Spacious and classy package

THE Germans do station wagons better than anyone. BMW’s new 5 Series Touring illustrates this as much as its nearest rival – the Mercedes E-Class Estate – and does a fine job of suggesting its owners lead an affluent and active lifestyle.

The entry-level 5 Series Touring, the 520d, comes with a two-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. This may sound insufficient to shift the big Beamer’s 1715kg bulk, but offers 135kW of power and an excellent 380Nm of torque.

Refined economy

BMW quotes a drinking level of only 5.3 litres per 100km, which truly is small car territory. My 400km test on a mix of highway, city and country lanes returned just over seven litres per 100km, a long way off BMW’s figure, but still impressive considering my heavy right foot.

The 520d is not a quick car in a straight line at 8.3 seconds for the 100kmh sprint, but for real world driving, the required shove is right where you need it from 2000rpm. For a diesel four-potter, BMW’s effort is class-leading.

The gearbox too is a revelation. Its eight-speed automatic seamlessly selects the right cog no matter the gradient or engine speed, while inside the cabin it is easy to forget you’re in a diesel. The refined engine makes only the tiniest of clatter.

Good looker

BMW’s M Sport package with aero kit, light-alloy wheels and sports suspension on this Touring gives it achingly good looks with beautifully clean lines.

A real bonus a wagon has over an SUV is a much lower load height when filling the boot. At 560-litres the Touring will swallow the likes of prams easily enough, while the 40/20/40 rear bench can be dropped to give 1670-litres for you cashed-up surfers out there.

The tailgate window opens separately with a press of the key fob, while bag hooks, underfloor storage, tie-down rail system and luggage net make it a genuinely practical cargo carrier.

BMW luxury

The Touring’s cabin is a delight if a tad dark and clinical, and superbly laid out. M Sport Leather Sport seats, chunky leather steering wheel and anthracite material are all luxurious to the touch, while a heads-up display and sat nav as standard are appreciated.

Strangely though, fully electric seats will set you back an extra $2000 if the part-electric standard items won’t suffice.

Any 5 Series will take five adults comfortably, with the M Sport front seats particularly supportive. Got kids? Loads of room for them in the back.

Standard kit

For your dollars also expect cruise control, parking sensors, reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, USB inputs and Bluetooth. There are airbags everywhere and a raft of electronic driver aids, while techie toys such as lane departure warning, blind-spot warning and surround view camera are options.

On the road

BMW doesn’t do poor handling cars, and the 520d Touring didn’t disappoint. Find the sweet spot in the engine’s rev range and there’s enough poke to play with and, with near-faultless road-holding, balance and sharp steering it makes for a thrilling drive.

The lowdown

Rivals for the 520d Touring include the Mercedes E-Class Estate and Audi’s new A6 Avant when it arrives next year. Then there’s BMW’s stablemate X5 to contend with too, for those undecided between SUV and wagon.

My test car totalled $113,823 drive away from Coastline BMW in Caloundra with its M Sport package, 19-inch wheels and full electric seats, while the 520d Touring range starts at $101,000 drive away.

You get what you pay for in life and for those with a $100,000 budget, the 520d won’t disappoint.


Model: 2011 BMW 520d Touring M Sport.

Details: Five-door, five-seat, rear-wheel-drive premium station wagon.

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 135kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 380Nm @ 1900-2750rpm.

Transmission: Eight-speed Steptronic automatic.

Consumption: 5.3 litres/100km.

CO2: 139g/km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 8.3 seconds; top speed 220kmh.

Bottom line: $113,823 drive away from Coastline BMW, 770 Nicklin Way, Caloundra, 5491 9100

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