Launch report:

BMW 5-Series Touring review

by David Morgan (20 September 2010)

Drive a car for more than a thousand miles over two days and you get to know it well. I've just done that with the fourth-generation BMW 5-Series Touring and clambered out 36 hours after leaving the centre of Munich. Leaving from the centre of Munich, not far from BMW's iconic "Four Cylinder Building" global HQ was a relaxed affair. And so it should have been at 5.30am when ever self-respecting Münchener was still fast asleep.

The streets were eerily quiet as I headed north out of the city towards Ingolstadt, Nürnberg and then west to Frankfurt. By 8am I was on an unrestricted autobahn topping 135mph in my 184bhp two-litre 520d Touring. It was glorious.

But it wasn't all ton-up express work. I had to cover more than 600 miles to reach my ferry at Ijmuiden on the Dutch coast that evening. For most of the journey things went well, with BMW's latest navigation system keeping me on track while the superb head-up display gave me speed and turn-by-turn instructions every kilometre of the way. But my luck ran out and the traffic gradually ground to halt as Dutch road works and diversions, and a navigation mistake by my good self, turned what ought to have been a rapid cruise into a nail-biting final dash for the ferry.

Here's a tip. If, as I was, you are driving an outstandingly comfortable estate with a flexible turbodiesel linked to a silky-smooth eight-speed automatic, and if said estate has one of the world's best sat-nav systems, do not, under any circumstances, do what I did about 100 miles from Ijmuiden – turn it off and try your hand at navigating from memory.

BMW 5-Series Touring.I did, and allowed my travel-fuddled brain to think I should be heading for Hook of Holland. It was only when I arrived that the awful truth dawned – the ferry in front of me was due to leave for Harwich. My ship should have been bound for Newcastle and was even then warming up for its 638-mile passage some 52 miles further north.

Call it what you like - a senior moment or allowing the complacency of many European car journeys to eliminate the rather obvious fact that I'd navigated my way to the wrong ferry terminal. Had it not been for that excellent navigation system and its ability to calmly guide me along some obscure but busy coastal urban side roads before picking up a road that took me to Ijmuiden, I might still be in Europe now! I made the ferry with no time to spare. The 520d Touring was the last car aboard and by the time I'd evacuated the car deck and reached my cabin the King of Scandinavia was under way.

My trip home from Newcastle was a lot less fraught, but by choice equally long. This is a car that encourages detours. By the time I arrived home the 520d Touring had covered 1250 miles in 36 hours and averaged 41mpg – astonishing considering my high average autobahn speeds, diversions and a lot of gentle perambulating. The official combined economy figure is an amazing 55.4mpg while the CO2 level is 129g/km – a Band D figure that means the 520d will cost just £90 a year in Road Tax.

More importantly, I emerged feeling fresh and supple – not something I can say about every premium car I've driven over such long distances. All 5-Series Tourings come with Dakota leather and Bluetooth as part of the deal – features that would have cost £535 and £1190 respectively on the previous model. They also get the handy glass hatch opening as standard along with self-levelling rear air suspension, 40-20-40 split rear seats with automatic fold-flat feature, roof rails, parking aids front and rear, start/stop and electric power steering.

However, other desirable features on my car will cost more. The excellent eight-speed automatic transmission is a must at £1495, and I'd thoroughly recommend the fine head-up display despite its high £940 price. Metallic paint costs £640 while the standard high gloss black interior trim can be changed to aluminium or a choice of light or dark wood for between £235 and £350.

The four-cylinder 520d will be the top-selling 5 Touring. At £30,380 for a brisk 184bhp estate I am not surprised. Next in line will be the 245bhp 530d at £39,400 while a 299bhp 535d twin turbo tops the range with a 204bhp 525d also on offer. And if you feel the need for petrol power you can opt for a 204bhp 523i, a 258bhp 528i or a 306bhp 535i. An M Sport version will join the range soon and is set to take 50% of all 5-Series sales, but personally I see nothing wrong with the excellent SE.

The new 5 Touring costs around £2200 more than the equivalent saloon. It is 64mm longer than its predecessor, stands on a wheelbase that is 82mm longer, has 20mm less overhang and is 14mm wider. and it looks so much better. More power, more torque, cleaner emissions, better mpg, more carrying capacity than ever, outstanding refinement, generous specification and performance and handling that eclipses anything else in its sector - this is an excellent premium estate.


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