First Drive: BMW 5 Series Touring

12th June 2017
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

We love our estate cars in the UK; America doesn’t get them at all, but BMW sells 50 per cent of all 5 Series Tourings in Germany followed by a decent wedge in the UK. In many ways the estate car remains the perfect compromise for families, adventure seekers, and those with stuff to cart around. You get the space and practicality of an SUV but a lower ride height and therefore handling more akin to that of a saloon.


And that’s where the BMW 5 Series has traditionally excelled. It’s a big car, for busy families, but the Bavarian DNA is barely diluted: taut chassis, sharp styling, precise steering, smooth diesels and powerful petrols, smart interior, loaded with tech.

It expects to sell about 5,000 of its latest 5 Series Touring, which will be a third of the total 5 Series sales in the UK. For the first time, the model is offered with xDrive, BMW’s intelligent four-wheel-drive system, which is already an option on the 3 Series Touring and has, unsurprisingly, proved popular. The system sends varying amount of power fore and aft, depending on conditions. After all, if you’ve already paid the extra for the estate payload (the heaviest in the class, thanks to the standard rear air suspension) and boot space, why would you plump for rear-wheel drive, which only spells trouble in muddy fields or halfway up a ski resort?

We tested the 530d xDrive M Sport Touring, a car that starts at £51,330 but, if you load it up with all the most recent, cutting-edge technology BMW has to offer, you’ll turn this unassuming estate into a £72,935 car. Of course, few people will order it with all the bells and whistles, especially not fleet drivers, who form an important wedge of 5 Series customers (the range starts at £38,075), but when you see all the innovations BMW now has to offer to customers, it’s pretty impressive.


The external looks have barely changed over the predecessor, but inside the styling is an improvement. BMW has carved out more space internally, so that parents can now fit three car seats across the rear (although there’s still only two sets of IsoFix) and boot space is up to 1,700 litres.

Up front, the design is familiar in its spartan appeal but there is a host of smarter, better technology. The large infotainment screen can be controlled via the familiar iDrive rotary knob or gesture control or by touching the screen. Gesture control works well but you do still look like a bit of a fool swiping at the air. It comes as part of a £1,500 technology package that includes the enhanced heads-up display (more information displayed), better Bluetooth with wireless charging, and wifi hotspot.

The Touring is now capable of all sorts of clever things (as options, at a price, naturally). You can reverse the car or drive it forward remotely, using the smart key fob, out of a tight parking spot to enter it, and an updated active cruise control monitors not merely the speed of the next car but the actions of the next three cars ahead, by bouncing the sensors off the road underneath the car immediately in front. 

From July, software upgrades mean the 5 Series Touring will gain a degree of autonomous driving, and will also undertake overtaking manoeuvres for you if you keep the indicator depressed. Using the same cloud technology that’s coming to all of us soon, the BMW Connected service means the 5 Series will talk to other BMWs on the road, receiving data from them in real time to inform the driver of upcoming situations. For example, if BMWs up ahead have activated their windscreen wipers, a rain alert will pop up. If you link to the BMW app, the car will inform you, via the satnav, of parking spaces up ahead, which roads are emptier than others, and if a car has just vacated a space. 


You can programme in meetings on your calendar, which will be displayed on the car's touchscreen with reminders of your next appointment, and, if your email uses Windows Office, the car will read emails aloud to you and allow you to dictate one back. 

None of this is unique to BMW, but you won’t get the technology much quicker on any of its competitor cars – Mercedes and Audi are also both there or thereabouts.

Where BMW stands out is still in the stuff it has always done best – powertrains and chassis. The 5 Series Touring is still probably the best estate out there from a driver’s point of view. The 520d is a fine thing if it’s fuel economy you’re after – we ran one for six months and there was plenty enough power with 190bhp for family cruising – but the 530d is a fine, fine car, with 265bhp and, more importantly, 457 ib ft of torque. The result is buttery-smooth, quiet acceleration, and 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds. We’d take the xDrive version, purely for the practicality, but above all this is still a refined, and good-looking premium estate. Plus ca change.

Price as tested: £72,935

  • BMW

  • 5-series

  • goodwood_bmw_5-series_29032017_01-copy.jpg


    Review: BMW 540i xDrive

  • bmw_528i_andrew_jordan_23022017.jpg


    Video: Flat-out on track in a Group A BMW 528i with Andrew Jordan

  • bmw_538_group_a_andrew_jordan_31011701.jpg


    Gallery: Behind the scenes – Andrew Jordan and the BMW 528i