BMW 5 Series estate (2017) review: Large, technologically accomplished and fun to drive

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Car salesmen have a very difficult job trying to convince customers to buy an estate car these days. For some reason, the marketing machine has brainwashed the masses into thinking that gigantic SUVs are the perfect companion to family life.

In reality, an elongated estate can carry more gear, tends to be more enjoyable to drive and, in our opinion, look a lot prettier than the majority of bulbous faux-by-fours that play the starring role in most daily school runs.

That final point is entirely down to personal opinion – but the other points are not open for discussion and if you need the proof then take a look at the new BMW 5 Series Touring, which can haul an impressive amount of kit and remain a joy to drive.

Specify the larger petrol and diesel engines and it is genuinely quick, the steering is precise throughout the range and the ride is both comfortable and dynamically brilliant through corners.

But when it’s time to tackle a boring run to the tip, simply fold the clever 40:20:40 split rear seats and the 5 Series Touring will happily swallow a staggering 1,700 litres of stuff, with plenty of intelligent touches that make carrying cargo an absolute doddle.

We absolutely loved the new tech-laden 5 Series Saloon, its nut and bolt refresh proving to be worth every second of BMW’s development time, and a week with its bigger Touring brother hasn’t changed our minds.

The Estate version is unmistakably a BMW and unmistakably a 5 Series, which some will see as a good thing – as the model has always been a handsome estate car – but others might find it all a little bland.

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Regardless, this G30 generation Touring is 36mm longer than the F10 model it replaces, 8mm wider and, strangely, 10mm taller. Luckily, this hasn’t made it look any less purposeful on the road and the extra length means there’s even more room inside.

The aggressive front headlights extend all the way to the inimitable BMW kidney grille, while a clever front apron features flaps which open when cooling is required but close again as needed to improve aerodynamic efficiency.

In addition to this, apertures in the front bumper suck air into the wheel arches, where it is channelled along the wheels before escaping again through breathers built into the flanks, to reduce air resistance.

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All in all, the new 5 Series Touring is a slippery devil, with some models boasting a drag co-efficiency of 0.27, but this function also leads to decidedly handsome form.

Pragmatism is one of the BMW’s strongest points and the additional chassis length means the engineers have been able to squeeze extra load-lugging space into the rear, as well as improve head and legroom for rear passengers.

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Naturally, the model retains the independently opening tailgate window, which has been a much-loved BMW Touring feature for years, while the tailgate itself can be optioned to open with a waggle of the foot under the rear bumper.

The additional width is noticeable in the boot, as is the excellent damping system on the rear seats, which quietly and smoothly fold flat with the pull of a lever.

Once the seats are lowered, there’s loads of room in the back for bikes, boards or baby gear.

We borrowed a model that featured one of the marque’s excellent bike racks for the roof, which freed up the cavernous boot for luggage. But we’re pretty sure everything could have happily fitted in without it.

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BMW has also thrown in a few practical boot dividers, stowage nets and an extremely clever space for the rear luggage cover. In most cars this would usually have to be removed when the boot’s loaded to the brim, but instead it can be neatly stashed in a special compartment in the boot floor in the 5 Series Estate.

The entire infotainment system has been revised in this generation and it borrows much of its technology from the magnificent 7 Series.

Boring old analogue instrument binnacles are replaced by swanky digital versions, the standard 10.25-inch Control Display takes the form of a freestanding touchscreen and it can all be controlled with gestures or via natural speech.

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Like it or not, there’s plenty inside to distract the driver from the business of, erm, driving, including the secure server connection for sending, receiving and editing emails, calendar entries and contact details using Microsoft Exchange and Apple CarPlay.

There is also the option to specify one of BMW’s enormous Display Keys, which act as a mini smart device to remotely control some of the vehicle’s functionality.

The colour touchscreen display allows the driver to check whether doors and windows are open, call up the fuel level and remaining range, while the Remote 3D View function uses the Surround View camera system to stream live footage of the car and its surroundings to a smartphone via the BMW Connected app. Wireless charging and an in-car high-speed Wi-Fi hotspot (LTE) are also optional extras.

One of the cleverest features is the Remote Control Parking function, which means owners can use the key (or an app) to remotely move the car in and out of tight spaces. Currently, the big BMW is limited to forwards and backwards movements (with some room for adjustment) but it won’t be long until the technology (and legislation) allows for more complex remote parking manoeuvres.

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Finally, BMW’s use of connected services is also excellent, going beyond the simple live traffic and weather updates that are seen elsewhere. Here, the sat nav system takes in a live parking availability feed from traffic providers Inrix, which shows drivers the density of parked cars on surrounding streets. It’s only currently available in handful of cities – and relies on the parked cars to feature a similar connected service – but it gives a good indication of the current parking situation.

There is a great mix of petrol and diesel engines available across the new 5 Series range, with power ranging from 190hp to a whopping 340hp in the 540i xDrive model.

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This 231hp 530d mighty be lacking slightly in outright horsepower compared to the most potent petrol engine but its 620Nm of torque is enough to stop the Earth’s rotation. Well, almost.

It does mean the new, lightweight frame is propelled from 0-62mph in a mere 5.6-seconds in this ultra-grippy xDrive all-wheel-drive version and on to a limited top speed of 155mph.

And this neatly brings us back to our point about estate cars being fun to drive, because even when this test model was loaded up with bikes and bags, it still managed to raise smiles on the rip down through rural France.

The steering is impressively sharp – something BMW has historically excelled at – while the new 8-speed automatic gearbox does a great job of swapping cogs at the perfect moment. No dithering or delays here.

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But for those who prefer a more sedate drive, there’s good news in so much as the chassis and suspension are excellent at handling imperfections in the road, offering a quiet and smooth ride.

There is also plenty of technology to get stuck into, including a clever optional Active Cruise Control (ACC) system with BMW’s new Stop & Go function, which can brake the new 5 Series Touring to a standstill and allow it to move off again automatically after a pause of up to 30 seconds.

Add this technology in with the intelligent Lane Keeping Assist functionality and Remote Parking and it doesn’t feel too far from a fully autonomous future.

Verdict

The new 5 Series Saloon really impressed us with its seemingly unending levels of technology and great drive – but if you’re seeking all the extra space then parting with a few extra pennies for the Touring variant is absolutely worth it.

Owners will not want for space, it takes a lot of hard driving to unearth any dynamic differences between the two, and the new styling seems to suit the elongated silhouette of the Touring better.

Ok, so the options do start to make this estate a bit pricey – but a lot of the impressive kit comes as standard on even entry-level models, making them better kitted out than other Germanic rivals.

It’s very difficult to find fault in the big BMW. It might even convince SUV fans to fall back in love with an estate.

(pocket-lint.com, https://goo.gl/Mo9Xsm)

 

 

 

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