If variety is the spice of life, then the interior of the modern executive car is a bowl of plain white rice.
Don’t get me wrong, perceived quality and infotainment technology have never been better, with the new BMW 5 Series moving things on again in both areas. However, as appealing as that is, the impact is slightly undermined by how familiar it all feels; basically, it's the interior from the 7 Series (pictured below), but with the centre console angled more sharply towards the driver.
Everything you touch feels expensive and the latest version of BMW’s iDrive control system is hard to fault. The only real reason to choose a 7 Series over a 5 Series now is because you want the prestige that comes from having the higher number. Plus, the similarities mean neither car feels quite as special as they otherwise might have done.
The same complaint could just as easily be levelled at other prestige brands, of course. This is obviously a conservative sector of the car market, where body-coloured interior panels or garish trim wouldn’t go down well. Still, surely there’s room for the designers to be let off the leash just a little bit?
Opinion: Steve Huntingford on autonomous features
One of the big questions thrown up by autonomous driving technology is how blame should be assigned in the event of an accident, with car manufacturers having very different views on this.
The new 5 Series allows the driver to take their hands off the wheel for up to 30 seconds, whereas the likes of Volvo, Tesla and Mercedes-Benz insist that you keep your hands on the wheel at all times.
In fact, Volvo has stated that it will accept responsibility if one of its cars is proven to be at fault and was being used correctly at the time, whereas BMW says the driver remains responsible for the car when the autonomous driving function is operating, having taken the decision to activate what it considers to be no more than a driver aid.
While BMW’s position leaves less room for ambiguity, it’s surely only a matter of time before someone mounts a legal challenge following an accident. It will be interesting to see what conclusion the courts come to, because that, more than anything else, will shape the future of autonomous driving.