First Drive

2014 BMW 5 Series Touring review

The BMW 5 Series Touring has always been one of our favourite estates, and welcome new diesel engine upgrades should keep it close to the top of the class.

Words ByPaul Bond

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When it comes to executive saloons, the BMW 5 Series is the world’s number one choice. In fact, the brand has sold more than one million of them since the current model was launched in 2010.

However, UK buyers choosing a premium estate are far more likely to end up with an Audi sitting on their driveway than one of Munich’s finest. Now though, the 5 Series Touring has now been given the same engine upgrades as the saloon to help boost its appeal.

The new 518d and the 520d use the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine as the 2 Series Active Tourer. It has been modified to improve power and efficiency, and is also lighter than before, plus (according to BMW) considerably more refined, as well.

That means they now produce 148bhp and 187bhp respectively, but perhaps more importantly, the Touring version in SE trim and with the optional automatic gearbox has tax-friendly CO2 emissions of just 118g/km – regardless of which output you decide to choose.

A word of warning though – choosing optional alloys, or going for the higher Luxury or M Sport trim will affect the amount of CO2 the Touring emits, and only cars fitted with 17-inch alloys sneak below 120g/km.

What’s the 2014 BMW 5 Series Touring like inside?

The 5 Series Touring isn't the roomiest estate for outright carrying capacity, but the load bay is square, it has a low loading lip, and will swallow up to 1670-litres of luggage with the rear seats folded down. That's about the same as you'll squeeze into the boot of an Audi A6 Avant.

Passenger space is generous, and the wide cabin means it’s relatively easy to sit three adults across the back, despite the raised transmission tunnel. There is plenty of legroom, and six footers won’t find their heads brushing the roof.

Not much else has changed inside, but the 5 Series interior doesn't look at all tired, and the only rival that can claim to have a classier cabin is the Audi A6 – and even then gap between the two is very small.

The 5 Series is more expensive than the A6 Avant Ultra, but gets more standard equipment, including xenon headlights, along with the leather, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, climate control and a DAB radio.

All versions also come with BMW's class-leading iDrive infotainment system. It was recently updated, too, so is now quicker to respond, especially when using the sat-nav to plot routes.

What’s the 2014 BMW 5 Series Touring like to drive?

Despite the new engines, the driving experience is very similar to the previous model's, which means assured handling, punchy in-gear performance and a comfortable ride.

What has changed is the low-speed refinement of these two diesel engines. The rough clattery note has died down, and both the 518d and 520d Touring settle into a refined cruise on the motorway, and are a less intrusive when pottering around town – even if there is still a little vibration through the pedals.

We tried both models paired with the optional (Β£1550) eight-speed automatic. In both cars, choosing the auto ’box improves straight-line performance and lowers the CO2 output. It does this by disengaging the clutch when you’re driving in the standad β€˜ECO PRO’ mode to save fuel when you’re not pushing the throttle, and the top two ratios help keep the revs lower the the six-speed manual when cruising.

The latest 5 Series also has a new technology first shown in the Rolls Royce Wraith, in whch the sat-nav studies the road ahead, and automatically prepares the right gear. So, for example, the car knows when you're approaching a junction, and will select a lower gear in anticipation of you slowing down. Very clever stuff, and it works even when the navigation isn't set, too.

Performance is competitive. The 518d feels reasonably strong, and although the 0-62mph sprint takes a fairly leisurely 9.8 seconds, it has enough low-down pulling power to deal with most situations. It’s not as effortless at building up speed or kicking down the gears as the 520d, though, and the more powerful engine is the one we’d go for – especially if you plan to load up the boot on a regular basis.

Work the engine a bit harder, though, and you'll discover the BMW isn't as flexible as an A6 Avant Ultra as higher revs, but the 5 Series still outclasses its rivals with its superb dynamic balance.

Accurate, precise steering and good body control all help give the BMW the edge over its peers. However, our car did come with the optional (Β£985) adaptive dampers fitted, which improves ride comfort and body control (depending on which mode you choose). This is an option we'd highly recommend.

Should I buy one?

Perhaps the only thing missing from the 5 Series Touring is the option of xDrive four-wheel drive - which is still unavailable on right-hand drive models. So if you're after a practical family car that can tackle all seasons then a 3 Series Touring xDrive or Audi A6 Quattro are probably better bets.

For everyone else, though, the 5 Series Touring makes a very fine choice. It's spacious and practical, well built and great to drive, and the efficient new engines make it an even more convincing all-round package.

The extra refinement of these diesels is a welcome added bonus, and while some rivals will cost less as a private buy, the low CO2 emissions and superb equipment levels of SE versions will make them a very affordable company buy. Not quite the roomiest estate, then, but one of the very best.

What Car? says…


Audi A6 Avant

Mercedes E-Class Estate

BMW 518d Touring Auto

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from Β£31,815

Power 148bhp

Torque 266lb ft

0-62mph 9.8 seconds

Top speed 130mph

Fuel economy 62.8mpg

CO2 118 - 132g/km

BMW 520d Touring auto

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from Β£33,515

Power 187bhp

Torque 295lb ft

0-62mph 8.0 seconds

Top speed 140mph

Fuel economy 62.8mpg

CO2 118 - 132g/km