For four years I drove a BMW
5 Series Touring. So when a BMW 530d SE Touring turned up on the list of cars heading for my appraisal, I was more than a little enthused about finding how one of my favourite cars had matured over recent years. I reckoned without the weather.
It’s happened a couple of times before. The classic was the time I was full of anticipation about the Porsche Carrera 4 that was coming my way. I had blanked off the weekend to go out and really enjoy the Porsche on some fine driving roads. As I drove home sleet was hitting the windscreen, but I was reassured by the radio forecast that it was to come to nothing. It did and the Porsche simply tantalised me for ten days looking like an ice sculpture of a Porsche, until it was time to hand it over, virtually un-driven.
The experience with the BMW Touring was virtually the same. My road test route consisted of shuffling it forwards and backwards about ten feet, dreaming of what might have been. I did get one clear run – after the snowplough eventually reached our house – to drive the car to its next lucky recipient.
With just one run on ice-covered roads, I cannot pretend that this is a real road test. I was pleasantly surprised by its ability in adverse conditions.
Conditioned by the experience of a BMW 3 series, a couple of winters ago, that simply sat and span its wheels at the merest glimpse of the white stuff, I was surprised at the better experience in the 5 Series Touring. That tallies with my own 5 Series Touring which confounded the gathering of motoring enthusiasts at a Hogmanay Party some years ago. While others failed to negotiate the snowy half mile track to the house, the Touring amazed everyone by getting through the drifts.
What I could tell from sitting in the Touring marooned in the snowfields and on the subsequent short drive, is that it is as comfortable as I remember the previous model. The dashboard and controls are as logical as ever, apart from the gear selector. I was only getting familiar with it at the time I had to hand over the keys!
Impressions count. And, sitting behind the wheel of the Touring really does feel special. This is unmistakably a luxury vehicle as, indeed, it should be with a starting price for the 530d SE Touring of £39,400 – and that’s before you are tempted by some of the wonderful toys in the BMW brochure. The road test car had £16,900 of goodies added, bringing the total price to £56,300.
Among the noteworthy extras were the “comfort seats” (and they were), the dynamic package, the ‘head-up’ display that projects the speed and key warnings onto the windscreen, sports automatic transmission and the reversing camera set up. This gives you a view rather reminiscent of the Land Rover Discovery
, with the expected rear-facing camera augmented by cameras under the door mirrors that let you see if there are any unseen obstructions about to damage the car’s flanks.
In the conditions I faced I had no way to really try out the sports gearbox, let alone the performance, or the handling. I spent the time stuck in ‘normal’ gear setting, driving like I had the proverbial eggshells between my shoes and the brake and accelerator. But I did have a chance to appreciate the refinement of the three-litre diesel engine, It delivers 245 bhp and the usual bags of diesel torque at 540Nm – good for the low-rev, high-gear driving needed in snow.
Acceleration of this three-litre diesel, at 6.4 seconds 0-62 mph, is actually 0.3 seconds quicker than my old 528i petrol-powered Touring – which says something about how diesel engines have been developed to deliver good performance in recent years. The combined fuel consumption figure is 44 mpg with carbon dioxide emissions of 169 g/km, putting the BMW 530d SE Touring into band G for UK vehicle tax.
Where the BMW 5 Series Touring appeals of course is in its combination of executive comfort for passengers and its practical load carrying ability. I remember how my Touring happily swallowed everything from Ikea furniture, to antiques and even a couple of sizeable silver birches, in its time. This latest Touring aims to offer even more practical load carrying.
Instead of just one-third, two-thirds split rear seats, the latest Touring folds in 40/20/40 segments for even greater flexility. The luggage capacity is increased by 60 litres to 560 litres, with an optional ‘Extended Storage’ package lets you reduce the angle of the rear seats by 11 degrees, to give 30 litres more load space. The separate opening rear window has been retained.
Despite the limited opportunity to drive the 530d, it reminded me why I liked my Touring so much. Now, if only BMW would import the 5 Series xDrive four-wheel-drive versions into the UK....