All I want for Christmas… ANDY RUSSELL would like the new BMW 5 Series Touring in his garage.
I always play the ‘what if’ game as I tear up my National Lottery ticket. Imagine you’ve won a few million quid – what five cars would you buy?
Well, here goes.
Garage 1 – Mark I Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet.
Garage 2 – Ford Sierra Cosworth 4×4.
Garage 3 – Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport soft-top.
Garage 4 – Aston Martin 4.7 V8 Vantage Coupe.
Garage 5 – The difficult one. A sensible workhorse that’s got to be good enough to make you want to take in out of the garage in this illustrious company.
If you had asked me last week it would have been a Mercedes-Benz E220 CDI Avantgarde estate… until I drove the new BMW 5 Series Touring.
In fact, the cheapest entry model – the 520d SE – so I can justify some desirable options. And I’ll bet it will be the car that clocks up the most miles out of my fabulous five.
Being a BMW, the 5 Series has always been a fine-driving, classy car yet I was never a great fan of the previous version’s styling. But the German giant has really gone to town with the fourth-generation model – a more sporting and dynamic design with a sloping rear roof line giving it a sleeker, elegant look without compromising practicality.
A strong engine range sees 204, 258 and 306hp 3.0-litre petrol and 204, 245 and 299hp turbo diesels, all six-cylinder units, but the star of the range is the entry-level four-cylinder 184hp 2.0-litre turbo diesel which will account for about 40pc of UK sales.
Hardly surprising given its class-leading economy and emissions – very important if you pay tax on a company car – and more than enough performance for most drivers.
It may have only four cylinders but it’s refined even under hard acceleration and you will be hard-pressed to tell it’s a diesel.
Go for the 520d and, as well as more miles per gallon and much lower emissions, you’ll save around £3,000 on the price compared to the entry 523i petrol and 525d which means you can afford to opt for the £1,495 automatic transmission, a superb eight-speed gearbox which has minimal effect on economy – with 45-50mpg in real-world driving – and emissions so no huge tax penalty for company-car drivers.
It shifts seamlessly, and with eight speeds gives power on demand without hesitation. If you want to get more involved in the driving experience, just snick it into sport mode and change manually via the lever or steering wheel paddles.
As is BMW’s way, the ride is quite firm, so you are aware of what is going on under the tyres, but it’s more than capable of taking the sting out of bumps and lumps for comfortable, controlled progress. But that suspension set-up comes to the fore in the way it drives – the new 5 Series Touring is a big car but has agility that belies its size with top-notch steering so it sweeps round fast bends with great poise. Should you want to hike the handling and ride there’s optional adaptive drive with variable damper control for £2,200, integral active steering at £1,300 or the variable damper control alone for £965 – expensive options so be sure you need them.
Now boasting the longest wheelbase in it class, the new 5 Series Touring has grown inside with plenty of legroom for large adults front and rear and even more load capacity. The luggage compartment is the biggest ever in a 5 Series Touring at 560 litres and though shallower than some rivals it’s well shaped and goes back a long way. There’s a useful underfloor storage compartment with a damped lid so it remains up while accessing it and the tonneau cover raises and lowers automatically when the tailgate or independent rear window is opened.
Rear seat backs split 40/20/40 and fold flat via levers in the boot and on the seats, while self-levelling rear air suspension keeps the car on an even keel when weighed down.
The interior oozes quality materials and attention to detail and the dashboard is a thing of beauty with BMW’s classic clear instruments and minimal switchgear with most functions controlled by the intuitive iDrive control between the front seats. And with the money I’d save by going for the entry model the £940 head-up display – which gives the impression of ‘hovering’ at the end of the bonnet – for speed and cruise control settings, and directions if you go for the optional satellite-navigation system, is worth considering.
Entry-level SE is loaded with standard kit including 17in alloy wheels, six airbags, a host of electronic driver aids, front and rear parking sensors, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, part electric front seats, self-levelling rear suspension, keyless ignition, Bluetooth phone link and auto headlamps and wipers.
So fingers crossed for tonight’s lottery… this BMW will be the first car in my garage if my numbers come up.
BMW 520d SE Touring Automatic
Price: £31,875 (manual £30,380)
Engine: 1,995cc, 184hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel
Performance: 0-62mph, 8.3 seconds; top speed, 137mph (138mph)
MPG: combined 53.3 (manual 55.4)
Emissions: 139g/km (135g/km)
Benefit-in-kind tax: 19pc
Insurance group: 32 (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years/unlimited mileage
Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,907mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,094mm; height 1,462mm