Used BMW 5 Series Touring 1996 - 2004 review

Category: Estate car

The BMW 5 Series Touring is a cheaper prospect and much better to drive than a Mercedes E-Class Estate.

BMW 5 Series Touring (96 - 04)
  • BMW 5 Series Touring (96 - 04)
  • BMW 5 Series Touring (96 - 04)
Used BMW 5 Series Touring 1996 - 2004 review
Star rating

What's the used BMW 5 Series estate like?

The BMW 5 Series Touring is the smallest of the trio of German estate cars from this era – the gargantuan Mercedes E-Class Estate is by far by the biggest, and the Audi A6 Avant is somewhere in between. There's still plenty of room in the BMW'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. The Touring is almost as good as the award-winning BMW 5 Series saloon, so it's much better than the E-Class or the A6.


The BMW 5 Series Touring is a cheaper prospect and much better to drive than a Mercedes E-Class Estate.

  • You'll get great load-lugging ability and a sharp drive
  • There's limited room for your rear passengers and it's expensive to maintain

If you need to tackle a long journey, you could do far worse than the 5 Series, too. It's quiet, comfortable interior 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.

Ownership cost

What used BMW 5 Series estate will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a BMW 5 Series estate?

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 BMW 5 Series Touring 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.

Our recommendations

Which used BMW 5 Series estate should I buy?

There's no need to spend masses of money getting a big engine for the BMW 5 Series Touring, 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 Touring, 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.

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What alternatives should I consider to a used BMW 5 Series estate?