BMW 5 Series Touring review
The Touring adds a big and versatile boot to the already excellent 5 Series package
The BMW 5 Series Touring is at the top of the executive estate car class, thanks to a perfect blend of performance and practicality. There’s a range of economical engines and it’s great to drive, too, with sports car-like dynamics and limo levels of luxury and refinement.
If you’re not interested in one of the latest large SUVs, the 5 Series Touring is an extremely accomplished family car, with loads of practical touches and a beautifully built interior. A Mercedes E-Class Estate is bigger, and the Audi A6 Avant is more sophisticated, but nothing can match the BMW’s mix of practicality, space and driving ability.
About the BMW 5 Series Touring
If you want one of the best all-round family cars money can buy, the BMW 5 Series Touring is a strong contender. It uses the 5 Series saloon as its foundation, and adds a bigger boot to make the interior spacious and versatile for family life. If you have a family of four or five and an SUV doesn't hold much appeal, then the 5 Series could be the perfect solution.
The 5 Series Touring range mirrors that of the 5 Series saloon, although not every version of the saloon doubles up as a Touring. There are two trims on offer, SE and M Sport, but all cars are very well equipped. Self-levelling suspension, a powered tailgate with separate opening glass, leather, front and rear parking sensors, BMW's Professional sat-nav, heated front seats and two-zone climate control are all fitted as standard.
Upgrade to M Sport trim for about £3,500 extra and you get a subtly sportier bodykit, stiffer suspension and bigger wheels, although these upgrades do give the 5 Series Touring a stiffer ride that might be uncomfortable for some.
There’s no high-performance M5 version of the 5 Series Touring. Instead, the range is fairly reserved by BMW standards, with 520i and 540i petrols sold alongside 520d and 530d diesels. There’s also a 530e plug-in hybrid variant.
The 520i has a four-cylinder petrol with an output of 181bhp, while the 540i uses a six-cylinder engine that brings 328bhp to the table. Meanwhile, the 520d has 187bhp diesel unit at its disposal and the 530d offers 282bhp from a 3.0-litre turbodiesel. The plug-in hybrid develops a combined 288bhp from its 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and electric motor.
If you want a straight-six, then you need the 540i petrol or 530d diesel. All models come with BMW's excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox, while xDrive four-wheel drive is standard on the 540i and 530d, but an option on the 520d and 530e.
Prices for the 5 Series Touring range start at around £41,000 for the 520i, while the 520d is around £42,550. It's worth noting that none of the 5 Series Touring models fall below the £40,000 road tax threshold for the first five years of road tax you pay, so you’ll incur an extra £325 per year between years two and six.
Rivals for the 5 Series Touring are the usual suspects, in the form of the Mercedes E-Class Estate, Audi A6 Avant, Jaguar XF Sportbrake and Volvo V90. The E-Class has a bigger boot, the Sportbrake isn't quite as spacious and the V90 is arguably more stylish, but none of these rivals can match the BMW's all-round ability.
Engines, performance and drive
The 5 Series Touring is based on BMW’s OKL platform for rear-wheel-drive vehicles. This uses similar tech to the larger 7 Series luxury saloon, only the 5 Series doesn’t feature the flagship’s Carbon Core technology in a bid to keep costs down. However, there’s still extensive use of lightweight alloys to deliver a good level of dynamic ability, despite more metalwork around the rear end due to the estate bodystyle.
The Touring weighs only 35kg more than the saloon, at 1,660kg for the 520d, so it's remarkably similar to drive. With optional Variable Damper Control in its softest setting the 520d rides smoothly but with plenty of control, absorbing imperfections in the road with a supple edge, even on fairly large wheels and low-profile tyres.
Switch to Sport mode and the compliance is still there, with the chassis dealing with undulations well. However, the softer edge is replaced by firmer damping, with tighter body and wheel control that means you can really exploit the grip the BMW’s chassis serves up – but in total security.
The steering is the best in class – it doesn't offer much in the way of feedback, but it's precise, and allied to its grippier chassis, means the 5 Series is the most involving car in the class to drive. This is true even in day-to-day driving, while the comfort and ride quality edge it ahead, too.
All models are refined and comfortable, even on the M Sport model’s bigger wheels. Rear self-levelling air suspension is standard on all cars, which not only improves the ride, but also raises the 5’s load limit by 120kg to an appreciable 750kg.
Those after a bit more pace should look towards the six-cylinder 540i, which offers near-M5 performance in a discreet and usable package. It’s only available with xDrive all-wheel drive, but the 0-62mph dash is taken care of in just 5.2 seconds. The UK will not get the Europe-only M550d xDrive for the time being, nor are there plans for an M5 Touring.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
BMW offers many of the same engines and powertrains across its 5 Series saloon and Touring ranges, and this includes the 530e plug-in hybrid which previously wasn’t available in estate form.
The 520d will tick a lot of boxes for a lot of buyers, offering low fuel consumption and decent performance. The 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel will do 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds and hit nearly 140mph on a stretch of empty autobahn – yet it’s also capable of up to 55.4mpg.
When we tested the 520d it felt much improved and quieter than before, and with 400Nm of torque its performance is spot on. We managed 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds. This was two tenths slower than the more powerful Mercedes E 220 d Estate, while it trailed the Volvo V90 D4 by half a second. However, it’s not enough to make a difference on the road as the 5 Series’ in-gear performance is on par with its rivals. This is where it counts, and with the eight-speed automatic gearbox handling changes smoothly and rattling through gearshifts quickly in manual mode using the paddles, the 5 Series was the most comfortable, refined car of the three.
Those after a petrol 5 Series Touring are offered a choice of the four-cylinder 520i or the range-topping, six-cylinder 328bhp 540i xDrive. A mid-range 530d diesel completes the diesel offering, boasting more power than the basic 520d. The plug-in hybrid 530e will hit 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds, with an all-electric range of up to 35 miles.
All versions are fast and relatively frugal, and each is capable of covering big distances with ease. The 520d is our pick of the range, but the excellent petrols are quiet, refined and punchy, too.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
Avoid one of the top-spec petrol engines, and you’ll find the BMW 5 Series Touring a surprisingly affordable car to run. List prices are high, however, and not even the entry-level 520i SE comes in under the £40,000 barrier for lower road tax.
All cars now come with mild-hybrid technology, but the model that offers the lowest CO2 emissions and best fuel economy is the 530e. As much as 188.3mpg is promised on paper, although this figure assumes you’ll begin every journey with a full charge in the 12kWh battery and won’t drive far beyond the electric range. Combining its official CO2 emissions of 35-38g/km and the all-electric range of up to 35 miles, the 530e attracts an exceedingly low Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax rate. You could pay as little as 13 per cent in BiK for 2021/22, while you’re looking at more than double that for the 520d.
If you don’t want a plug-in hybrid but fuel bills are still a concern, the next best bet is the 520d, which will do up to 55.4mpg and emit 134-141g/km of CO2. Adding four-wheel drive into the equation knocks a couple of miles per gallon off the estimate across the board.
If petrol-power takes your fancy, the four-cylinder 520i will do 42.2mpg, and the 328bhp 540i should return 35.8mpg. As with any car, however, drive with a heavy right foot and these numbers will plummet.
Insurance for the new BMW 5 Series Touring starts at group 32 for a 520i SE, rising to group 43 for a 530d xDrive in M Sport trim. Curiously, the most expensive 540i xDrive sits one group lower (group 42), while the popular 520d in desirable M Sport spec sits in group 35.
Residual values for the BMW 5 Series Touring are pretty good, with almost every model retaining more than 40 per cent of its original list price after three years or 60,000 miles. A BMW 520d M Sport will hold on to around 45 per cent of its value, with a range-topping 540i retaining nearer 43 per cent.
Interior, design and technology
The BMW 5 Series saloon is beautifully built, and the same is true of the Touring estate. It’s a sporty looking family car, especially in top-spec M Sport trim, with a long list of standard kit and a solid and durable interior.
It gets a fairly limited colour palette, comprising the usual blues, blacks, whites and greys, though inside, owners can spruce things up a bit with Ivory, Mocha or even Cognac-coloured leather. In fact, all these are no-cost options on the M Sport car, though you’ll pay extra for contrast stitching. The dash and doors are covered in yet more high-quality materials, from fine woods to brushed aluminium. BMW’s engineers have done a top job, and there’s little to tell this 5 Series apart from its more expensive 7 Series sibling.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Like the 5 Series’ chassis, there’s plenty of tech carried over from the larger 7 Series luxury saloon in the 12.3-inch Professional Multimedia sat-nav system. It’s just that more of it is optional on the exec estate.
Apple CarPlay used to be a £235 extra, but - along with Android Auto compatibility - it’s now a standard feature. Indeed, BMW was the first manufacturer to integrate the connectivity tech wirelessly. Elsewhere, the BMW Connected app can even link with Amazon Alexa for those using this technology. Online services are standard, offering news and weather reports, just like in the Mercedes E-Class.
One option that's available is the Technology Pack for around £1,500, which includes Gesture Control. This lets you perform tasks such as changing the volume with just the whirl of a finger in front of the screen, although it seems an unnecessary gimmick that doesn’t always work. The digital dash isn’t quite as comprehensive as its rivals’, but the Technology Pack’s wireless charging feature is useful, as is the addition of a head-up display.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Thanks to a wide variety of handy and helpful touches, the new BMW 5 Series Touring is a big, practical and family-friendly car. It’s based on the saloon model, of course, but ditches the conventional covered boot for a more versatile estate-style body. It comes with only five seats, though the BMW X5 SUV remains a worthy seven-seat alternative.
There are loads of storage solutions dotted around the cabin, including big door bins, a sizable glovebox, and a central armrest that doubles as a cubby. The boot is big, and the split-opening tailgate has been carried over from the old car to aid loading in tight spaces. There’s loads of room inside for adults both in the front and the rear, too.
Measuring 4,963mm nose to tail, few estates are longer than he BMW 5 Series Touring. The car is very similarly proportioned to all its main rivals, however, and is only slightly longer than a Mercedes E-Class Estate – the shortest of all the 5’s competitors. A Volvo V90 is quite a bit wider, though the BMW is the tallest of the bunch.
The large exterior dimensions do at least translate to a sizable cabin. If you want something smaller, take a look at the equally desirable and still practical BMW 3 Series Touring. BMW’s range of X1, X3 and X5 SUVs are worth a look, too.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The 5 Touring has an extremely spacious and well-appointed cabin, with loads of room for rear-seat passengers to sit comfortably on long journeys. Clever touches like a bubble in the roof means even cars fitted with the optional panoramic roof aren’t adversely affected when it comes to headroom. There really is enough space for six-foot passengers to sit in the back, while up front there’s loads of scope for minute adjustments to the driving position. It’s a really comfortable car.
BMW also claims there’s enough width across the back to fit three child seats side-by-side. That may be true, but only the two outer seats get ISOFIX mounts.
Estates are all about practicality, and the 5 Series offers plenty of space thanks to its 560-litre boot. It’s a fair bit down on the Mercedes E-Class, and offers the same load capacity as the Volvo V90. It’s a usable shape too.
The BMW gets a standard power tailgate but its split design gives it a practicality advantage over its rivals; the rear glass opens, making it easier to load shopping bags. With the boot open there’s no loading lip, either.
Fold the 40:20:40 seats flat and the 5 Touring’s 1,700-litre load bay is over 100 litres smaller than its Mercedes rival, though it beats the Volvo’s 1,526-litre volume. You can remove the BMW’s two-piece parcel shelf in a matter of seconds, and both parts store neatly under the floor in a specially-designed compartment.
Don’t forget that the plug-in hybrid version of the 5 Series Touring loses some boot space due to the fact that its battery is located under the floor: you’ll be looking at only 430 litres in the boot of the 530e as a result, while capacity with the rear seats down stands at 1,560 litres.
Reliability and Safety
Despite being a relatively new car, the BMW 5 Series Touring is expected to be a reliable family car. The four- and six-cylinder engines all feature elsewhere in the BMW range and should prove dependable and economical to live with.
BMW finished in 27th place in the 2020 Driver Power survey, ahead of Mercedes but behind basically every other company it competes with. All things considered, that’s not a great result and suggests that customer satisfaction could be a lot better.
The 5 Series Touring is safe, though. Despite being tested as a saloon, the Touring will be subjected to all the same safety standards – built in the same factory, with the same machines. The saloon managed a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, with an impressive 91 per cent for adult occupancy and 85 per cent for child occupancy. It earned an 81 per cent rating for pedestrian protection and 59 per cent in the safety assist category.
A suite of autonomous safety aids are now standard too, including automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
All BMWs come with a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty. That’s an identical guarantee to the one you’ll get with Mercedes, and beats Audi’s 60,000-mile limitation. The 5 Series Touring also gets a three-year paintwork warranty, while corrosion is also covered for 12 years.
As with rivals, the BMW 5 Series Touring is available with the brand’s tried and tested pre-paid servicing packages. Nowadays you can cover servicing costs with a monthly £25 over three years, which gets you two services and extras like fluid top ups, an MOT and sat-nav map updates.
All cars need servicing at least every 12 months, though higher mileage drivers (of which there will be many) should be visiting their dealer more frequently. Your car will inform you when it’s time to check in, of course.