2017 BMW 5 Series Touring Review: Practical Brilliance

Introduction

Even in a world of SUVs, MPV and crossovers there’s a gap in the market for a good old high-quality estate car like the BMW 5 Series Touring. The more sensible, family-focused 5 has been around since 1991, the demand for it such that BMW has shifted some one million of them since then. Largely following the line-up of its saloon relation there’s everything from a four-cylinder turbodiesel in the huge-selling 520d, through to a 340hp 540i with a turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine and four-wheel drive. Bigger and more spacious, yet lighter and more efficient than ever before, the 5 Series Touring very strongly underlines that there’s life in the old dog (carrier) yet…

Body Style: Executive estate Seats: 5                    MRP: £38,385 - £49,360    

 

Did you know? This current 5 Series Touring weighs as much as 100kg less than its predecessor, despite being bigger and able to carry significantly more.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8.6/10)

The 5 Series Touring may operate in a marketplace that many have forgotten about, but we love estate cars, and this one is very good indeed. That’s particularly true in 520d guise, where it’s sensibly priced and offers low running costs, which, given its practical, family-focused nature, is why we find it so appealing.

A commendable mix of driver engagement, luxury, refined serenity, and load-lugging ease, the 5 Series Touring takes all that’s good about the saloon and adds some real usefulness.

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Spec & Trim Levels

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 BMW 5 Series Touring

We Like

Sharp looks.

Emphasis on comfort.

Larger than average boot.

We Don't Like

Interior looks like any other BMW's.

No manual option.

The 520d is the only model that matters.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

The 5 Series is a handsome saloon in a conservative class, and adding some length to the roofline only builds on its visual appeal. Indeed, it’s arguably more balanced as a design in Touring guise, as that extended rear doesn't only add space, but real visual appeal, too. As with the saloon the Touring is larger than its predecessor, so there’s a 7mm increase in wheelbase, 35mm stretch in length, and an 8mm increase in its width, making the 5 Series Touring a big car in every sense.

Efficient, though, as the increased size has not added weight; indeed, the 5 Series Touring is as much as 100kg lighter than the car it replaced. That has been achieved by targeted use of lighter materials, the rear hatch alone dropping 7kg, for example, while BMW has also removed unsprung mass from the wheels and suspension in a bid to improve ride comfort and wheel control.

The sharp styling is functional, too, as that front grille is active, directing or deflecting airflow to suit the needs of the engine, while those blades behind the front wheels smooth the air down the 5 Touring’s sides to the benefit not just of drag reduction, but also improved refinement.

Choose the M Sport trim and your 5 Series Touring drops 10mm on its suspension, loses some of the exterior chrome, and gains a slightly more extrovert aero package up front, as well as larger alloy wheels. Whichever model and trim you pick, it’s an undeniably striking car, underlining that good looks and practicality don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  

2017 BMW 5 Series Touring

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

If you’ve sat in any BMW recently then the interior of the 5 Series Touring will present no real surprises. The three-spoke steering wheel sits in front of a neat instrument binnacle, which features conventional-looking dials within a smart digital display, while the main infotainment, connectivity and navigation functions are largely integrated into the single central screen. There’s also the option of a head-up display, which usefully incorporates navigation directions and enough information to almost negate the need for those instruments ahead of you.

Some will feel it's relatively conventional compared to some rivals' larger single-piece screens, which do feel a bit more modern. Even so, BMW doesn’t trail in options regarding how you operate it all, from touch sensitive buttons, regular dials and switches, the iDrive controller, and even gesture control, though the latter is an option we’d avoid as it's of no benefit. It can be a little bit busy to use, then, though familiarity does ease this over time. Plenty of adjustment both of the seats and at the wheel allows a comfortable driving position.

Practicality

This is key, being an estate, and the BMW does very well indeed. The stretched roof only adds to the feeling of space in the rear, while the larger glass area brings more light into the spacious cabin. BMW claims it’s possible to sit three child seats across the rear bench, though with the middle seat doing without ISOFIX fixings that does mean one child seat won’t be quite as secure as the others.

Importantly, in a class where litres count for everything, the 5 Series Touring’s boot has seen an increase in volume over its predecessor. It’ll now take as much as 1,700 litres with the 40:20:40 back seats folded, or 570 litres with them in position. That’s not quite as much as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate can manage (it holds 640-  to 1,820 litres), but a few litres more than its other Germanic foe, the Audi A6 Avant.

The weight it can legally carry has increased significantly, to 730kg, which is 80kg over its predecessor's limit; that mass is managed by standard self-levelling air suspension on the rear axle. BMW has stuck with its useful, and unique in the class, split tailgate on the Touring, which allows you to open the rear window separately to drop smaller items in. The hatch can be powered, as can the folding of the rear seats. There are also plenty of clever load compartmentalisation solutions in the boot and even places to stow the luggage cover and net under the floor when they’re not needed.

2017 BMW 5 Series Touring

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

This class spearheads technological advances and that’s apparent in the 5 Series’ standard specification. Like its saloon relation it comes with BMW Professional Multimedia Navigation as part of the BMW Connected suite as standard, for a start. Within that there’s BMW Emergency Call, Online Services, TeleServices, Bluetooth, and DAB, too.

As ever, for the very latest connectivity you’ll need to pay a bit more, with things like Apple CarPlay, enhanced Bluetooth connectivity, Online Entertainment, wireless smartphone charging, and Gesture Control all adding to the bottom line, though, in truth, you’ll not really miss them if you don’t tick those option boxes.

There’s the party piece of Remote Control Parking, via BMW’s Display Key, again an option.  It actually lets you get out of the car and park it. Clever stuff, though the key needs regular charging and is huge, too. Rivals’ similar systems rather more sensibly allow you to use your smartphone to achieve the same goal.   

2017 BMW 5 Series Touring

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

For a car that’s long been the class leader regarding performance and handling it’s no surprise to find the 5 Series Touring heading the pack, here.

It's not quite as comprehensive a victory as it might once have been, but the 5’s ability to mix good performance, fine handling, and driver engagement in a single package is still very convincing indeed.

It’s easy to gush over the larger output engines, even if the range-toppers are now mere six-cylinder units rather than V8s, though the bulk of 5 Series Touring sales are powered by four-cylinder engines, specifically the 520d.

The good news then is that the 520d is propelled by a sensational powerplant. Its 190hp might be outgunned by its bigger relations, but while they might sometimes feel like they’re underperforming the 520d always feels like it’s over-delivering.

Like all engines in the current 5 Series, it is mated to an automatic transmission, which does such a fantastic job of picking the correct ratio out of its choice of eight that you’ll wonder why you’d ever want to do so yourself. You can, of course, via paddle-shifters mounted on the steering wheel, but there’s rarely the sense that you need to do so.

To say the 520d is refined is to do it a disservice; it’s so quiet you could almost be convinced the power is electric. The elasticity of the response could hoodwink you too, though if you want an electrically-boosted 5 Series Touring you’ll need to wait for the 530e plug-in hybrid model.

The 530d is quicker than its 520d relation, but it loses some of the 520d’s refinement in the process, and the significant premium it demands is difficult to justify in everyday driving. The 525d might, then, be the perfect compromise between them, gaining a 41hp increase in output, but not penalising the economy and emissions too much over that 520d.

The petrol engine line-up, impressive as it is, remains very much fringe choices among buyers. The 520i is smooth, but lacks its diesel counterpart’s easy torque delivery, and while the 530i and 540i bring real pace you’ll pay for it at the pumps.  

The handling in all is as surefooted and capable as you’d expect, the 5 Series chassis balance losing nothing with the greater practicality that the Touring brings. M Sport models do add a bit of tautness to the drive, but the ride on all is commendably smooth and controlled.

The steering could use a little bit more feel, something BMW could perhaps achieve by reducing the huge girth of the steering wheel itself. Agile and capable as it unquestionably is, the sheer size of the 5 Series is its biggest limiting factor for enjoyment on the road, as it feels like a very big and wide car on narrower country roads.  

Recommended engine: 5 Series Touring 520d  

0-62 MPH

7.8 seconds

Fuel economy

65.6mpg

Emissions

114g/km

2017 BMW 5 Series Touring

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

No doubting that, fully specified, the 5 Series Touring will be one of the safest choices out there, but a good deal of the latest autonomous and active safety equipment are cost options. That denies the 5 a full 10-star score here, as without the Driving Assistant Plus package the 5’s safety offering is as good as its class competition, though no better.

That’s not to say it’s not loaded with safety equipment, as this market sector demands and dictates it, so there’s ESC (Electronic Stability Control), Collision and Pedestrian Warning and City Braking, run-flat tyres, tyre pressure monitoring, and intelligent airbags that recognise when to deploy depending on the number of occupants inside.

That Driving Assistant Plus package brings all manner of adaptive and autonomous technology, including Cross Traffic warning front and rear, blind spot monitoring, Lane Departure warning, Active Cruise Control with Stop&Go, Evasion aid, and more besides.

It’s all technically very clever, but in reality all those systems trying to control and adapt can actually prove tiresome and distracting to an attentive drive, so we find that the 5 Series is actually better enjoyed without them. Choose instead then from upgraded lights via BMW’s choice of Adaptive Headlights, or the useful head-up display or night vision, or just keep it simple and save yourself a lot of money in the process.

2017 BMW 5 Series Touring

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Colours

Like the saloon there are 12 colours in the conventional line-up, and those wanting to pay a bit more for something different are offered a further 10 hues in the Individual range. M Sport adds its own Carbon Black metallic.

Flat shades include Black and Alpine White, while the metallic choices are Black Sapphire, Cashmere Silver, Sopisto Grey Xirallic, Atlas Cedar, Imperial Blue Xirallic, Glacier Silver, Mediterranean Blue, Bluestone, Jatoba, and Mineral White.

The Individual choices bring six further metallic finishes as well as four matte effect options, which look sensational, but require a fair bit of effort to maintain their appearance - no £5 car washes, then.

Trim Levels

BMW keeps things pretty simple when it comes to trim levels, offering just two. SE is the entry-point to 5 Series Touring ownership and comes decently specified as standard.

There are alloy wheels, dual-zone air conditioning, Bluetooth with audio streaming, Professional Navigation, DAB radio, leather upholstery, heated front seats, rain sensors with auto headlights, rear view mirror with auto dimming, LED head and tail lights, and part electrically adjusted seats.

M Sport adds its own specific wheels and styling, LED fog lights and a more sporting feel inside thanks to anthracite headlining, M specific pedals, and extended aluminium trim. Outside, there’s high-gloss Shadowline trim in place of the SE’s chrome, too.

Size and Dimensions

Length

4,942mm

Width

2,126mm (Including door mirrors)

Height

1,498mm

Max towing weight without brake

750kg 

2017 BMW 5 Series Touring

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

Given all but a handful of sales will be of the 520d that’s what we’re focusing on here. Running costs should be very good indeed, thanks to low insurance groups, high economy, and an emissions rating that is very much aimed at business users and fleets.

Official economy for the 520d is pegged at 65.6mpg, that reducing to 57.8mpg if you add xDrive four-wheel drive. Likewise, CO2 emissions increase if you’re after all-wheel drive, from 114g/km to 129g/km, enough to pop it up a tax band, too.

Reliability and servicing

Still too new to call, but the 5’s generally been reliable in previous guises so it’s not unreasonable to expect it to be in current form. Servicing can be had as a package, which takes care of all maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles, and it's possible to extend that further, too.

Petrol models

No fixed schedule, car dictates routine depending on usage

Diesel models

No fixed schedule, car dictates routine depending on usage

2017 BMW 5 Series Touring

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

If you’re after a premium estate car you’d be mad to overlook the 5 Series, and in particular the 520d. Prices start from £38,385, rising to just shy of £50,000 for the 540i petrol with xDrive four-wheel drive. The £8,000 premium you’ll pay for the 530d over the 520d looks like a difficult one to justify, not just because of the 520d’s better economy, but refinement, too.

Against its direct rivals the 5 Series Touring is broadly similar, but currently (mid-2017) it's the newest of the bunch and it offers the best equipment mix of them all. That will change as Audi and Jaguar come on board with their new offerings in time, but the 5 Series will always be a competitive product in the class it largely defines.   

2017 BMW 5 Series Touring
 

Recommendations

Car Enthusiast

A 540i xDrive is a junior M5 with 5.1-second 0-62mph ability and 340hp on tap.

Cost Conscious

The 520d Touring is about as sensible an executive estate car can be, both to buy and run.

Luxury seeker

Avoid M Sport and stick with SE grade, though add Comfort seats and specify Variable Damper Control for the supplest ride comfort.  

Rivals

Audi A6 Avant

Aging, though still a class contender; the 5 Series Touring is better to drive, though the new A6 promises a lot and should be with us soon.

BMW X3

A BMW X3? Yes, its only 100 litres down on outright boot space, and is the SUV shape everyone really wants…

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate

The load-carrying champion, and always has been, the E-Class is closer on the road than ever, too, and has a more futuristic interior.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake

Jaguar’s take on the estate is neat and good to drive, making it an interesting, patriotic buy for UK customers.

Volvo V90

You cannot mention big estate cars and not include Volvo. The V90 is elegant and very much carves its own niche, a compelling one, too.

What others say

What Car?

"The BMW 5 Series Touring is a superb estate car that’s refined, classy, well equipped and good to drive. It’s one of our favourites."

Top Gear

"The new 5 Series is as good to drive as the BMW image, and yet it’s as refined and as plush as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. "

 

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