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Car reviews - BMW - 5 Series - 528i Touring wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Sedan-like performance, full equipment list
Room for improvement
Restricted load space

3 May 2001

THE 528i Touring is a good-looking wagon. But staying clear of the boxy Volvo look means its cargo space is not best in the class.

The rear overhang has been kept in check with the wagon just 30mm longer than the sedan.

With the rear seat folded, the BMW can hold 1525 litres of cargo, well below the 1975 litres the rival Mercedes E-class wagon can swallow.

But the Touring is a well thought-out wagon incorporating several handy items.

The tailgate, for example, has a "soft-close" system which means the door only has to rest on the catch before an electric motor pulls it shut.

This makes the relatively light door easy to close and occupants will appreciate not having the noise and "shock wave" of a slammed tailgate.

The large window can also be opened individually so small items can be thrown in quickly.

The cargo space is flat and nicely trimmed with rubber straps and hooks provided to secure the load.

Cargo is kept out of sight by a blind and a net is provided to stop items flying into the cabin during an accident.

This roller blind and net sits behind the rear seat but has to be unclipped and mounted on the leading edge of the front seat to provide similar net protection to front-seat passengers when the rear seat is folded.

It is not a particularly easy job removing the blind as it weighs a couple of kilos and is long. Positioning it on the front seat is a job best left for two people.

The rear seat split/fold backrests fall neatly onto the seat cushion.

The seat incorporates a lap/sash belt for three plus a headrest for each passenger. Comfort is up to 5 Series sedan levels, as is headroom. Two child booster seats are included.

Neat touches include air vents to demist the side windows in the cargo area, while the lid of the under-floor compartment is held out of the way by a hook that attaches to the top of the tailgate opening.

The rear speakers are in the roof, ensuring a full luggage compartment will not dull the sound or smash the speakers.

What the Touring does not offer is a third row of seats. BMW will tell you this is because of safety concerns but realistically the rear compartment is just not big enough. Interestingly, the Saab also forgoes a third-row seat, also for safety reasons.

If it is a seven-seater you are after, go for the E-class or a Volvo.

The rear suspension has been developed specifically for the Touring with the multi-link arrangement having dampers that lie almost horizontally.

The system also features self-levelling so the correct ride height and vehicle stability are maintained regardless of the load.

The ride quality is as good as the sedan which means a comfortable if slightly firm setup.

Suspension noise is well isolated but with all wagons noise levels are up on the whisper-quiet sedan. Handling also earns high marks.

There appears to be a little more road rumble and exhaust noise but it is still a refined car.

With a weight penalty of just 30 kilos, the wagon performs as well as the sedan with the 142kW, in-line six-cylinder engine providing ample power.

This engine mates to a five-speed Steptronic automatic that allows the driver to select gears on demand.

Traction control is also part of the long equipment list that includes front and side airbags, climate control air- conditioning, remote central locking, park distance control and leather trim.

The Touring is a welcome addition to the 5-Series range, providing a well equipped, practical vehicle.

But if it is ultimate space you are looking for, the gargantuan Benz is the better bet.

- Automotive NetWorks 08/07/1999

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