What is it?
Following the launch of last year’s award-winning saloon, BMW has moved onto the 5 Series second variant: the eminently likeable Touring. The estate version remains something of a European preoccupation (96 percent of the volume never leaves the continent), but that’s hardly limited the model’s success: the outgoing generation was the most popular yet, and accounted for almost a third of all 5 Series sold in the UK.
Regarding the latest version, the big news, appropriately, is bigness. The car is marginally larger in all directions than the model it replaces, and improves on the saloon’s seat-up boot volume by around 40 litres. At 570 litres, it only offers 10 litres more than its predecessor, but the permissible load limit is up by 120kg to as much as 730kg.
The reason for the payload gain is simple enough: alongside now standard self-leveling air suspension at the back, BMW has cut up to 100kg from the previous model’s kerbweight thanks to a more sophisticated mix of materials in the 5 Series new platform and body (the tailgate is now made of aluminium, for example).
Predictably, the weight loss results in wider efficiency gains. At launch, BMW will offer two petrol engines and three diesel in the UK – all mated to the eight-speed Steptronic automatic. Most notable in volume terms are the 520d and 530d, the respective 188bhp 2.0-litre four-pot and 261bhp 3.0-litre straight-six (the latter also offered in xDrive format).
BMW claims up to an 11 percent improvement in fuel consumption, making the 520d a 62.7mpg prospect. The 530d’s combined claim improves to 56.4mpg against a 5.8 seconds 0-62mph sprint. The 520d starts at a premium tax rate swerving £38,385; the 530d, £46,235 (with a £2k walkup to the xDrive variant).
What's it like?
Any concern that the wagon might not drive with quite the same élan as the saloon are dispelled in around a nanosecond. This is the 5 Series in its immaculate latest guise: hushed, plush and persuasively brisk. It’s quite possible that the Touring’s combination of air-fettled backend and optional variable dampers make it the finest riding version yet – a lingering suspicion that obviously requires verifying back in the UK, but one continually evoked nevertheless by the ultra-supple wheel control in evidence on German roads.
Either way, no matter the chassis alterations or the burlier body plonked on top, the isolation of occupants remains top drawer. Its enduring soft-edged tolerance of the road isn’t necessarily an aid to incisiveness, although, as with the saloon, any feeble grumble about the 5 Series’ slightly aloof dynamic is steam-rollered flat by its thickset control weights and cosseting, cathedral-quiet super-cruise.
Unsurprisingly, this temperament is best savoured with the siren song of the 3.0-litre straight-six all around you. Praise enough has already been heaped on the turbocharged unit, making it sufficient here to note that the engine’s charm offensive continues unabated. For its cylinder count, there is surely no finer amalgamation of auto’ box and oil burner currently on sale. So gratifying is the 530d’s apparently indefatigable sonorous twist that it makes the tinnier four-pot seems like a poor, put-upon relation, when in fact of course, 85 percent of the time, the 520d is going as quickly and as quietly as you could reasonably ever want – and burning significantly less hydrocarbons whilst doing it.
Grafting a beautifully upholstered, neatly rectangular estate rump to either motor is no less of a masterstroke than it was with the original E34. Both its usability and pomp have been dramatically enhanced since then: the tailgate and flop of the 40/20/40 back seats is electrically powered, while the parcel shelf lifts politely and inscrutably out of the way and can even be stowed under the flat floor when not in use. Not that you’ll use any of that lot half as much as the rear window tailgate, a Touring model USP and still as brilliantly convenient as when it was first introduced.
Should I buy one?
Apparently 60 percent of all 5 Series sold in Germany are wagons, and frankly it’s hard to fault their esteem. The car’s gradual generational creep from potent driving machine to capacious GT-glider doubtless helps; if you’re buying one on the basis of car’s current strengths (colossal mile-quaffing, luxuriousness, deft comfort) there seems no compelling argument not to opt for the extra practicality.
If the real question then is which one, it’s hard to overlook the 520d SE. Heightened efficiency aside, stooping under the premium tax rate while still featuring 17in alloys, LED headlights, two-zone air con, heated seats, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and the latest generation of 10in iDrive touchscreen makes it a compelling real-world family solution. Only about 15 percent of the time is it genuinely gazumped by the sweeter, significantly pricier 530d – and if the sticker price really is no hindrance then the xDrive version might yet prove to be one of the industry’s definitive all-season, all-purpose heavyweights.
BMW 530d Touring Location Munich On sale Now Price £46,235 Engine Six cyls, 2993cc, turbocharger Power 261bhp at 4000rpm Torque 457lb ft at 2000-2500rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1750kg 0-62mph 5.8sec Top speed 155mph Economy 56.4mpg (combined) CO2 134g/km