The new for 2017 BMW 5 Series Touring estate has all the qualities of its saloon relation, but with a bit more space and practicality. In 520d guise it's probably the best all-round car money can buy.
In the Metal:
Nothing radical to look at here, just an estate, or, as BMW describes it, Touring. As the 5 Series Saloon is already a handsome car, it'd be a stylist of particularly clumsy CAD skills to mess up the more practical version, and it's safe to say that they haven't: the 5 Series Touring has always been a bit of a looker, and this one's no different. The longer estate roof reaches back to a nicely detailed D-pillar that might rakishly rob the 5 of the outright carrying capacity of its most obvious Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate rival, but you'll forgive it a few litres of capacity for its fine form.
Like those before it, the 5's bigger boot (up 10 litres to 570 litres seats up, or 1,700 litres with them all folded) is accessed either by opening the tailgate conventionally, or via the glass section alone. That tailgate is some 4kg lighter than that of the old car, and BMW's targeted use of aluminium throughout the 5 Series has helped it lose as much as 100kg overall. Not that you'd guess it from the dimensions, as the 5 Series Touring is longer and wider than before.
That translates into a spacious cabin, where BMW says the rear can accommodate three child seats alongside each other - though there's no Isofix points for the one in the middle. The seatbacks fold in a 40/20/40 formation, flat to the floor and the boot is simply vast when all those rear pews aren't occupied. Access to the boot is good, too, thanks to the wide opening. It'll carry 120kg more weight back there than before, as well, to a maximum of 730kg. Standard fitment of self-levelling rear suspension helps manage all that should you be in the habit of filling the boot to its maximum.
Up front, the Touring is all but identical to the saloon, with conventional looking but digitally represented instruments ahead of you and the main infotainment functions situated in a central screen in the dash. Depending on how it's specified the means of operating all of that can be fairly confusing, with everything from normal buttons, to touch sensitive ones, the familiar iDrive controller, voice operation and even gesture control. We'd forget the latter, which is little more than a gimmick.
While we're avoiding options we'd think twice before specifying the full suite of driver aids; the assistance systems that march towards autonomy are a fine, labour-saving idea in principle, but in reality they're more often than not a distraction. Given the 5 Series is the car in its class you're more likely to want to actually drive, they do seem a little bit unnecessary. Other engines are available for the 5 Series Touring, but we'd be amazed if more than double figures drove out of BMW Ireland's showrooms without the excellent 2.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder powering it, which is why we're focusing on it here.
There's good reason the 520d is so popular and, yes, it's to do with its emissions and economy. Thing is, those headline figures aren't at the cost of actual appeal, as the 520d's 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine is an absolute gem of a powerplant, even when tasked with hauling something as big as the 5 Series Touring around. Its 190hp feels untroubled by the Touring's weight, and the 400Nm of torque is crucial to that, as well. So too is the slickness of the eight-speed automatic transmission.
It's not just the performance that impresses, either, but the refinement; if you can hear it at low revs you have bat DNA in your system, it's so quiet, and even when wrung out to maximum revs it's only a muted sound. It's not just noise that BMW has so beautifully isolated the engine from, but vibration, too, as there's just no tell-tale quivering through the controls to tell you there's a turbodiesel under the bonnet. The suspension also does a fantastic job of isolating poor road surfaces from the cabin and the ride is impressively smooth - yet not to the point of isolation from the driving experience.
It's still a BMW, and chuck the Touring into a bend and it'll reveal a talented chassis behind all that comfort. The steering is quick and decently weighted, though the thick wheel rim robs it of some feel. There's the opportunity to change its character via optional items like Dynamic Damper Control and Adaptive Drive System, but in truth the 5's at its best without all the expensive extras, particularly relating to those driver assistance features.
No, keep the 520d simple and it's a rewarding and comfortable drive, which is to the benefit of not just your bank balance, but also your enjoyment of the car.
What you get for your Money:
Arguably, the BMW 520d Touring is one of the most rounded cars money can buy. The 520d covers epic mileages on a tank, is fast, quiet and comfortable (a full speed 225km/h run on an unlimited autobahn underlined how hushed it is, even at its maximum speed), yet will provide the driver with a grin when the mood takes you on a more interesting road. The cabin is a touch fussy, and a lot of the technology feels like overkill, but likewise, much of it's optional, so it can be avoided. A 520d SE is about all the car you need, the only option we'd advise adding is a reversing camera, given it's such a long car. Prices start at €56,640 on-the-road.
What we have here is a BMW 5 Series with a bigger, more practical boot, so really there are no surprises in the Touring estate model. It's a great all-rounder, even if it's not quite as spacious as some rivals, but the 5's compelling breadth of ability make it a hugely appealing choice.