Wednesday 25 April 2018

Fine estate of affairs gets this BMW Touring off hook

But 5-series needs all-wheel-drive for 'edge'

BMW 5-series Touring 530d
BMW 5-series Touring 530d
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

I know I am being ridiculously petty by picking, initially, on a tiny aspect of this week's car but I feel I'm entitled to have a bit of a rant now and then. Just to clear the head sort of thing.

So here goes: Imagine a €100,000 Beemer estate (5-series Touring), whose prime purpose is to carry people and their accoutrements, not having one little hook to hang something on in the whole of its vast boot area. Not one.

Or do €100,000 Beemer-estate drivers not do fragile-things shopping? Or maybe they know better than I how to stow want-away bottles of soya sauce, mad-to-roll tins of peas or a brittle dozen eggs?

Sure there are anchor points (and nets available) to tie things down but nowhere to hang anything on. Far less costly cars have hooks. One even makes a virtue of its 'curry hook' - in the cabin no less.

It struck me as odd in a car laden with such technological extravaganzas as 'Driving Assistant Plus' (the car can nearly drive on its own) that minor matters were overlooked.

I know well that BMW can come back to me and say there are several ties that bind. I still couldn't find a hook though. If I'm missing something, I'm in good company because I asked family to find me a hook in the boot. After looking at me strangely, they searched; they couldn't find one.

Sorry, I had to get all that off the old chest. And yes, I'm slightly exaggerating the sense of grievance but it is a case in point of how practicals - in an estate especially - can be overshadowed.

I missed the hook most when I had one badly stretched bag of groceries that would scatter like TDs on summer break across the boot if I plonked it fair and square on the floor.

Enough, enough I hear you entreat. For God's sake tell us about the car. The car? Oh! I liked the car a lot. What's not to like about this 5-series Touring? Mine had all-wheel-drive (AWD), exceptional grip, a 3-litre diesel engine, plenty of verve and a cabin fit for a king, or queen.

It was a ridiculously bedecked €103,000 motor full of power and poise. A showcase of BMW at its best in many ways, but well outside most people's budget in reality.

Yet, I think the all-wheel-drive is critical to my assessment of it. I haven't had anything like as happy an encounter with its rear-wheel-drive saloon counterpart. So I've got to conclude, after driving this Touring especially, you need AWD to get the best from the new 5-series. That's praise and criticism in equal measure.

Part of my job was comparing it with the emergent favourite, the Mercedes E-Class estate, which I revelled in some time back.

The more I've driven the BMW Touring, the fonder I've become of it. There is a degree of being spoilt with white Dakota leather upholstery. And there was the swift-smoothness of having a 3-litre diesel engine respond in an instant. And an 8spd automatic transmission. It is a car I could, and did, drive all day and not tire.

Only the same goes for the Mercedes which I think has a nicer cabin and a greater sense of roominess. As well as that, I think the 3-litre diesel in this is a luxury. I'd expect most people to buy a 2-litre - there is a big difference on cost and road tax. But with AWD, this estate nudged the Merc on handling/ride precision.

The thing is, though, for the €103,000 you'd pay for it, you could have a gloriously specced X5 (SAV not SUV they insist) for the same money and be really part of motoring modernity.

Which brings me to the inevitable question. Against that Crossover backdrop, where is the future for a luxury estate? On the face of it nowhere, especially in Ireland where most of us ignore them. But after being all over Europe this year, I've never failed to be surprised by the volume of estates on the roads. People love them; they are often smarter looking than saloons, more practical in many ways (especially those with hooks) and tend to be favoured by families and life-stylers.

So don't write them off just yet, regardless of the tsunami of SUVs and crossovers.

I'm a big fan of this BMW Touring but a critic, too. I'm getting fonder of the dash/cabin/infotainment mix in the 5-series but I still feel the interior is less expansive than the E-Class. I still believe this was an opportunity missed by BMW to make the car truly outstanding in one area. Like it or not, the E-Class has stolen the show on autonomous driving, on how to display information and on how to adorn a cabin.

But for all that, my drives in the Touring convinced me they can still work the magic, especially if you want something to give you the feeling you're driving a machine with real energy in its chassis.

I wouldn't say I'm totally 'hooked' but it is a great motor for a family, for lifestylers and for easing you through a long journey.

FACTS & FIGURES

BMW 5-series Touring 530d (2,993cc, 261bhp), xDrive M Sport auto. 0-100 km/h 5.6 secs; 5.5l/100km, 144g/km, €390 tax.

Price: From €56,870. Car tested €80,600: Dakota leather, Sport auto transmission, run-flat tyres, roof rails, front heated seats, auto air con, satnav, DAB radio, BMW online services.

With options: €103,014 - M Sport Plus package/Harman Kardon surround sound; visibility package (adaptive LED headlights), technology package (head-up display, etc); comfort package; electronic damper control (EDC), electric/folding towbar; panoramic glass sunroof; 12v power sockets; Driving Assistant Plus.

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