increasingly recruiting digital natives and designers who are naturally in tune with the digital age. He says this is crucial to the survival of traditional car manufacturers like BMW.