SPORTS utility vehicles and crossovers may be the talk of the town for some motorists but the good old fashioned and conventional estate car is still going strong, certainly in the premium car sector.
Led by the Germans with BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz competing head-on with the 5 Series Touring, A6 Avant and E-Class respectively demand remains strong and pressure has intensified further this month with the arrival of the fifth generation 5 Series Touring.
Clearly using much of the new on-board technology and quality interior furnishings and fittings from the recently launched 5 Series saloon, the BMW UK camp is more than a little bullish that the new model will do even better than its predecessor with one in five 5 Series buyers opting for the estate.
With BMW's highly efficient X-Drive system being offered for the first time on the new Touring models and with much quieter but better performing turbocharged diesel engines under the bonnet, it all adds to making the new 5 Series Touring an even all round better quality family estate car.
In terms of engines there's a straightforward choice of a either a 3.0-litre, six cylinder diesel engine (530d) or a 2.0-litre, four cylinder diesel engine (520d) with the latter expected to take 80 per cent of sales here in SE trim.
There's no Luxury trim now and there's the choice on both models of having the M Sport kit fitted at an extra Â£3,000 as well as the X-Drive all-wheel-drive set up.
The 5 Series Touring has been with us since the first model appeared back in 1991 and in terms of styling, performance, economy and quality interior it has matured and grown in status beyond recognition.
Years ago larger estate cars were regarded, quite rightly at the time, as being large metal boxes on wheels, totally practical as big load carriers in every sense of the word but with little refinements or interior home comforts and emitting quite a lot of noise inside for driver and passengers.
This latest 5 Series Touring though, which is 36mm longer, 8mm wider and 10mm taller than its predecessor, is totally unrecognisable from those of yesteryear (and even the last version too).
In terms of comfort, ease and relaxed driveability of any car in this class it has to be the best for a family who needs to cover long distances.
BMW claims the newcomer is 100 kg lighter in overall weight, the engines offer more than five per cent better fuel economy and they have four per cent less CO2 emissions while there's more leg room and shoulder room in the rear seats (which split 40/20/40)) and basic boot space is up by 10 litres to 570 litres.
Push the button and drop those rear seats and there's a total of 1,700 litres available which is only bettered by the E-Class estate while the load limit is up 70kg to 750kg thanks to the now standard self-levelling rear air suspension.
Along with a low boot floor plus the retained split opening tailgate, meaning the glass window can be opened independently, the 5 Touring now has what is known as the kick opening - slide a foot under the rear bumper and the boot opens automatically.
Inside, the 5 Series Touring inherits many of the high tech and comfort features and the excellent all round quality of its saloon sister, including some from the bigger 7 Series such as the all digital dashboard, with an easy-to-use iDrive infotainment system using a 10.2-inch screen.
There's also a head-up display showing the car's speed etc., on the windscreen directly in the vision of the driver and like the 5 saloon the Touring SE has an impressive list of standard features on board.
This includes leather seats offering excellent adjustable lumbar support, climate control, sat nav, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights and much more.
As for driving again like any BMW car today this new Touring has precise, direct steering, agile chassis that comes into its own motoring around fast around twisty, country roads where there is very little body roll.
The 520d sits well too on 17-inch wheels and that 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine not only pulls away quickly and quietly when needed it's the overall quietness once on the move is what is really impressive.
It's easy to see why the 520d will sell more than the 530d despite it obviously having less power but most drivers will be more than satisfied with its overall road-going performance with 0 to 62mph achieved in 7.8 seconds and its eight-speed automatic gearbox providing such an effortless and smooth up and down gear movement.
Official fuel consumption for the 520d is 62.7mpg with a CO2 figure of 119g/km.
The 520d starts at £38,385 so most buyers will regard that as exceptionally good value for the money. The bigger engine adds another £8,000 or so to the price.
Certainly this is the best ever 5 Touring the Munich team has produced with its quality interior finish, good driving dynamics and of course loads of interior space which is what estate cars are all about at the end of the day.