Well it looks like it’s time for the annual Garmin GPS refresh. It used to be a semi-annual refresh but the GPS market has reached the point where there’s probably not enough new features to do it twice a year. Couple that with the surge in smartphone GPS apps, and we’re down to an annual refresh. In 2016, the Garmin Drive had put an end to the ten-year old Garmin Nuvi line of GPS units and Garmin has continued to use the naming standard for 2017. This year, they have added 1 to the base number so we are looking at the Garmin Drive 51 and 61 series of automotive GPS devices.
Just like last year, and to keep things interesting, Garmin supplemented the Drive line with three complimentary deviation lines. So add the 2017 versions of the DriveSmart, DriveAssist and Driveluxe. Garmin Drive includes the basic maps of the US or Canada and you get to select the maps when you purchase the GPS. If you buy it in the US, it’s more than likely to be the US map model. If purchased in Canada, then it’s a good bet that Canada is also included, but check the box or online product description.
Garmin changed up the naming standard a bit more this year. You either buy the LM feature which has lifetime map updates or the LMT-S which add a lifetime traffic subscription to the maps. I haven’t figured out what the added S stands for but we’re talking about mounts so it doesn’t matter for this discussion.
The Garmin Drive series has four models (unlike 2016 there is no base model). The dimensions remain the same versus 2016.
Garmin Drive 51LM – All the features of the Garmin Drive line. You can upgrade your maps for free whenever there is an update. The Drive line includes some neat features such as driver awareness alerts for upcoming sharp curves, fatigue warning, speed changes and railroad crossings. The Garmin Drive 51 series measures 5.5″W x 3.3″H x 0.8″D. It has a 5″ diagonal screen.
Garmin Drive 51LMT-S – Same features as the Garmin Drive 51LM plus a lifetime subscription to traffic updates.
Garmin Drive 61LM – A 6″ display with a lifetime maps subscription. The physical dimensions are 6.7″W x 3.7″H x .8″D (17 x 9.4 x 2.1 cm). It includes all the base features described in the Garmin Drive 51 series but adds a larger display.
Garmin Drive 61LMT-S – Just like the Garmin Drive 61LM but it includes a lifetime traffic subscription.
Personally, I never had use for the lifetime map updates as I found that you will likely purchase a new GPS before it’s time to update the maps. I find GPS models are like any other technology in that you upgrade it periodically. And as for traffic, this only works well in large metropolitan areas so if you live in a rural area, skip that feature and save some money.
I also prefer the 5″ display over the 6″. It’s large enough to see the maps clearly. I think the 6 inch is too large. If you are mounting it to the windshield, the additional inch covers up that much more of the front view.
In the box is the usual Garmin accessories: suction cup mount with adapter, adhesive disk and a charger. Garmin has continued the same mount design as last year’s Garmin Drive series. There is a round cradle adapter which snaps onto the back of the GPS for a tight hold. The cradle has a 17mm socket on the back and can be paired with a variety of alternative mounts by simply pulling the cradle off the suction cup mount that comes with the Garmin Drive 51 or 61. The mounting kit in the box includes an adhesive disk. This is useful for states like California and Minnesota where mounting to a windshield is not legal so you need to mount it elsewhere. We wrote a detailed article on these states and you can read it here.
The base suction cup mount hasn’t changed for over ten years. We wrote a detailed article on these mounts. They aren’t the worst mounts in the world but not the best in the world either.
There are many alternative mounts to the Garmin suction cup. We have used and can endorse the Arkon Replacement Suction Cup Mount which is long enough for all of the Garmin Drive models. It’s the mount that is shown in the photo that accompanies this article. The mount includes a dash disk so that you can use it on a dashboard. Unlike the Garmin mount, the mount has an articulation point halfway down to permit greater freedom of adjustment. It’s a more versatile mount than the one that comes in the box. The manufacturer provides a 2-year warranty on this one.
The Garmin Bean Bag Mount is another that has been around for over ten years. The mount features a 17mm ball which snaps onto the cradle. A detailed review of this mount can be read here. Naming standards haven’t caught up to mounts yet so if the description specifies they fit a Garmin Nuvi, it’s safe to assume it will fit the Drive 51 and 61 too. This mount has been around for a long time and Garmin has sold a boat load of these. That’s because it’s a good mount and can be used for many years and can be re-purposed for an upgraded GPS in the years to come. Just attach your cradle and toss it on your dash. Works great on flat dashboards. Not so great on a dash that is significantly sloped.
The middle vents at the top of the console are one of my favorite locations for a Garmin Drive 51 or 61 GPS. The Garmin Vent Mount (made by Garmin) is a good choice. Garmin’s vent mount is very well made and features a clamp on the back. The clamp attaches to the vent slat. This means these mounts will fit horizontal and vertical vents and again don’t worry about it not saying it’s for a Garmin Drive, it will fit fine. While it costs a bit more than the competitors, it’s worth the extra for a well made mount that you can easily install and remove.
A cup holder in the middle console area is often a good place to mount a GPS. Everybody has a spare cup holder. Why not use one of these spare cup holders to mount your Garmin Drive 51 or 61 GPS? The Arkon Cup Holder Mount for Garmin Nuvi fits the Garmin Drive just fine and it features a base that expands to the contour of your car’s cup holder. There is a 5 inch flexible stem to help get the best angle. For the best GPS reception, we find these work best with a sunroof as depending upon the location of your cup holders, it may be challenged to see the satellites in the sky. A cup holder mount isn’t for everyone as it depends upon where the cup holders are located so check it out before purchasing one.
We typically like to suggest a RAM mount for a Garmin GPS. As of the publication date of this article, RAM does not make a custom mount for this GPS series. We will update the article if they do. Fortunately they make a good line of universal cradles. While these cradles are typically marketed for smartphones, they fit a Garmin Drive 51 and 61 GPS too. We discussed RAM’s X-Grip line in a previous article which can be read here.
RAM offers the RAM Handlebar Mount with Universal X-Grip IV Holder which includes the mount and cradle. The cradle opens up to 4.5″ and that’s wide enough to fit any of the GPS Drive models described in this article. The mount fits handlebar diameters to 1.25 inches. The included cradle is great and fits devices like GPS units and large smartphones. The X-Grip cradle includes a safety tether which we suggest using with the Garmin Drive 51 or 61 GPS.