BMW 5 Series Touring review
The Touring adds a big and versatile boot to the already excellent 5 Series package
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 £3,000 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 are only two models missing from the 5 Series Touring range when compared to the saloon, so there's no 530e Touring plug-in hybrid or high-performance M5 Touring. Instead, the 5 Series Touring range is fairly reserved, with 520i, 530i and 540i petrols and 520d, 525d and 530d diesels available.
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Six-cylinder power used to be the norm in the 5 Series, but the current 520i and 530i models are both powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 187bhp or 256bhp. The 520d has a potent 193bhp diesel, and the 525d has a 234bhp version of the same engine.
If you want a straight-six, then you need the 340bhp 540i petrol or 269bhp 530d diesel. All models come with BMW's excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox, while xDrive four-wheel drive is standard on the 540i, and an option on the 520d and 530d.
Prices for the 5 Series Touring range start at around £38,000 for the 520i, while the 530d is around £39,000. It's worth noting that these two models are the only ones that fall below the £450 road tax threshold for the first five years of road tax you pay, and they'll soon break that if you start adding options. At the top of the range, the 540i has a starting price of around £54,000.
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 A6 is getting on a bit, 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.
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, while the Volvo V90 is arguably more stylish, but no rival can match the BMW’s mix of practicality, space and driving 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 desn'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 5.1 seconds. The UK will not get the Europe-only M550d xDrive for the time being, nor are there plans for an M5 Touring.
BMW offers many of the same engines and powertrains across its 5 Series saloon and Touring ranges. However, while buyers are offered a wide range of petrol and diesel motors, the 530e plug-in hybrid is not currently 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 7.8 seconds and hit nearly 140mph on a stretch of empty autobahn – yet it’s also capable of more than 60mpg.
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 and 530i, or a range-topping six-cylinder 335bhp 540i xDrive. A pair of mid-range 525d and 530d diesels complete the range, boasting more power than the basic 520d. In addition to the 540i, the 520d and 530d are also available with xDrive all-wheel drive.
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 and 530d diesels 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 only the entry-level 520d SE comes in under the £40,000 barrier for lower road tax.
It’s that model that offers the lowest CO2 emissions and best fuel economy, claiming 62.7mpg and 114g/km. The six-cylinder 530d will do 56.5mpg and 131g/km, while an xDrive model is slightly worse off again; offering 51.4mpg and 144g/km emissions. The diesels are likely to be the most attractive company cars, too, with the 520d falling into the 24 per cent BiK tax band and the rear-wheel drive 530d posting a 28 per cent rating. The petrol models are exempt from the three per cent diesel surcharge, however.
If petrol-power takes your fancy, the four-cylinder 530i will do 46.3mpg, and the 335bhp 540i should return 37.7mpg. As with any car, however, drive with a heavy right foot and these numbers will plummet.
There’s no plug-in hybrid 530e Touring – that model is only available as a saloon for the time being.
Insurance for the new BMW 5 Series Touring starts at group 30 for a 520d SE, rising to group 41 for a 530d in M Sport trim. Curiously, the most expensive 540i xDrive sits one group lower (group 40), while the popular 520d in desirable M Sport spec sits in group 31.
For comparison, a Mercedes E 220d AMG Line is group 31, while a Volvo V90 D4 R-Design is bundled into group 27.
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 10.25-inch Professional Multimedia sat-nav system. It’s just that more of it is optional on the exec estate.
Apple CarPlay preparation is £235 extra, but BMW is the first manufacturer to integrate the connectivity tech wirelessly. The Connected app allows integration with Android smartphones, and 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.
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 sizeable 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 4,942mm nose to tail, only an Audi A6 Avant is longer. The BMW 5 Series Touring is very similarly proportioned to all its main rivals, however, and is only 9mm 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.
However, the large exterior dimensions do at least translate to a sizeable 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 570-litre boot. Although it’s 70 litres down on the Mercedes E-Class, it still offers 10 litres more load capacity than the Volvo V90 and is a usable shape.
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 120 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.
Reliability and Safety
Despite being a really 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 15th place in the 2016 Driver Power survey, ahead of Audi and Land Rover, but behind Lexus, Jaguar, Mercedes and Porsche. That’s still a decent finish however, and in the top 50 per cent of all 32 manufacturers.
It’s safe, too. 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.
Autonomous braking comes as part of the £895 Driving Assistant pack, which also adds rear cross traffic alert, lane change and lane departure warning, collision alert and speed limit info.
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 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. Called Service Inclusive, the 5’s first three services are covered for a fixed-rate £399, including oil and filter changes. All labour is covered, though consumables like wiper blades and tyres will, of course, cost extra.
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.