David Motton

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

We've been excited to test the latest BMW 5 Series Touring and with a punchy engine and four-wheel drive, might it live up to expectations? Let's find out!

Overview

The new BMW 5 Series Touring is the German brand’s latest estate car.

The saloon version was named ‘Car of the Year’ by our colleagues on What Car?, and we’ve been keen to get behind the wheel ever since.

Here we are finding out what tow car ability the 530d xDrive Touring has, a model which combines a powerful diesel engine with four-wheel drive.

With a list price of more than £52,000, this is an expensive car.

It’ll need to be multi-talented to justify its cost.

Towing

The 530d xDrive Touring is one of the best tow cars we’ve driven for a long time.

It’s quick, stable and responsive in an emergency.

The xDrive 4x4 system adds 50kg to the kerbweight compared with the rear-wheel-drive model, making it 1875kg – that gives an 85% match fi gure of 1594kg.

We matched the BMW 5 Series to a Swift Expression 636 with a Mass in Running Order of 1417kg, and it towed the big caravan with ease.

The 30-60mph time of 6.9 seconds is among the fastest we’ve recorded.

Towing isn’t something to be done in a hurry, but the engine’s 457lb ft of torque makes towing easy with so much muscle in reserve.

It’s simple to maintain speed on steep gradients, and there’s enough punch for swift and decisive overtaking.

And thanks to the four-wheel-drive system, you can pull away quickly without any wheelspin.

More importantly, the BMW 5 Series is stable at speed.

It stayed straight and true at the legal limit and beyond it at the test track, without the slightest wobble from the caravan when slowing down from high speeds or while overtaking high-sided vehicles.

The BMW took firm charge of the caravan in the lane-change test.

It gripped hard, changed direction quickly, and bullied the caravan into following it.

There was no sign of pushing and shoving from the caravan, which sometimes makes this manoeuvre a nervous experience.

Our test car came with Electronic Damper Control, a £985 option. This gives the choice of Comfort and Sport settings for the suspension.

We tried the lane-change in both and found that Sport kept body lean in even better check.

Our other emergency test is a stop from 30mph. Again, the BMW impressed with a short, 10.1-metre stopping distance.

The hill start was also straightforward. The electronic parking brake held the outfit still on the 1-in-10 slope, and just a gentle squeeze of the throttle was needed to pull to the top.

Everyday driving

Now we know what tow car skills the BMW 5 Series Touring has, but what’s it like the rest of the time?

Leave the caravan on its pitch, and you’ll find this big estate is as quick as many sports cars.

The six-cylinder diesel has an appealing, gravelly, bass-heavy engine note. The ride and handling balance achieved really is remarkable.

We’d be inclined to leave the Electronic Damper Control set to Comfort most of the time.

Sharp bumps in the road are sometimes felt with a jolt, but mostly this set-up delivers a smooth and soothing ride.

Switching to Sport keeps an even tighter rein on body movements, without becoming harsh.

However, we’d welcome more feedback through the wheel – it’s one area in which the Jaguar XF retains a definite advantage over the 5 Series.

At speed, the BMW is hushed and quiet, although there’s some road noise to contend with while driving on coarse surfaces.

For the most part, though, the BMW 5 Series is a refined and enjoyable thing to drive.

Space

The 5 Series is roomy and well made.

It’s clearly laid out and a very comfortable place to spend time.

The driving position is sound and widely adjustable, while the iDrive controller and the surrounding short-cut buttons make the infotainment and sat-nav systems easy to use.

There’s lots of legroom front and rear, although the panoramic sunroof (a £1295 option) eats into headroom a little.

The thick transmission tunnel will get in the way a bit if travelling three abreast in the back.

Boot space has improved compared with the old 5 Series Touring – there’s now 570 litres for bags with the rear seats upright.

Our own measurements show the Mercedes-Benz E-Class’s boot to be slightly wider and deeper than the 5 Series’, and much longer.

Buttons either side of the tailgate lower the rear seats, increasing the capacity to 1700 litres.

Again, the E-Class has the 5 Series beaten, with 1820 litres.

Running costs

The 530d xDrive is an expensive car at £52,305. Compare that with £48,150 for a Volvo V90 R-Design Pro.

In M Sport spec the BMW gets leather, LED foglights, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control and sat-nav.

Fuel costs should be low if the 28.4mpg we achieved while towing is anything to go by, although insurance will be steep.

Resale values are respectable, with What Car?’s experts predicting the car will be worth 44% of the original price after three years and 36,000 miles.

Technical specs

Engine size2993 cc
Kerbweight1875 kg
85% KW1594 kg
Towball limit90 kg
Maximum towing limit2000 kg
Power261.0 bhp
Torque457.0 lb ft
Official MPG51.3 mpg
CO2144 g/km
30-60mph6.9 seconds
30-0mph10.1 m

Verdict

The 530d is a remarkable car, just missing out on the full five stars because of its price and because the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is more practical.

As a tow car, though, the BMW 5 Series Touring is exceptional.

Conclusion

Pros

  • This is a strong, stable and confidence-inspiring tow car
  • The 3.0-litre engine delivers impressive performance
  • It's enjoyable to drive with or without a caravan in tow
  • People and luggage are well catered for

Cons

  • Its E-Class rival is more practical
  • It isn't cheap
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