Vehicle Style: Prestige wagon
Price: $92,800 ($94,800 as tested)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.3 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 7.2 l/100km
BMW’s new styling direction has hit its stride with the attractive 5 Series Touring. This is no dowdy wagon; it’s as much defined by its clean lines and sporting style as it is by its versatile and comfortable interior.
The 520d Touring sits at the bottom of the range, but packs a superb powertrain and driveline, as well as a decent level of luxury equipment.
Quality: Like the 5 Series sedan, the 520d Touring’s interior exudes a feel of premium quality. Leather upholstery and high-gloss wood trim add an air of opulence, as do the soft-touch dash plastics.
Everything fits together snugly, and controls are appealing to the touch and well laid-out (except the the mobile phone cradle in the centre console that gets in the way - and is arguably unnecessary).
Comfort: The partially-electric front seats have a good range of adjustment and so does the tilt and reach-adjustable steering column, but the absence of fully-electric front seats is peculiar on a $90,000+ car.
Comfort is at least good, with decent support under the thighs and in the lumbar region.
The back seats are spacious and comfortable, with adequate legroom and plentiful headroom. Rear air-conditioning outlets ensure rear-seat passengers are comfortable in summer months, and fitting three adults abreast isn’t too much of a squeeze.
Equipment: Standard on the 520d are cruise control, trip-computer, head-up display, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlamps, foglights, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation and a single-disc CD player with USB inputs for iPods plus Bluetooth phone integration.
The 520d’s option list is extensive - and costly - and includes items like Dynamic Driving Control, Active Steering, a sports suspension, M Sport package, night vision, active cruise control, a high-end sat-nav system, bi-xenon headlamps, fully electric heated front seats, four-zone climate control and many other mod-cons.
Storage: There’s plenty of room for prams and other outsize luggage in the 520d Touring’s 560 litre boot space. Larger and longer items can be easily accommodated by folding the rear backrests flat, with enlarges cargo capacity to 1670 litres.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: It may only displace 2.0 litres, but the 520d’s turbodiesel in-line four produces 135kW and 380Nm and doesn’t raise a sweat hauling the wagon’s 1715kg frame.
The standard 8-speed automatic is an impeccably refined transmission. It has a good spread of ratios and shift programming that anticipates gradients and cornering, shifting down pre-emptively to put the right gear underfoot.
The 520d is not terribly quick in a straight line (BMW quotes 8.3 seconds from 0-100km/h), but its power is more than adequate for suburban driving and long-legged highway runs.
Refinement: The 520d’s cabin is quiet at both low and high speeds, and the diesel engine growls rather than clatters. There’s no booming inside the 520d Touring’s cabin either, which is a typical wagon bug-bear.
Suspension: Derived from the 7 Series’ double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, the 520d’s chassis provides excellent body control when cornering or over undulating tarmac. It is, quite simply, a superb drive.
And, with self-levelling pneumatic rear suspension, the wagon’s superior handling characteristics are preserved even with a heavy load (as we found with a full load of passengers and luggage aboard).
The taller sidewalls of the 520d’s 17-inch run flats give it a little more compliance too, which helps iron out pockmarked urban roads without jarring. Steering response is good, but feedback is muted by the electric power steering system.
Braking: The firm, responsive brake pedal produces reassuring confidence-inspiring braking performance.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: Front, front side and full-length curtain airbags, three-point seat belts and front anti-whiplash headrests are standard.
Stability control, traction control, ABS, brake assist and cornering brake control are also standard, and can be augmented by the optional active cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning and ‘surround view’ camera system.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three-year/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Servicing costs vary according to vehicle usage.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI Estate ($105,500) - The entry-grade E-Class wagon costs over ten grand more, but the E250 CDI is saddled with an outdated 5-speed automatic that compares poorly with the 520d’s eight-speeder.
On the upside, it has 20Nm more torque, as well as build quality that equals the BMW. (see E-Class reviews)
Audi A6 3.0 TDI Allroad Quattro ($106,900) - The only A6 wagon variant currently on sale, the Allroad Quattro is arguably more rugged-looking thanks to its plastic body cladding and raised ride height.
The A6’s 3.0 litre turbodiesel V6 produces a stonking 176kW and 500Nm, but the Allroad is the most expensive of this bunch.
Volvo V60 D5 ($60,950) - Although just two-thirds the cost of the BMW, the V60’s Euro origins and similar levels of refinement will have it competing in Volvo showrooms.
It offers more boot space than the 520d Touring with the rear seats up and its 2.4 litre turbodiesel also produces markedly more power and torque than the BMW (151kW/420Nm). (see V60 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 520d Touring might be a versatile wagon, but it retains its sporting heart.
Its sweet powertrain and driveline make it a delight to drive, and a generous and well thought-out interior makes it easy to live with. If anything is going to tempt cashed-up families out of their luxury SUVs, it’ll be cars like the 5 Series Touring.
That said, it’s odd to see gadgets like satellite navigation and a head-up display as standard equipment, while luxo-car necessities like fully-electric seats are relegated to the options list - particularly given the 520d Touring’s retail price nudges $100,000.