BMW's 520d Touring ticks all of the boxes - and can carry plenty of them too
The new BMW 5 Series Touring is bigger than ever, but is it better? Jack Evans heads to Munich to find out
The 5 Series Touring is a bit of an underground success for BMW. More than one million units have been sold since it first went into production in 1972, offering buyers high levels of practicality with that all-important badge appeal. The recipe has remained largely unchanged; take all the refinement that you find in the 5 Series saloon, but increase its spaciousness and all-round flexibility.
It’s been a package that has sold well throughout Europe, and this latest version is the most technologically advanced yet, bringing with it increased levels of autonomous assistance as well as a host of in-car features. There’s a fine range of engines to choose from, too.
Looks and image
The recently launched BMW 5 Series is a smart looking thing, featuring understated yet premium styling that is a world away from the out-there looks of the Bangle-era cars. The Touring is an extension of that and, in our eyes at least, looks even better than the saloon. BMW seem to be hitting the mark with its cars in terms of styling of late, with creases in just the right places and overall sense of class that isn’t all that available in competitor’s cars.
Inside, the cabin takes many design cues from the larger 7 Series. That’s no bad thing – the seven’s cabin is a great place to be, and the Touring’s is just the same. Everything is logically laid out and the seats are comfortable as well as supportive.
Space and practicality
To be classed as a success, an estate really has to do well in terms of practicality. The 5 Series Touring ticks all the right boxes here. It’s able to offer 570 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place, rising to 1,700 litres with them folded flat. The former figure is 10 litres larger than the car it replaces, while the latter is 30 litres greater. It’s a very square load area too, making it ideal for larger items like suitcases. Those rear seats are lowered electronically, giving the car even better levels of accessibility, too.
The 5 Series Touring retains the previous generation’s pop glass hatch too. This is a function that has become synonymous with BMW touring models, and it’s something that becomes more useful the more your use it. It gives easy access to the boot without having to open the entire hatch, which is ideal for when you want to grab something from inside the car quickly. It’s great for those drivers who have dogs too, as it allows you to check on the animals without having to open the rear.
Behind the wheel
There’s very little to complain about when it comes to the 5 Series Touring’s driving style. Despite its size – it’s now well over 1,630mm in width and more than 2,975mm in length – it never feels unwieldly, and this is down to its well-judged steering which is both precise and predictable. In truth, it lacks any real feel, but remains accurate. The power delivery in the 520d model is good too, with plenty of poke on tap regardless of revs. The eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox changes cogs smartly, and there’s the option of doing this yourself by either switching the gear lever into manual mode or via the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
In SE trim the 5 Series rides impressively well. Potholes and bumps in the road send little – if any – shockwaves through to the cabin. All cars come fitted with rear air suspension, and this contributes heavily to the car’s ride quality, while it also means that the 5 Series Touring’s ride shouldn’t suffer when it’s loaded up with luggage in the rear – as estates tend to be. There’s also very little road noise intrusion into the cockpit, and this, when coupled with the excellent ride, makes for a relaxing driving experience and one that will suit long-distance drivers well. BMW has worked hard to make the Touring just as quiet inside as the saloon (the additional load area can increase the amount of noise entering the cabin via the rear axle), and this extra effort is really translated into the drive.
Value for money
Base-spec SE cars come with a high level of standard equipment. Priced from £38,385, SE-spec cars benefit from 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, air conditioning, as well as front and rear parking sensors. All cars get BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment system, accessed via a 10.25-inch colour touchscreen.
Of course, as with any car in the BMW range, there’s a vast options list to choose from. Highlights from this include Driving Assistant Plus, which incorporates adaptive cruise control, lane change assistant and lane keeping assistant, as well as steering and lane control assistant. These semi-autonomous functions assist the driver with both throttle management and steering. There’s also an M Sport trim available, incorporating larger alloy wheels and a more aerodynamic bodykit, among other features.
Who would buy one?
The 5 Series Touring is ideal for those drivers who want a little more space and practicality than the saloon can offer. Sure, for the best overall load space you’d need to look at the Mercedes E-Class Estate, but given its all-round ability and refined yet involving drive, it’s well worth considering. There’s also a good range of engines available, as well as four-wheel-drive models, making it a genuine alternative to an SUV.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: BMW 520d Touring SE
Base price: £38,385
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel
Economy: 62.7mpg (combined)
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