BMW 525d Touring SE

Want pace to go with your estate’s space? That’s the 5-Series’ forte

BMW has a strong reputation as a manufacturer of sporting cars, but there has been a practical Touring version of the 5-Series since the E34-generation model went on sale in 1989. The current car, which is only 3mm longer than the saloon, was facelifted earlier this year. It’s well proportioned, and the strong lines of the 5-Series work a treat in load-lugging form.

While the Touring has the longest wheelbase here, the 500-litre seats-up boot capacity is the smallest of this quartet, a substantial 190 litres behind the Mercedes. That figure is slightly misleading, though, because while boot length with the seats up isn’t too impressive, it’s more competitive when they’re down. The load bay is wide, and has a low load lip, too. The 525d is also equipped with run-flat tyres, so there’s extra storage under the boot floor where the spare wheel would normally sit.

Once the rear seats are folded, capacity increases to 1,650 litres. While this is 300 litres behind the Mercedes, it’s only 10 litres off the Audi and 50 litres up on the Volvo. The BMW also includes handy luggage hooks.

Rear passenger room is decent, but the wide transmission tunnel makes the middle seat uncomfortable. Up front, the most noticeable change from the old car is the new gear selector lever that comes with the optional automatic box. There’s also a small stowage area in front of this, although cabin storage still isn’t a strong point. However, with an excellent range of wheel and seat movement, the driving position is excellent, and the chairs are supportive.

The dash design is focused around the driver, and while it doesn’t feel particularly luxurious, its build quality can’t be faulted. Overall, it is modern but a bit slabby.

However, it’s the driving experience that really makes the 525d stand out. The 5-Series turns in with a sharpness that is unmatched by its rivals, and once you add in great feedback, minimal body roll and excellent grip, it really involves the driver. On twisty roads, it’s more agile and alive than the Mercedes, less ponderous than the Volvo, and more composed than the Audi. While the ride is quite solid, the damping is impressive. What’s more, it doesn’t suffer the steering kickback and suspension patter that upset the Volvo.

The hard sidewalls of the run-flat tyres give it a slightly firm edge at low speeds, but most ruts and ridges are soaked up. Self-levelling suspension is standard at the rear, while Dynamic Drive active roll bars are a £1,630 option. However, even in standard trim, the 525d still offers an excellent dynamic compromise between handling and refinement.

The BMW’s 3.0-litre engine is smooth, delivering its power with minimal turbo lag, and a nice spread of torque across the rev range. The £1,470 automatic transmission is quick to respond and offers slick shifts, while the brakes provide the most feel through the pedal. With 197bhp, the 525d is the most powerful, too, and the 400Nm torque output matches the Mercedes and Volvo – yet it feels noticeably quicker, both in kickdown and under normal acceleration. It was nearly two seconds faster than the Volvo from 0-60mph, and if you consider the 5-Series’ low emissions and best claimed economy, the engine really is an excellent performer.

At £34,615, the 525d is expensive, but with front and rear parking sensors, as well as an opening rear screen as standard, it’s reasonably well equipped. But is it practical enough to win through and take victory here?

Details

Model tested: BMW 525d Touring SEChart position: 1WHY: The 5-Series offers driver appeal, quality and low running costs in a practical package

Economy

Not only is the BMW the fastest car here, it’s also the most efficient. Cutting-edge features such as Brake Energy Regeneration helped it return 38.6mpg on test

Residuals

The BMW is expected to retain 48.9 per cent of its value over the first three years of ownership. That’s better than the saloon version and makes it the top performer here

Servicing

Fixed-price servicing is offered for the 525d. Three years’ service and maintenance is £940, while service only costs £445. Five years’ cover is also available

Tax

BMW’s reworked 3.0-litre engine emits 176g/km and falls in the 25 per cent bracket. It would cost higher band company car owners £3,462 a year

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