2017 BMW 5 Series Offers 7 Series Tech for Less

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CARS.COM — The latest BMW 7 Series is loaded with some sweet technology, lots of gadgets, and doodads that can shock and awe the average new-car buyer — awe you in terms of what the car can do, shock you in terms of how much it’ll cost you to get them in your 7er.

Related: 2017 BMW 5 Series Earns Top Safety Honor

But with the latest 2017 5 Series, it turns out that you don’t actually need to pony up the six-figure sums in order to get your hands on the latest cool tech from the German luxury brand. Or, more accurately, pony up so that you can use the hands-free stuff and not put your hands on anything at all.

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Several systems that were introduced on the 7 Series have now filtered down to the 5 Series, things like BMW’s Gesture Control for the multimedia system and the Remote Control Parking, both of which will serve to amaze your friends and scare your unhip parents. And to be honest, some of the tech features are more useful than others.

Gesture Control

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Let’s start with the less useful stuff. Top of the list is Gesture Control, a system that scans the airspace in front of the display screen and actually sees what motions you’re making with your hand. You have a choice of just three hand motions — volume control, pinch to spin (only operational when the exterior cameras are active) and a two-fingered pointing motion that you can set to perform one of a couple of dozen possible actions; I turned it into a “next track/next station” action. Point two spread fingers at the dash, and bing — it changes to the next track if my iPhone is connected or the next preset on the radio if it isn’t.

The problem with this is that you need to take your right hand off the steering wheel to make these motions … and there’s absolutely no reason to do it when the controls for volume and audio system are located right there under your right thumb. So it doesn’t solve any problems, doesn’t make tasks any easier, doesn’t make anything safer.

Remote Control Parking

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More useful, and easily far more striking to witness, is Remote Control Parking. Got a single-car garage that’s already full of stuff, but you’ve hollowed out a space just a few inches larger than the car? Has some dingbat parked so close to your driver door that you can’t open it to pull out and leave?

Remote Control Parking has your back — pull up to the garage, turn the car off and get out. Once you’re standing next to the car, use the LCD touchscreen on the oversized key fob to turn the engine on, then, while holding down a special button with your thumb, use your other hand to press a forward or backward arrow key — and the car shifts into gear and glides into or out of your garage or parking space. Yes, Tesla has offered this on the Model S for a little while now (its “summon” feature), but as this impromptu first-ever autonomous drag race between the BMW 540i and Tesla Model S P90D demonstrates, the BMW is clearly better at it.

BMW’s autonomous driving features, such as they are, aren’t yet anything special. They’re not even really semi-autonomous — they require your hands on the wheel at all times, and while they may help steer the vehicle for you, Mercedes-Benz has them beat, allowing you to take your hands off completely and even changing lanes autonomously if you activate the turn signal. The latest Nissan ProPilot Assist works just as well as the fancier (and undoubtedly more expensive) BMW system.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see something more autonomous coming from BMW in the near future; after all, we know their cars can operate themselves, at least at super-low speeds when parking. It’s only a matter of time before that becomes more functional.

More Tech, Less Money

Specifying the Remote Control Parking function in a 7 Series will cost $550 as a standalone option, but it requires a $700 parking package as well. Add that to destination and the base cost of a 740i, and you’re looking at $85,345. On the 5 Series, you have to choose the pricier 540i, as it’s not available on the 530i. On the 540i, it’s a $750 option, but requires a $1,400 Driving Assistance Plus package and the $650 keyless entry package, for a total of $62,745 — nearly $23,000 less than the 7 Series.

Of course, you don’t get the extra space that the 7 Series brings. But if you’re willing to give up a little space in exchange for some cool tech at a lower price, you now have options at the BMW dealer.

Photo of Aaron Bragman
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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