Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
  • Virtually identical to the saloon
  • Updated infotainment screen in 2020
  • iDrive still betters many touchscreen systems from rivals

The cabin of the 5 Series Touring feels suitably premium, with a driving position that’s unmistakably BMW: able to be dropped down low for a sporty, cocooned feeling, or endlessly configurable to get all shapes and sizes of driver feeling comfortable.

The design is stylish and eye-catching, with the strong horizontal sweep of the instrument panel incorporating modern twists on classic BMW touches. At first glance, the number of shortcut keys and buttons for the climate control system might look like they'll be confusing to use, but in reality, they don't take long to get use to. It's far less fiddly than Volvo's touchscreen controls for adjusting the cabin temperature, for example.

Later models replaced the exceptionally clear speedometer and rev counter dials with a new digital screen, which we find to be less effective. The previous dials were still digital, but were placed conventionally, in the centre, ahead of the driver - this newer layout used on all BMWs means they're placed on the outer edges of the screen and can be obscured by the steering wheel at various points.

Luxury achieved through quality trim

Leather upholstery, aluminium trim inserts and gloss-black trim creates a highly luxurious feel (though its noticeable that gloss-black buttons abruptly give way to cheaper plastic at the outer edges of the centre console).

Ergonomically, the controls are all clustered together in a logical manner, and while we found the buttons for the drive modes and other vehicle settings beside the gearlever could be a little easier to locate, all the other functions are easy to find without glancing away from the road for prolonged periods.

Excellent infortainment leads the way 

The iDrive infotainment system is one of the most intuitive to use. The graphics are high-resolution, the sat-nav easy to use and follow. Functions are controlled via either the rotary controller and shortcut buttons located next to the gearstick, or by interacting directly with the touchscreen.

The rotary controller also doubles as a ‘touchpad’, allowing occupants to enter, for instance, postcodes with a scrawl of their finger. If it sounds baffling, it isn’t - it quickly becomes second-nature to switch between the different methods. Trying to scribe in letters and numbers with your left hand will be a pain however, especially if it's not your dominant hand.

As an option, gesture control is available, though more of a novelty than a must-have – you control functions such as volume control or answering phone calls with hand movements. There is, however, no option to merge infotainment functions into the instrument binnacle, as is possible with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.

Comfort

The transition from a saloon to an estate body style can sometimes reduce refinement, because there’s no longer a solid barrier between the cabin and the luggage area.

But the 5-series Touring is a very refined car, with very low road noise noticeable in the cabin - you'd have to drive this and the saloon back-to-back to notice the difference. Wind- and engine noise is also impressively subdued even at relatively high motorway cruising speeds, adding to the sense of calm inside.

Comfort seats do what they say

We tried the optional Comfort seats and they’re superb, with a plush, enveloping embrace that you sink comfortably into. Even the headrests have a pillowy plumpness. Generous second-row legroom delivers high levels of rear passenger comfort too.

We’ve tried the 5 Series Touring on optional adaptive suspension and this results in a smooth ride quality in Comfort mode with a gentle, controlled lull to suspension movements and only occasional patter at low speeds on rougher urban surfaces.

Ride quality is spec dependent

Upgrading from 18-inch to 19-inch alloys does create a slightly firmer feel because the tyres’ sidewalls are thinner, but it’s still impressively compliant.

Curiously, the 530d xDrive M Sport with 20-inch wheels and optional adaptive suspension resulted in a noticeably firmer ride on country roads compared with the 520d M Sport with the same size wheels and standard coil springs. We may deduce this down to the added weight and packaging of the all-wheel drive system resulting in a bumpier ride, but we were surprised by the knobbly ride quality.