BMW 5 Series Touring driven

* Exec estate driven * £2200 more than saloon * 520d Touring tipped to be best seller...

BMW 5 Series Touring driven

After three days and 1250 miles at the wheel, we're weary but not worn out and there can be few greater testaments to the all-round abilities of the all-new BMW 5 Series Touring than that.

The outstanding qualities of the 520d SE Touring car are that it is comfortable, spacious and economical and it's most obvious rivals are the Audi A6 Avant and Mercedes E-class estate.

It is based on the same platform as the 7 Series, the new car has one of the longest wheelbases in the class and more leg- and load-room than the outgoing model.

The boot space is 560 litres with the seats up, or 1670 litres with the seats down a job that can be done at the flick of a lever. The rear seats can also be angled when they are up, offering more comfort for passengers or greater load space.

It's practical space, too. Boot open, there no lip to negotiate, or you can also load through the flip-open rear windscreen. Also, if you want to tip the rear seats there's the option of doing so in a 40:20:40 split, offering a greater variety of options.

BMW 520d: powerful and efficient

The 520d is expected to be the best seller. The four-cylinder turbocharged engine delivers 181bhp and 280lb ft of torque. Against the Audi and Merc equivalents it has the most power and second-most torque, but crucially it is fastest from 0-62mph, more than 10% more fuel efficient on average, cheaper to road tax and attracts lower benefit-in-kind tax.

With the optional automatic gearbox the 520d averages 53.3mpg, emits 139g/km of CO2, sits in VED road tax band E and attracts BIK tax at 19%. On our mostly motorway-based trek the car averaged 38.9mpg.

The engine's performance is decent at all times without being mind-blowing, and while there is a diesel thrum if you push on, it's never anything than mildly intrusive. The optional eight-speed automatic gearbox is silky smooth and responsive.

SE trim brings self-levelling rear air suspension, leather upholstery, cruise control, front and rear parking aids and Bluetooth as standard. Across the range, on average, the Touring costs £2200 more than the saloon.

Downsides? The new 5 Series saloon has been haunted by accusations that it's not engaging enough to drive unless you spec the company's Dynamic Damper Control system, which allows the driver to select from 'Comfort', 'Normal', 'Sport' and 'Sport Plus' modes, and the same can be said here.

This car didn't have the system, and its bias towards comfort, while sensible enough for an estate, meant there was no pleasure to be had from pushing on. The ride on poor surfaces was also harsh, although this was possibly the consequence of upgrading from standard 17-inch to 18-inch wheels.

What Car? says

Some shortcomings, but they don't overly detract from a great car