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The Top Gear car review:BMW 5 Series Touring
For:Spacious, sporty, refined, desirable, well built
Against:Expensive at first and then again when you option it up
520d  SE 5dr Step Auto
Huge, good to drive, frugal, fast enough: could this 520d be the most complete car on sale today? Clue: yes
Impressively digital, but likeable in an analogue sort of way. Looking forward to the lower-specced versions.
Nice idea - tall, roomy luxury hatch - that’s been over-complicated. But the Gran Turismo is a pleasure to ride and drive in.
What we say:
The class-leader by a country mile. Spec carefully and reap the benefits
What is it?
One the all-time greats in every age of its existence, the 5-Series Touring seems to have a finger firmly in every pie, with great chassis dynamics, immense carrying ability, superb comfort and wonderful engines. And for the current model those dubious looks have been replaced by something far more svelte, understated and enduring. It’s a wonder sometimes that everyone else doesn’t just pack up and head off home. Latest facelift added new trims and standard sat-nav to please business users.
The big catch with the latest 5-Series, saloon or Touring, is the presence or lack of Adaptive Drive. It’s an expensive option that counteracts the forces that cause body roll, meaning both more comfort and more dynamic ability at greater speed. Without it the 5-Series feels pretty ordinary but when fitted it’s a cut above.
The steering can also be optioned up to Active, improving agility at all speeds with a small but apparently significant degree of turn in the rear wheels. Avoid it, the steering feel is nicer without.
If you weren’t already worried enough about ordering the wrong thing, there’s also Dynamic Damping Control. This is a constantly adjusting system that is meant to optimise the chassis for every possible driving surface, doing it in milliseconds as you go. It’s all a bit of a minefield and there’s evidence of serious confusion from prospective customers on BMW forums. We’d just say that if you can afford it, get it, as Adaptive Drive is the next big thing in suspension technology and – unless you want an M Sport variant with a lower, vastly less-forgiving ride – this will be the one to live with.
As for engines, everyone would love one of the 3.0-litre turbo sixes, but most end up with a four-pot 520d. In smooth new(ish) 190bhp guise, they’re not short-changed. Much.
On the inside
The latest 5-Series is impeccable inside. The dashboard is sharp and clear, made superbly unfussy by the iDrive controller. There’s masses of space here, too, and adjustment on the driver and front passenger seats is excellent. Kit is generous across the range with climate control, cruise control and the widescreen monitor atop the dash all standard. The facelift brought with it even more high-tech gadgetry.
Crucially, that boot is a behemoth at 560 litres with the seats up, expanding to a seriously impressive 1,670 when they’re down. For a car that copes with the hindrance of rear-wheel drive, that’s very good indeed.
Buying a 5-Series Touring is likely to be an eye-watering business. They’re not cheap in the first place but by the time you’ve added the toys you’ll have a very expensive motor on your hands. But if any large estate is going to hold its value it’s this one, and with BMW’s EfficientDynamics, these cars can be far cheaper to run than they were to buy.