Introducing the 2011 BMW 5-Series.

Coming soon to the driveways of Dublin Ranch homes is the brand-new, 2011 BMW 5-Series. Officially unveiled at the BMW Museum in Munich yesterday, if you haven’t seen photos of this incredible automobile you owe it to yourself to check them out on This is sure to be the most talked-about car to come around in a long time.

I’m sure it’s no secret that I’m a HUGE BMW fan, and this has me “giddy” (can I use that word?) with excitement. To me, BMW represents a brand that combines the very best in driving characteristics with the very latest in technology. It should come as no surprise that they have a technology office in Downtown Palo Alto, and that’s great fun for those who live in Dublin Ranch and commute to Silicon Valley for work. Allow me, for a blog post, to allow my inner geek to take over. Here’s my list of favorite things about the new technology being introduced in the 2011 BMW 5 series.

  • The entire gauge pack is a screen. BMW calls this their “Black Panel” technology, and this takes Knight Rider to a new level. The instruments behind the steering wheel are all integrated into a high-resolution screen. When you get in the car, the speedometer is black with the exception of the rings around the speedometer and tachometer. Turn the car on, and if it’s daytime the numbers of the display light up in white; they light in BMW amber if it’s dark. This also means that graphic alerts and messages can light the space around the gauges, and the different things that can be displayed are infinite. In other words, this car doesn’t have “traditional” lights for oil, parking brake, etc. You’ll see these alerts displayed in a high-resolution screen, which is your speedometer.
  • It works hard to get good gas mileage. All of the accessories that are normally connected to the engine are run electrically in the new 5-series. This includes the air conditioner, water pump, and even the power steering pump that only runs when you’re steering. Unlike a regular car where the power steering pump drains engine power all the time, if you’re driving in a straight line on the freeway it doesn’t use any energy at all. Like a hybrid vehicle, the brakes charge the battery that has been custom-designed and is a lot bigger than a normal car battery to accommodate for the extra load. In addition, the new 535i and 550i comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Both top gears are considering “road gears,” which cuts down on engine rotations while you’re on the freeway to save gas.
  • The rear wheels steer, too. The back wheels can swivel to assist in steering the car, and that’s great because it adds to the maneuverability and handling of the car. At slower speeds, the rear wheels turn opposite the front wheels so you have an easier time making U-turns and getting in and out of parking spots. Out on the freeway, they turn in the same direction as the front wheels; this makes changing lanes a more fluid motion that is especially noticeable for those in the back seat.
  • It parks itself. This technology was originally made famous in the latest Lexus LS line, but it’s still pretty cool and is now offered in the 2011 5 Series. You activate the system while driving on a street in San Francisco looking for parking. When it passes a spot that’s large enough for your car to fit, it alerts you. You pull up and stop, and put the car in reverse. While you are using the brakes and gas to guide the car into the spot, the system actually steers the car for the “perfect park-job.” Here’s my question: if the system messes up and scratches a rim, does BMW pay for that? Hah!
  • You can be an idiot and drive this car. The new 5 series accommodates for human error by alerting you when you’re changing lanes without using your turn signal, when you’re changing lanes and there’s a car in your blind-spot, when you’re heading for the car in front of you and don’t seem to be stopping yet, and will actually slam on the brakes for you to stop the car so you don’t rear-end someone! These alerts are actually optional features, so you’ll pay extra money to accommodate for your lack of awareness. Still, it’s nice to know your teenage kids will have an extra set of eyes on the road while they’re driving and Facebooking… hah!
  • See like a bird. Cars have had cameras in the rear for several years now, but the new 5 Series has cameras in the sides as well. These cameras make changing lanes and parallel parking easier, but BMW didn’t stop there… When you put the car in reverse, it processes all three images it “sees” out the sides and rear, and then puts on the navigation screen a birds-eye view of you, your car, and all the obstacles around you at the time. This is so cool I’m practically speechless.

I could go on and on, but if you want to read more there’s an official press release that’s over 7000 words that will do a much better job than me. I’m really excited about this new chapter in BMW history, though, and can’t wait to see the car over at East Bay BMW in the spring. It will also be interesting to see how it’s compared with the new E-Class recently introduced by Mercedes.