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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For You'll get great load-lugging ability and a sharp drive

Against There's limited room for your rear passengers and it's expensive to maintain

Verdict It's a cheaper prospect and much better to drive than a Mercedes E-Class

Go for… 520i SE

Avoid… V8 petrols

BMW 5 Series Touring
  • 1. The boot is big, but the E-Class's and A6's are bigger
  • 2. Some early cars have no air-con, so steer clear
  • 3. The cooling system is the most likely thing to go wrong - check the engine temperature on you test drive
  • 4. Larger passengers may find the rear seats a bit tight
  • 5. On your test drive, listen carefully for thumps which could indicate worn suspension
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BMW 5 Series Touring full review with expert trade views

The BMW is the smallest of the trio of German estates - the gargantuan Mercedes E-Class is by far by the biggest, and the Audi A6 is somewhere between. There's still plenty of room in the Five's boot, however, and it's easy to load thanks to a low sill and a wide opening.

Once you've stuffed all of the garden rubbish in the back, you'll have the best time driving to the dump. This Touring is almost as good as the award-winning saloon, so it's much better than the E-Class or the A6.

If you need to tackle a long journey, you could do far worse than the BMW, too. Its quiet, comfortable cabin is spacious - up front at least - and reasonably well equipped. All of the controls are well laid out and easy to use, and visibility is very good too.

Trade view

John Owen

Bullet proof. Early cars now very good value. Avoid wheezy 2.0 petrol

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

There's no need to spend masses of money getting a big engine for the 5 Series, but it is worth having the updated 170bhp 520i introduced in late summer 2000. If you're carrying substantial weight in the boot, you'll appreciate the adding pulling power.

The rest of the six-cylinder petrol engines are all fine options if you want extra poke, but we think they're nice, rather than necessary. The V8s are little more than a quick way to get to the next petrol station.

All of the diesel engines are worthy partners for the 5 Series, but the old and outdated 525tds should be at the bottom of your list unless your budget is tight. We'd get the 525d instead.

Some early cars are short of toys, with no air-con, but generally you'll find most are well equipped. SE trim is the best one to look for.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Good overall reliability, but watch for suspension failure

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

When the newer model replaced this one, it pushed values down, but residual values are still strong, so prices can be high. There are plenty about, though, so don’t feel pressurised into buying a car with options you don’t want and which may push the price up.

There are no alarm bells to sound when it comes to running a 5 Series, as long as you stick with the six-cylinder petrol engines or the diesels. The V8s petrols are expensive to maintain and run.

The 170bhp 520i petrol almost manages 30mpg, which is respectable compared with the E-Class and A6. Our favourite diesel achieves over 40mpg, but is more expensive to insure, although, overall, insurance groups are typical for the class.

Servicing costs are high, but repair bills are cheaper than rivals if something does go wrong, even if BMW workshops do routinely charge more than £100 for every hour's work. Independents charge half as much, so this can help slash your running costs if you buy one.

Trade view

John Owen

Bullet proof. Early cars now very good value. Avoid wheezy 2.0 petrol

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

The cooling system should be the first thing you check. Of all the things that go wrong with the 5 Series, this is the most likely. Take the car for an extended test drive and monitor the engine temperature carefully. Check under the bonnet to see if there are any leaks, and quiz the seller.

The next most likely reason for a visit to the workshop is dodgy electrics, so make sure that everything that's meant to work does so.

The axle and suspension systems are the third main area to be aware of, although you're far less likely to have a problem here than if you bought an E-Class or A6. Listen for creaks, groans and thumps, particularly from the rear where a hard-lugging life shows up with saggy shock absorbers.

All in all, though, the BMW has proved to be a pretty tough customer.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Good overall reliability, but watch for suspension failure

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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