The Touring badge has adorned BMW’s most spacious models since 1971, when it was conceived to convey the extra practicality on offer without diluting the firm’s sporty image.
BMW estates retain the style and dynamic ability of their saloon cousins today. But the all-new, fourth-generation 5-Series model promises to be the biggest and best yet.
As with the saloon, the latest Touring has the longest wheelbase in the class, but sharp, well proportioned styling offers an athletic stance. At the front, the striking headlamps and tidy lines also give an upmarket look.
The new rear lamp clusters are equally smart, and the useful split tailgate design remains. It’s been a feature of every 5-Series Touring, with its handy opening rear windscreen. With the back seats in place, boot capacity is 60 litres greater than before, at 560 litres – although it still trails the Mercedes for outright load space.
Handily, the luggage cover rises and lowers automatically, while the rear seats fold flat at the touch of a remote release in the boot – boosting capacity to 1,670 litres. This is 20 litres more than in the old model, and on a par with the A6, but the 5-Series can’t match the 1,950-litre E-Class.
All is not lost for the Touring, though, as it has the widest load floor, a standard netted load divider, a shallow underfloor stowage area and a split-opening rear hatch. While it doesn’t have the biggest boot, the load area is functional and well thought out.
Just as accomplished is the cabin. To all intents and purposes, it’s identical to the saloon’s, with impeccable-quality materials. The modern dash, classy switchgear and upmarket design all impress, while the faultless seating position and latest iDrive control system add to the sense of occasion.
The huge central screen and clear mapping of the BMW’s optional sat-nav system take the strain out of unfamiliar roads – although at £2,045, the Professional Multimedia kit is pricey. Yet even without costly extras, the 5-Series cabin gets the basics right, and leads the class.
Refinement is excellent, too. Wind and road noise are well isolated, and the 3.0-litre diesel is hushed at idle. With 242bhp and 540Nm of torque transferred to the rear wheels through a slick eight-speed automatic transmission, it has effortless and scintillating performance.
As the box offers so many ratios, this is the most flexible car here, and the willing straight-six engine has turbine-like smoothness. The Touring retains the saloon’s poise. Body control is reassuringly composed, while the balance between front-end grip and traction is superb.
Plus, despite slightly elastic weighting, the steering offers precision and feedback that’s unmatched by rivals. It’s important to mention, though, that our car had Adaptive Drive (£2,220). This combines the standard Dynamic Drive Control system – and its Normal, Sport and Sport+ chassis, throttle and steering settings – with variable dampers and an extra Comfort mode, plus active roll bars that further tighten body control.
Our car’s larger 19-inch wheels hamper comfort on rough roads and potholed streets, but active dampers ensure it rides well at speed. All models get self- levelling rear suspension, and the brakes are powerful and progressive.
On this evidence, BMW’s latest Touring lives up to the reputation of its predecessors. Refined, fast, efficient and functional, it proves desirability and luxury can go hand-in-hand with practicality.
Chart position: 1WHY: Latest 5-Series is our favourite executive saloon, but this is the first time we’ve put the new Touring variant to the test.