When the Touring arrived this summer, the addition of the estate body seemed to soothe some of the initially jarring edges of the saloon.Even the saloon now seems to have grown into its mildly controversial appearance.
But the car on test here is the entry-level diesel in the Touring range, which offers 177bhp in the latest version of BMW’s 2.5-litre straight six common rail turbodiesel and has 40mpg potential on the combined cycle.
Unlike Mercedes-Benz, which builds proper estates in the C-class and E-class range with impressive load-lugging ability, BMW’s Touring ranges have tended to be a compromise of style and substance.
This Touring is a rival for the Mercedes-Benz E-class estate, which offers a maximum luggage capacity of 1,910 litres up to roof level with the rear seats folded and a massive 650 litres up to window level with the rear seats in place.
The 5-series is next best in the premium estate sector, with 500 litres at minimum and a maximum of 1,650 litres – more than an Audi A6 Avant or Saab 9-5 estate.
So the 5-series Touring is an accomplished carrier that disguises its girth well. With a six-speed manual transmission as standard, the 525d feels livelier than you might expect, bearing in mind there is already one more powerful diesel in the range, the 218bhp 530d, and it is about to be boosted by another – the 272bhp 535d.
With a claimed 0-62mph sprint time of just 8.3 seconds, the 525d always feels like a high-performance car and is a full second quicker than estate versions of V6 diesel-powered Saab 9-5s. The Audi A6 2.5 TDI is closer to 10 seconds and the four-cylinder E-class is the wrong side of 11 seconds.
Much of BMW’s appeal is in the drive, but the latest 5-series offers a number of options aimed at enhancing the driving experience.
It is still an engaging car to drive, with near-perfect balance, rear-wheel drive and responsive steering, but if you want the full 5-series experience you would need to part with an extra £2,500.
This would cover active steering (£675), which adjusts to allow for less input at lower speeds and a more delicate feel at higher speeds, Dynamic Drive (£1,550), which adjusts the throttle response, allowing a greater loss of traction at the rear before the electronics cut in and provides a sportier exhaust note, and sports suspension (£245).
It’s almost as if BMW feels some people driving the BMW 5-series wouldn’t really appreciate these items and those that would will be prepared to pay extra. And while the straight- laced interior is simple and clear, thanks in part to iDrive, some drivers would probably prefer more of a show in a £30,000 car.
BMW 525d SE Touring
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value) £30,197
CO2 emissions (g/km) 187
BIK % of P11D in 2004 23%
Graduated VED rate £165
Insurance group 16
Combined mpg 40.4
CAP Monitor residual value £13,675/45%
Depreciation (26.58 pence per mile x 60,000) £15,948
Maintenance (4.25 pence per mile x 60,000) £2,550
Fuel (10.18 pence per mile x 60,000) £6,108
Wholelife cost (41.01 pence per mile x 60,000) £24,607
Typical contract hire rate £553
Three rivals to consider
THE 525d is the entry point for diesel in the range. The entry-level E-class diesel comes close on P11D price, but this E220 has two fewer cylinders and has neither the power nor refinement of the BMW. The A6 Avant is close to its run-out period and comes with leather and Multitronic automatic, although manual is a no-cost option. The Saab looks like a bargain with its proven 3.0 V6 and high-spec Vector Sport trim.
FIRST glance shows the BMW to have the highest SMR bills, but most customers will choose the £1,000 Service Inclusive pack to fix the cost of servicing for up to 60,000 miles. In that case, costs would be more in line with the Mercedes-Benz (£2,346) and Audi (£1,998), with a small increase in tax – you have to pay BIK for the servicing option. The real star here is the Saab, which offers SMR costs of £1,698.
IT might offer more power and torque and feel the liveliest by far on the road, but the 5-series is also the most frugal, according to the official fuel consumption figures. It achieves 40.4mpg on the combined cycle and would cost about £6,100 in fuel over 60,000 miles. The Audi is next best at about £6,200, while the four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz could cost nearly £6,300. This is the Saab’s worst round, at £6,630.
THE BMW 525d benefits from having a slightly lower P11D value than the Mercedes-Benz and, according to CAP Monitor, a higher percentage retained value. It would lose £15,948 over three years/60,000 compared with £17,232 for the E220 CDI. The Saab scores remarkably well as the underdog in this contest at £16,950 – losing less than the Mercedes-Benz. The Audi has a relatively low percentage retained value compared with the others, reflecting its imminent replacement and would lose £18,366.
ADDING up all the figures, the BMW might not come top of every table, but it wins on those that make up the largest percentage of costs – depreciation and fuel – and totals £24,607. The Saab’s underpinnings might be ageing compared with the other three and it is significantly cheaper at the front end, but it is a classy alternative and turns in a solid pence-per-mile performance of £25,278. The E-class suffers because its four-cylinder engine is not as efficient as it should be and it has disappointing residuals compared with the 525d, while the Audi reflects the near run-out status of the A6 Avant.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
THE BMW 525d Touring comes top in our running costs comparison, is a rewarding car to drive and is practical, although not the most practical car in this class. Second place turns into a choice between the ageing Saab and the hi-tech E-class with the Swede enjoying a modest costs advantage. The A6 Avant is the costliest, but is the best built and has plenty of kit.WINNER: BMW 525d SE TOURING
At a glance