INTERVIEW: BMW 5 Series Head of Product Management Dr. Wolfgang Hacker

5-series, Interesting, News | December 8th, 2016 by 1
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Right now, the automotive world is buzzing with news of the new BMW 5 Series. New for this year, the 5 Series is now in …

Right now, the automotive world is buzzing with news of the new BMW 5 Series. New for this year, the 5 Series is now in its G30-generation and is showing massive signs of improvement. While the old F10-generation 5 Series is a great car and one that sold in simply enormous quantities, it lacked a lot of the “Ultimate Driving Machine” experience fans love. So BMW set out to remedy that with this new G30-gen car. To discuss this, we sat down with the Head of Product Management for the BMW 5 Series, Dr. Wolfgang Hacker.

We opened with the biggest question, the one everyone wants to hear the answer to — How has the steering changed in the new car? “We tried to give the car a great road feedback” said Hacker. This was probably the biggest issue with the previous F10-generation car, as its steering was too artificial feeling. One of the areas where BMW improved this was in the variable steering system.

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Much maligned on previous BMWs, the new variable steering system has a much simpler style of varying the steering ratio. Instead of it changing based on many different parameters, which can lead to wildly different results, the steering speed simply increases the more the steering wheel turns. More steering input directly equals faster steering. This is far more predictable and progressive.

However, BMW didn’t want to lose the all-around nature of the F10 5 Series. The Bavarians still very much feel that the 5 Series must be two cars in one. It needs to be comfortable and quiet to drive long distances in, for business people and for families, but it also needs to be fun and dynamic on back roads. “It’s really a car for every occasion” said Hacker.

But, BMW does offer a couple of models that will get the blood pumping, if the that’s the sort of thing you value a bit more than comfort. For instance, the BMW 540i M Sport and BMW M550i are two cars that are equally as fun to drive as they are comfortable to cruise in. With the M550i, though, some fans are afraid that BMW isn’t leaving enough room for the proper M5, as the former car can hit 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds flat, faster than the previous-gen M5. However, Hacker feels that the M5 will be even more aggressive still. “The M5 will be even another step up from [the M550i]”.

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But, being a popular luxury car, interior cabin tech is always at the forefront of BMW’s priority list. So BMW decided to take some of the interesting cabin tech from the 7 Series and implement it into the new 5er. However, BMW did add some new improvements, rather than just slapping it in there. When asked if the Gesture Control system was the same, Hacker said “No, we improved it. For example, you have new functions.” to which he continued “For example again, let’s say you have your navigation up and you stop at a gas station, the car will ask you if you want to continue and you can swipe it away”. BMW wanted to set the standard in the segment for interior cabin tech, ergonomics and interaction. It’s why BMW is improving on its Gesture Control system and adding touchscreen capabilities.

One of the biggest fads in the luxury car game nowadays is autonomous driving. BMW’s flagship 7 Series was the first to bring real autonomous driving aids to the brand and those same aids have been improved and been given to the 5 Series. The autonomous driving system now responds to many different factors and allows the driver to keep their hands off the wheel for longer.

“It depends on the car in front of you, the speed of the car, so it’s several factors” said Hacker. The new 5 Series has 26 sensors and 4 cameras to allow it to monitor its surroundings. But when it’s time for you to take over, the car let’s you know. “You get a yellow steering wheel which says ‘this is a system you can trust but keep your view on the street and then there’s a long way to get the red sign that says the system is shutting off and you need to get your hands on the steering wheel”. This system is 18 months ahead of the 7 Series, in terms of development. But the 7er will be getting it in the future.

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Speaking of 7 Series, one of the biggest points of focus for BMW was making the 5 Series very specifically not a 7 Series. For business people, it’s sort of a taboo to pull up to a client’s house in a 7 Series or S-Class. It’s a bit uncouth to display tremendous wealth to a client in Europe, so a 7 Series is a bit rude. However, a 5 Series is still respectable, therefore BMW wanted the 5 Series to be instantly recognizable as a 5er. “It’s accepted worldwide. You can drive to your client’s with the car, it’s a high-level but not too much. Especially in Europe, somehow, this is an issue when you drive with a 7 Series, it’s a big car, to a customer. It’s not the case with a 5 Series, it’s still accepted.” Although, there will be a long-wheelbase model available in China only, as that European issue doesn’t seem to affect the Chinese market.

We also tried to get some concrete evidence of the 5 Series GT becoming the 6 Series GT, so we could quiet some doubters, but Hacker wouldn’t bite. “That’s a bit too early to discuss”.

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