Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
  • Petrol, diesel and hybrid options
  • All are strong, turbocharged performers
  • All come with an automatic gearbox

With a range of two diesels, two petrols and a plug-in hybrid, the Touring range offers fewer engines than the saloon without a performance variant available. It's all very sensible here, while xDrive all-wheel drive is available on all but the entry-level 520i petrol engine.

All are turbocharged and every model comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and have paddleshift gear controls fitted to the steering wheel – while the transmission is extremely intuitive if left in automatic mode, there are times when it’s more satisfying to select gears manually, something easier done with paddleshifters than a gear stick.

Petrol engines

The BMW 520i is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 184hp and 290Nm of torque. It accelerates from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and reaches 139mph. This will be the weakest engine in the range as it'll have to work harder to get up to speed. Especially when fully-laden. It's certainly quieter than the diesel equivalent and might make sense to those who don't cover large distances.

The BMW 540i xDrive uses a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine. With 333hp and 450Nm of torque, it accelerates from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds before heading up to 155mph. All-wheel drive is standard on this model.

Diesel engines

We've driven both diesel models. The BMW 520d accounts for around 80% of all Touring sales, and in most circumstances, it is impressively smooth and quiet for a four-cylinder diesel engine, and delivers acceptable performance and low- to mid-range flexibility for typical driving. With 184hp and 400Nm, it's perfectly adequate for most with 0-62mph taking 7.6 seconds. Top speed is 139mph and 137mph for the xDrive all-wheel drive version.

Rev it harder and the refinement deteriorates, performance seems a little sluggish and the power delivery quickly plateaus - the 5 Series Touring is a heavy car after all, so there’s nothing particularly unusual in that.

The 530d xDrive marks a significant upgrade in terms of refinement and performance, thanks to its 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine. Not only do you get 286hp, but also a massive 250Nm of extra torque over the 520d, and it’s torque that’s key to a diesel’s mid-range thrust.

The additional performance turns the 5 Series Touring into a genuinely quick car, and also suits the luxurious Touring better than the 2.0-litre 520d. It’s quieter at rest, smoother through the range and more flexible too.

Its relaxed power delivery might be the only downside for some, as it doesn't push you back into the seat as much as some might hope - you can thank the all-wheel drive neutralising the power delivery - so it's not the most exciting way of building up pace. This will be ideal for those who want to waft and relax effortlessly, however.

Handling

The 5 Series already has a bigger, less nimble feel than the more compact 3 Series, so while it handles neatly, rides well and grips strongly, the balance is tilted more towards comfort than outright dynamics, with some body roll. A comparable Mercedes E-class equipped with air suspension is more comfort-focused, still. Both cars are good to drive, but it’s the BMW that strikes the better compromise.

Plenty of traction and poise

Lower-powered versions including the 520d rarely need more than rear-wheel drive, and we’d recommend winter tyres as being more effective than all-wheel drive in snowy conditions anyway.

However, xDrive all-wheel drive is offered on most models, including the 530d. It’s a clever system, which retains the sporty feeling of rear-wheel drive with added grip in more extreme circumstances – there’s no wheelspin when accelerating hard from a busy junction, for instance.

Steering differences

The steering of 520d and 530d models seemed quite different. Both test cars were fitted with optional adaptive suspension, while the 520d wore 18-inch alloys and the 530d a 19-inch version.

The 520d steering felt much too light in Comfort mode, and while it gained some weight in Sport mode, it felt unnatural in the way it self-centred.

The 530d steering had a more reassuring weight, for added reassurance when cornering and a greater sense of precision. Either way, however, the electrically assisted steering is not particularly feelsome, with a slightly sterile character.