You don’t have to buy an SUV you know for there are some rather good alternatives, like a station wagon. Some might think them old fashioned but then maybe the concept is due a revival, particularly in a luxury class which is overrun with me-too SUVs.
BMW is having another crack at it with the latest 5 Series, reintroducing the Touring model which was quietly dropped from the range last time round as buyers opted for the less expensive X5. But this time, the 5 Touring is putting a better case forward with the addition of AWD and we tested it in 530d xDrive guise.
It’s a combination that gels well; big diesel grunt and assured traction marrying nicely to the wagon configuration, and we prefered it to the 540i sedan we drove a few months back.
There’s piles of torque down low, the flow streaming from 1500rpm and it’s well managed by the variable nature of the AWD. The test car was fitted with the optional M Sport kit, adding adaptive dampers and the new Adaptive drive mode which sorts the suspension nicely. With the auto in Sport the 530d rounds up bends and covers distance as if born to it. The Touring seemed to be more compliant than the 540i sedan and there’s no struggle to ground the power either. The steering isn’t overly quick or feelsome but there’s enough coming back through to let you keep things tidy. And you can press on in this. While it’s not as quick as the 540i, the diesel performs well between 2000 and 4000rpm, working amongst the myriad ratios which are always well selected and slotted quickly. With the variable nature of the AWD, the onslaught of torque doesn’t push the nose wide when exiting bends either. There’s just lots of traction and a sweet ability to turn for what is a big, luxury class wagon. The front end isn’t overworked with the extra duty, and the car feels neutrally balanced in corners, much like a rear driver but with more effective traction on the way out. This made its way around our test loop in a quick but relaxed manner. And there’s enough power here for swift overtakes with plenty of brake to stop in a hurry.
Back in town and Comfort mode sweetens the ride. It’s genuinely cosseting, while the AWD ensures you can punch the throttle hard when need be and all you get is forward momentum, without any traction control intervention. The official fuel consumption figure (5.9) is optimistic though. We reckon 9L/100km is a more realistic average.
The 530d is well equipped with driver aids, low speed cruise control helping ease the pain of traffic with its stop-and-go function, while sign recognition can help you keep up with variable speed zones; one tap of the cruise button and it can adjust quickly to the prescribed limit. The active lane keeping function can struggle when heading west into a setting sun, and with the varying degree of the quality of lane markings, much work will have to be done on infrastructure here in New Zealand to standardise signage and markings for autonomous functions to work properly.
In the back of the wagon, the load bay is a little longer than the X5’s, but the extra height of the SUV’s boot makes it more practical. We’d ditch the load cover blind of the Touring too for it limits how much you can pack. The tailgate is powered and the rear screen can opened independently if you want to load things that way. Its rear seat is quite upright, with no means to adjust the backrest recline, but is otherwise comfy and there’s plenty of width; we managed to get three kids’ seats across the back easily enough. Who needs a seven-seat SUV?
It’s likely Mum will prefer to buy the truck though. And while we genuinely liked the Touring, it is hard to argue against the X5 alternative, considering it’s hardly a dynamic slouch with its extra capability of off-road travel, a seven-seat option, and superior tow rating. Still, for those who want to buck the trend, this is a charming alternative, a classic approach to practical luxury motoring with an element of exclusivity thrown in.
|Model||BMW 530d xDrive Touring||Price||$139,900|
|Engine||2993cc, IL6, TDI, 195kW/620Nm||Drivetrain||8A, AWD|
|Fuel Use||5.9L/100km||C02 Output||154g/km|