As I cruise down Silicon Valley’s Bayshore Freeway, I twirl my right index finger in small clockwise circles. Though the gesture recognition system needs several tries to pick up the command and crank up the 16-speaker stereo, the 20 air chambers massaging my backside keep my frustration at bay.

All the while, the 2017 BMW 5 Series is doing the driving, maintaining a safe speed and staying between the lane lines. And here, surrounded by an armada of tiny sensors and whiz-bang gizmos, I wonder: Has the Ultimate Driving Machine yielded to the Ultimate Autonomy, Luxury, and Technology Machine?

Return to Roots—Sort Of

In a former life, the 5 Series was the sports sedan, the car Audi and Mercedes-Benz engineers saw in their sleep. A perfect stew of tossable handling, smooth power, a full-size trunk, and room for the kiddies, it offered speed-thirsty parents salvation. Then came the sixth generation 5 Series (2010-2016), which abandoned the driver-centric mantra for a softer, heavier, and cushier drive.

The seventh gen 5 Series is here to reclaim its reputation, or at least some of it. It’s still packed with high-end tech, and it’s a touch bigger than the outgoing car, but it’s also 137 pounds lighter, thanks to helpings of aluminum, high-strength steel, and magnesium.