Driving The Latest Deluxe Wagon, BMW 5 Series Touring – Forbes
Once-upon-a-time station wagons were cool. Then along came the SUV and they lost their luster. Growing up in the seventies, most of our friends drove wagons for they offered a logical layout – sedan seating and driving comfort, twinned with a deep trunk and a long roof to hold a couple of racks to secure bikes, a tent, a canoe even. Ours was a white Peugeot 504 Familiale, with three seat rows covered in dashing light blue leather. In what was to become the first of my many epic road trips, we drove this practical and handsome motor car across continents from Paris to Tehran. So, it makes me smile to see the humble wagon having a come-back.
There are some great deluxe wagons on the market yet few do justice to this genre more so than Volvo with the V90 and Mercedes with the most classic of all estates, the E-Class. So, I was intrigued to see how the new BMW 5 Series Touring compared. The trick with wagons is to keep it simple, avoid too much visual drama or decorative elements. The wagon vernacular is that of practicality with a certain nonchalance. This is not an aggressive SUV; it isn’t a show-off nor a bully. The wagon driver is most likely active and at the heart of the design must be cabin comfort and the trunk.
The first BMW 5 Series Touring arrived in 1991 aimed at small families. It premiered the split tailgate, a pioneering feature that remains at the heart of this latest car. It is a seemingly simple design initiative, offering a practical solution for loading small items without having to open the entire trunk. Having reversed too close to a wall, I was able to put this feature to the test. By simply opening the hinged rear window, I could easily access the luggage compartment.
Inside is spacious with plenty of head and leg room for six normal size adults to travel in comfort. The square-shaped boot offers 570-liters of luggage space with the seats in place, as well as extra storage compartments hidden under the floor, ideal for placing smaller items such as laptops. For loading long or bigger items, a handy electric release button at the tailgate opening simply flips down the split-folding rear seats to reveal a vast internal flat space.
There is a decent selection of engines to choose from with the most economical being the 187bhp 2.0-liter 520d which emits just 119g/km of CO2. The range of petrol engines on offer include a 2.0-liter four-cylinder motors with 182bhp in the 520i and the 249bhp in the 530i. The top-of-the-range is the 3.0-liter six-cylinder with 335bhp and 0- 62mph in just 5.1 seconds. All come paired with eight-speed automatic gearbox on full-auto or manual paddles positioned behind the steering wheel. The xDrive versions with four-wheel drive capabilities expect to make up almost half the sales, as they tend to work that little bit harder in poorer weather conditions.
Much like the 5 Series sedan sibling, the Touring is a tech gadget-on-wheels. It connects you seamlessly to your work, family, friends and the wider world through social media whilst on the move. If you happen to nod off, the car will alert you, perhaps take to a little autonomy, whilst the sophisticated navigation on-board will guide you seamlessly to any destination. Driving visibility is good, even for someone of my smaller size, thanks to the wide windscreen and slender front pillars. Parking can be assisted with the optional extra reversing camera, 360-degree bird’s eye view monitor and self-park aid.
BMW tends to have an intellectual approach to design and the 5 Series Touring is testimony to this. Much like the sedan sibling, this car has a serene sensibility – the exterior and interior design evoke European refinement. There are no silly surface decorations here – no element of the Touring is frivolous styling. Instead, everything is there for a reason, positioned logically and treated with authenticity.
The 5 Series Touring would make an ideal work commute vehicle but then transform at weekends to escort the family to an impromptu camping weekend or a ski trip. It is handsome to be a great city car, yet, especially with xDrive, rugged enough to be at home off the tarmac. BMW is calling it the “business all-rounder” and it really lives up to this label. For me, it is a perfect example of the deluxe wagon for the twenty-first century.