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The 5 Series Touring has long been regarded as the archetypal executive estate car. However, there have been some new kids on the block over the past 12 months that have threatened to topple the 5 Series estate from its podium.
Cue the fifth-generation model.
Hot on the heels of the saloon, the Touring has played a pinnacle role in the 5 Series success story, taking over half the sales in the carmaker's home country of Germany. Here in the UK it's not quite as popular, taking around 25% of sales, but it's still an important pillar in the range and one the firm expects to grow with this latest model.
From the outside the new 5 Series doesn't exactly offer the bling or kerb appeal of its rivals and in many ways just looks like an enlarged 3 Series Touring. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though - its sophisticated and understated profile and sleek lines give the car an overall elegant look.
Slip behind the wheel and a sophisticated cabin that oozes the quality befitting of its premium status greets you. We could literally talk all day about the sheer volume of tech available on this M-Sport car, a lot of which filters down from the flagship 7 Series and takes the technology, as BMW bosses claim, "to the next level".
Standard equipment is vast and optional safety tech includes semi-autonomous driving, which combines a lane keeping aid with adaptive cruise control to keep the car in lane with minimum input needed from the driver.
Other clever kit includes an automatic parking aid, which is ideal when slotting the car into a particularly tight space, adaptive headlights, WiFi capabilities, head-up display, a rear-seat entertainment package and gesture control functionality, although the latter is temperamental to use and a little gimmicky, sometimes taking on a life of its own.
Diesel is king
Like the saloon, the new Touring has been on a diet and shed up to 100kg over the previous generation. This weight loss has meant an overall improvement in fuel economy by up to 11%, making the 5 Series Touring one of the most economical estates in its sector.
BMW bosses are keen to point out the importance of diesel and, despite the current backlash, believe it'll play a key role in the future for the executive car class. Around 95% of sales for the 5 Series are expected to be diesel and no plug-in hybrid is planned to join the Touring range for at least another two and a half years.
The engine line-up remains the same as the saloon and includes two petrol and three diesel options. Here we're driving the fleet-favourite 190hp 2.0-litre diesel, which offers the lowest running costs of the range including headline figures of 114g/km and a combined fuel economy of 62.7mpg. Picking M-Sport adds 5g/km of CO2 but has no negative impact on economy.
There's been a considerable uplift in comfort levels for this latest model and the standard air suspension is faultless on the move. Some enthusiasts would complain that this latest generation is a little too polished, with some of the old 5 Series' rugged driving charm removed in favour of its exceptional ride quality.
That's not to say that the 5 Series is still not excellent to drive, however. It tackles corners with poise and offers loads of grip, and despite its dimensions the estate feels almost as agile as its saloon brethren too, while the steering is direct and engaging.
Improvements to insulation around the cabin mean noise levels are also at their lowest, and the different driving modes on offer, including Sport and Comfort, make noticeable differences to the suspension and throttle settings to suit, so you really can have your cake and eat it.
Top of the class
This is a fiercely fought segment and the margins between rivals are miniscule. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class wins the practicality battle and the Audi A6 Avant is best for running costs, while the Volvo V90 majors on advanced safety tech.
What has always set the 5 Series Touring apart is simple: it's how the car drives and that is still very much the case. The slick auto gearbox, smooth diesel engine and engaging driving dynamics make it a joy to drive on any stretch of tarmac.
But this latest model also has some impressive residual values, the best of its rivals here, and leading whole-life costs alongside arguably the classiest cabin of the bunch.
It's an excellent all-round premium estate that we simply can't mark down for a slightly smaller boot and gimmicky gesture control system. Top marks it is then.