The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Every 5 Series Touring has a comfortable and supportive driver’s seat. It includes electric seat height and backrest angle adjustment, along with electrically adjustable lumbar support. M Sport models have bigger side bolsters that hold you more securely when cornering, and fully electric seats with memory settings are optional on all the trims.
There’s also plenty of steering wheel adjustment, and the driver’s seat drops lower than it does in the rival Mercedes E-Class Estate so you feel as though you’re sitting in, rather than on top of, the car. The enormous, cosseting armrests, positioned perfectly on either side of you, seal the deal for the 5 Series Touring being about as comfortable on a long trip as any car gets.
Digital instruments are standard and can be complemented with an optional head-up display. The dashboard is brilliantly laid out with all the controls reached easily and there are physical buttons for the major functions. That's not the case in the Audi A6 Avant, which has a touchscreen for the climate controls that's distracting to use while you’re driving.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The front pillars aren't too big, so you can see out relatively easily at junctions and roundabouts. But with a shallower rear screen than an E-Class Estate and relatively thick rear pillars, reversing the 5 Series Touring might be tricky if it weren’t for the standard parking sensors (front and rear) and the rear-view camera. Parking assistant is also included, which can find an appropriate space and steer you into it.
Bright LED headlights are also a default, which you can upgrade to clever adaptive LED units. These can stay on main beam by creating shadows around the cars in front to avoid dazzling other road users.
Sat nav and infotainment
Every 5 Series Touring comes with BMW’s Professional Multimedia system. This packs a whopping 12.3in widescreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, in-built sat-nav, various online services, and a DAB radio. It’s one of the best systems going, with easy-to-follow menus and responsive software – more so than the Mercedes E-Class Estate's occasionally dim-witted system.
It's easy to use as well, either from the touchscreen if you're the passenger, or the rotary iDrive controller and shortcut buttons between the front seats if you’re the driver. This is so much easier (and safer) to use than the touchscreen; you just twist the dial to scroll through the on-screen menus and press it down to make selections. With a touchscreen-only system – like you get with the Audi A6 Avant and Jaguar XF Sportbrake – you're always looking away from the road to find the icons.
A concierge service is standard, while on the options list you’ll find a range of increasingly powerful sound systems (the 16-speaker Harman Kardon system will be appreciated by music fans), a wi-fi hotspot and a digital TV. There’s even a gesture control feature, which lets you operate certain functions using mid-air hand signals; it's more of a gimmick than a useful gadget, though.
There’s no danger of you feeling short-changed on quality when climbing into the 5 Series Touring. All the materials, even those lower down that you’ll rarely come into contact with, look and feel of suitably high quality, and most of the metal trims are the real deal and not just silver-coated plastics.
Similarly, most buttons and switches are nicely damped, but the interiors of the Audi A6 Avant and Volvo V90 are just as securely bolted together. The Mercedes E-Class Estate definitely feels flimsier in places, but arguably it pulls off a bit more visual swagger.
You can choose different trim inserts in the 5 Series – including wood and gloss black – that run the length of the dashboard and around the doors, and they all add to the upmarket feel. The standard ambient lighting obviously doesn’t make any difference to build quality, but it does give the interior an even more salubrious essence after dark.
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