The European: Blind truth

AUSmotive.com - The European
BMW 5 Series

The new BMW 5 series has recently been unveiled to the motoring press in Portugal. As luck would have it, The European was there to sample the new F10 first hand. That’s me above and, thankfully, the editor agreed to put boxes over my face to protect my identity.

The great post-Bangle debate has already begun the as Adrian van Hooydonk emerges with a new language for this most iconic of sedans. As other scribes chair that agenda, I would like to quietly offer readers of this blog an exclusive first drive instead. Don’t ever say we here at AUSmotive fail to bring you the very latest European automotive news.

Sitting in the new Five is much like the old, with a stylish wraparound dash that is more driver focused than the previous model’s, the driving position just so. As soon as we’re underway it’s apparent that the Five has evolved into perhaps the ultimate expression of BMW’s driving experience with perfectly weighted controls and excellent response to all inputs. Some worried that the move to electric rather than hydraulic steering would diminish the sort of tactile feedback that BMW has worked so hard to perfect but they need not have—it’s sensational and a lesson to others who have tried and failed to inject any sort of feel into their systems (are you listening Mercedes?).

BMW 5 Series

It only takes as far as the first bend to know the rest of the chassis has been honed to take this new platform to an altogether more competent level, incorporating brilliant suspension control over every surface without resulting in a harsh ride in the name of a ‘sporting’ feel (are you listening Audi?).

The rear wheel chassis, while not as compliant as say the latest Jag XF, which can waft and turn in with aplomb, makes this car feel as though it shrinks around you, taking 3 Series character but the sort of room that a two generations ago 7 Series owner would have thought more than ample at the time.

Away from the back roads that characterise the visions of the Bavarian chassis engineers, the big Beemer is happy to deliver the sort of real world mastery that made it’s forebears nothing less than the gold standard on which all its competitors were judged. It must be tough as an opponent when your current line up didn’t rate higher than the now superseded E60 because in every respect the new Five is better; better built, more usable gadgets, more space and when the new engines begin arriving over the next 12-18 months—better performance and economy. Such is the lot of a rival.

So there you have it—the new BMW F10 5 Series. Whether or not any of this turns out to be true is another matter, apologies, because the entire test was nothing but cobblers. Like any good fib, it has to have a ring of truth to it and pulling out a few cliches was all designed to throw you off the scent, which is exactly why I needed to have you hooked. Truth is, and my point here, is that we’re all subject to preconception even when we would otherwise strenuously deny it.

I recently finished a brilliant book called The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow which explains the world around us mathematically, in particular, the randomness of it all. In it he recounts many psychological tests played out over the years by university professors on their unsuspecting students which seek to demonstrate a variety of theories about the way we think and interact with our world.

For instance, one test had some white wine infused secretly with a little red colour to give it the appearance more akin to a rose and consequently the expert wine tasters all rated the (fake) rose sweeter than the untinted white wine. More recently, researchers gathered subjects to taste five different varieties priced from $10 to $90 but had in fact used the same wine in each bottle and had their lab rats wired up to a brain scanner which showed the bit of the brain that that encodes our pleasure was much more active whilst tasting the ‘more expensive’ wines. It’s one thing to know you are being swayed by a badge it’s another to have crossed Matrix style to the other side and actually believe it wholeheartedly.

Given that, how can we expect to ever drive a car and make true assessments? Think of all the things you hear about various cars and wonder, could a tester—be it a paid writer or simply you taking the car on a test drive—ever be able to leave your preconceptions at the dealership door? Who makes the best built interiors? Audi. Who makes the best sporting sedans? BMW. Which is more likely to break down—a Honda or an Alfa? While some of these answers may be true and based on fact, maybe you can begin to appreciate how hard it is then putting aside these preconceptions each time you get into a new car. Don’t think car journos would be any different—in some ways, they’d be worse.

The New York Met introduced blind auditions because, until not so long ago, the orchestra had women play only ‘feminine’ instruments because they were deemed unable to play more ‘masculine’ ones like a trumpet (experts said so, and were then proved wrong by blind auditions).

Perhaps we could all do that next time we drive a new car but I’m just worried that all the blindfolded drivers may in fact not be able to perceive heading into oncoming traffic.

BMW 5 Series