Car reviews - BMW - 5 Series - 530i Touring wagon
Styling, handling akin to sedan, road-holding, performance, under-floor compartments, towing capacity
Room for improvement
Rear seats don't fold flat, less cargo space than a Commodore, price
28 Jun 2005
IF a Commodore wagon drives pretty much like a Commodore sedan, then you would certainly expect the BMW 530i Touring to offer a similar driving experience to the sedan on which it is based. It does.
Which is to say that this mid-size estate drives very well indeed, and much better than a Commodore. The Touring is every inch a BMW but there are not enough of them make it a truly brilliant wagon. "Touring" is much more appropriate than "wagon".
The 530i Touring is what is still quaintly known as a niche vehicle. Sales hover around 100 per year. These customers will not have selected the BMW over a Holden but more likely because they want just a little more practicality and versatility than is offered by a 5 Series sedan.
It is fairly typical of the new breed of sports wagons which are so popular in Europe, where estate buyers do not use their vehicles in the way Australian use Falcon and Commodore wagons.
The 530i Touring is not designed primarily as a load carrier and the space behind the front seats is significantly less than you find in the Ford or Holden.
With the rear seat in place you can carry 500 litres of luggage, which is about what fits in a big boot. Fold the backrest forward and there is room for 1650 litres.
Before getting behind the wheel, I had a good look at the load area. Sure, there are no wheelarches to intrude on the space, but then I couldn't work out how to achieve the "flat floor" promised in the press release. You can't.
The rear seat back folds forwards but the cushion does not tilt forward against the backs of the front seats. The resultant fairly modest cargo space has a less flat floor than you get in a Commodore wagon.
There are dinky little compartments beneath the floor with load separators and these are ideal for carrying briefcases, laptops and suchlike. And this is surely the Touring's forte.
With the new 190kW 3.0-litre engine up front, it hauls executive baggage very sweetly. BMW claims a zero to 100km/h time of 6.9 seconds, which is precisely midway between the sedan powered with the same engine (6.7) and the outgoing 530i sedan (7.1), so there is no compromise to be found in performance.
The top speed is 250km/h, only because it is governed. Kerb weight is 1590kg, up just 15 on the sedan. To remember you are driving the Touring variant rather than a 530i sedan, you will need to look in the mirrors.
The handling is marvellously fluent and the active steering is fantastic around town, while delivering perfect feel at higher speeds. The self-levelling rear suspension stops the headlights from searching the sky and with a braked trailer you can tow 2000kg in plenty of style - at a price.
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