First drive: BMW 530d Touring

Before we had a chance to drive the new 5-Series Touring, BMW treated us to a sample of the historic models it keeps squirreled away in its impressive museum based in Munich.

The parade of immaculate cars was a fair cross section of the manufacturer's post war output, but we were lucky enough to get a ride-along in a BMW 528i all the way from the early seventies.

After a minute spent admiring the mint velour upholstery of the car (which had only covered around 4000 kilometres) we couldn't help but reflect on just how small the four decade old saloon was inside.

A current-day 3-Series would have put the 528i to shame, but the new 5-Series Touring positively dwarfs its ancestor.

The car is in fact even bigger than its direct predecessor (the E61) thanks to an 8cm longer wheelbase and 4cm wider track. It feels like a big car to pilot too, but the obvious pay off is its luggage capacity, which goes up by 60 litres even if you keep the rear seats up.

Put them down and there's 1670 litres to fill, a figure that makes the Touring marginally bigger than the Audi A6 Avant at 1660 litres, but miles behind the seriously capacious E-Class Estate at 1950 litres.

The Touring's new girth has been concealed with the low-swept lines it has inherited from the saloon, but the car's snub shark nose and large rump will not appeal to everyone.

It's unmistakably a BMW, though, and that theme continues on the inside with manufacturer's latest interior exuding the premium look and feel which prompts so many buyers to dip their hands a little deeper into their pockets.

As well as the 40/20/40 near flat-folding seats (their very slight incline will annoy the obsessive compulsives among us) the Touring also gains an electric luggage load cover and an independently opening rear window for easier access to small items.

Both are welcome features, as is the automatic self-parking function BMW has added to the option list. Park Assist uses ultrasound sensors and the electric power steering to guide the car into a space while you work the brakes and accelerator.

Beneath the bonnet customers will ultimately get a choice of seven engines – three petrol and four diesels – with the entry level 520d likely to be the big seller.

We tried the 530d which features BMW's latest straight-six 3.0-litre diesel lump. Thanks to an enhanced turbocharger system the engine now produces 243bhp and 398lb ft of torque. That's enough to propel the car to 62mph in 6.4 seconds.

The Touring doesn't immediately feel quite that quick thanks to its 1800kg kerbweight, but a glance at the speedometer after several seconds of holding the accelerator down will almost always confirm that you're travelling faster than you thought.

For the most part the 530d feels like the executive rocket ship that many BMW owners yearn for. On the German autobahn especially the car feels imperious – weighty, fast, refined and comfortable.

Almost all of those attributes make it across the channel, too. Like the saloon the Touring's ride quality doesn't always totally excel on the Britain's ruffled roads, but the optional Variable Damper Control (a must have item for UK buyers) is rarely outwitted.

Find a smooth countryside highway and the wonderfully fluidic changes of the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox combine with the ultra-firm Sport+ setting to endow the Touring with genuine cross country pace.

That kind of behaviour won't help you achieve a potential 44mpg, but prospective six cylinder BMW customers will be pleased to here that the 530d's hefty premium (£39,400 compared to £30,380 for the 520d) at least buys them a credible performance advantage.

However for buyers more who prefer a measure of frugality mixed into their premium estate car – and the majority will - the 182bhp and 55mpg 520d should prove a more attractive compromise.
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