What's the used BMW 5 Series estate like?
There’s a question that’s often asked of us here at What Car? – which one used car would you recommend that fulfils all needs?
Well, of course, that very much depends on your individual needs, but although in each category and each price point we could name many good contenders, somehow our thoughts always come back to this BMW 5 Series Touring. You see it takes all that's wonderful about the hugely impressive 5 Series saloon and adds in a healthy and desirable dose of extra practicality.
Hugely impressive? There's the superb refinement, generous amounts of high-tech kit, economical engines, excellent driving manners and the classy image, so this Touring version really could be 'all the car you’ll ever need'. The BMW 5 Series Touring can also be found with the added attraction of four-wheel drive (xDrive) on most models, too, so is even as versatile as some of the more modern 4x4s.
Not that it has it all its own way even in this class. Being a premium estate car, the 5 Series Touring has to compete with some very accomplished rivals, such as the stylish Volvo V90, gargantuan Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate and classy Audi A6 Avant.
There were initially three petrol and three diesel engines to choose from; the petrols range from a sprightly 182bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder (badged 520i) to a lusty 335bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder (540i), and the diesel lineup includes 2.0-litre four-cylinder units with 187bhp and 228bhp, plus a 261bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder.
In later cars, from 2019 onwards, the engines gained mild hybrid technology, or MHT. The range eventually settled on the 520i MHT, the 540i xDrive MHT, 530e hybrid xDrive, 520d xDrive MHT and the 530d xDrive MHT.
Equipment levels compared with BMWs of old are actually very generous, and you'd never call the standard SE version 'entry-level'. Every 5 Series has 17in alloy wheels, leather trim, cruise control, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate, and a 10.2in infotainment system with DAB radio and sat-nav. M Sport has bigger 18in alloys, firmer suspension and sportier exterior and interior touches.
While the 5 Series Touring shares the same rear-wheel-drive chassis as the 5 Series saloon, its additional weight means it isn’t as sharp to drive. The steering is surprisingly vague off-centre, and the car doesn’t find as much front-end grip as some of its rivals. However, if you’re after comfort, the 5 Series excels. In examples fitted with adaptive dampers, the ride is particularly good at isolating you from the very worst expansion joints and road scars. The interior is also supremely well isolated from wind and road noise, and the engine’s hum fades away into the background at speed.
If you’re buying an estate you'll want to know how much stuff you can carry, and the 5 Series Touring has one of the biggest boots in its class. The standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats and absence of a loading lip mean even oddly shaped items are a doddle to fit. The luggage area is nice and wide, so a buggy should go in there sideways.
All passengers should find the 5 Series Touring to be most accommodating. There’s plenty of adjustment up front for the driver and front passenger, while those in the rear get plenty of head and leg room. The middle seat passenger in the rear will have to clamber over a tall central tunnel, but three adults across the bench is a possibility, even if there will be some rubbing of shoulders.
The 5 Series Touring was treated to a comprehensive facelift in the latter half of 2020 that gave it LED headlights as standard (with super bright adaptive LED headlights as an option), a larger, more imposing grille, a more aggressive body kit and a smattering of extra standard equipment throughout the range.
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