Magnificent estate

from BMW

BMW 5 Series Touring, front
BMW 5 Series Touring, side
BMW 5 Series Touring, rear
BMW 5 Series Touring, interior

HARD on the heels of the introduction of BMW's 5 Series Gran Turismo and Saloon pairing, the last piece of the jigsaw in the form of the Touring hit our streets in late 2010, a truly magnificent estate car that, for me at least, had to be the pick of the range.

In the fourth generation of what is one of the UK's most popular executive estate cars, the German manufacturers have for the past 20-odd years, kept improving on what many believed to be perfection, with a succession of high-tech advances and innovations.

The 5 Series Touring, though more sporty, more dynamic looking and more practical than previous models, is no different, offering a truly dynamic driving experience, thanks in part to double wishbone front suspension and self-levelling air suspension at the rear, which balances the car and compensates when carrying heavy loads.

At launch, the new machine had a choice of three petrol and four diesel engines, while it could then be tailor-made with a wide choice of optional packages and goodies to fulfil almost any requirement.

Even in entry 520d SE diesel guise - the model in which I completed a 1,500-mile run from Munich to Glasgow - buyers could opt for an eight-speed automatic transmission, the first time a four-cylinder oilburning unit had been made available mated to such a transmission system.

And in another first, the manual version came fitted with an emissions-bursting and fuel-saving automatic start-stop function, which was also coupled to an optimum gearshift indicator and brake energy regeneration system.

Pumping out 181bhp from its four-pot, direct fuel injection, turbocharged unit, top speed came in at a much respectable 137mph while the standard zero to 62mph sprint could be completed in only 8.3 seconds.

With CO2 emissions of 139g/km for the automatic version and 53.3mpg on the combined cycle, it was little surprise that the 520d Touring's fuel economy and emission figures were then unrivalled within its sector.

Inside the car, acres of plush leather and lashings of wood veneer are set off by chrome highlights. The electrically-adjustable seats offer fabulous support and the seat height and back rest angle can be adjusted at the touch of a button, making long-distance cruising an absolute joy.

As for on-board equipment, the list seemed endless, with Bluetooth, climate control, steering wheel-mounted controls for the CD sound system and cruise control, Isofix mounting, electric mirrors and windows and front and rear park distance control just a sample of the many features fitted as standard.

At the time, there was lots of discussion regarding the pros and cons of BMW's rotary-controlled iDrive system. However, I had no issues with the one installed on the 520d and after just a quick explanation of its main functions, found it to be user friendly, simple and easy to understand.

As always, safety issues also play an important part in all BMWs, and a full array of electronic and mechanical aids helped give the Touring a maximum five-star NCAP rating.

For used-car buyers, one feature I would certainly look out for is the funky, yet brilliant, head-up display which projects vital information such as speed, cruise control settings and sat nav directional arrows directly onto the windscreen well inside the driver's field of vision.

As a luxurious long-distance cruiser that's equally at home in busy city streets, the BMW 5 Series Touring has always been high on the list for those in the market for a premium quality machine that's got it all, and as such, second-hand prices hold up well.

A 2010 320i SE model sporting a 10-plate will have a price tag somewhere between £13,405 and £17,100 depending on condition and mileage.

Move up a year and prices will range from £16,290 to £20,405 for a similar model, while a 2012 example with a 12-plate will come in at between £19,175 and £23,620.



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