26/09/2019
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Towcar of the Month: BMW 520d xDrive Touring M Sport

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The multi-award winning BMW 5 Series makes Pep Guardiola look like a serial underachiever.

Words by John Sootheran

The BMW 5 Series wins awards like most of us drink tea. Year after year, redesign after redesign, this awesome Münchener puts the likes of Audi, Mercedes and Volvo to shame.

It makes Pep Guardiola look like a serial underachiever.

So, whether you’re after a roomy family mover, an accomplished towcar or a company car mileage muncher (maybe all three?), this BMW should be on your shortlist.

BMW 520d xDrive Touring M Sport dashboardFew cars combine practicality, driving pleasure and luxury like a 5 Series Touring, and those that do will cost twice as much.

The Beemer swallowed almost all the caravanning kit in its gargantuan 570-litre boot space; wrapped its occupants in leather-clad opulence, and could be thrown around the various test tracks at indecent speeds, without the driver ever breaking sweat.

At 1,750kg, even novice drivers will have a great choice of family ‘vans to select from. Experienced towcar drivers can explore the heavyweight, luxury-’van sector.

Power delivery and acceleration, with a 1,539kg Bailey behind, are exceptional.

The eight-speed gearbox makes changes at just the right time, and each one is imperceptibly smooth. Select Drive for sedate towing, but when ‘making good time’ is important, Sport is the better choice.

40-60mph took just six seconds, and, even in extreme situations, the outfit’s stability was flawless – it’s like the ’van’s not even there.

The four-wheel drive made mincemeat of the punishing and precipitous hill start. The parking brake locked us in position, then, where lesser motors stall or spin, or just reek of flambéd clutch, the ‘Five’ merely hunkered down into the Tarmac, combined brake release and pull-away perfectly, and whizzed up the gradient like it was the Fens.

Contrary to popular perception, this BMW does have indicators and it corners with aplomb, even when towing at speed around the roller-coaster test circuits. Millbrook’s wiley cambers, dips and peaks were dispatched with a Teutonic shrug and the whole experience imbues you with the level of confidence that’s crucial when towing.

Stopping’s good, too. The big discs deliver bite and feel, and haul the hefty estate up in double-quick time. 30-0mph takes just 10.7m – less than the length of the outfit.

As with most Beemers, there’s no spare tyre. Instead, to cut down on weight, it’s shod with four run-flat tyres. These are suited to caravanners, but the strengthened tyre walls affect ride quality. In the event of a blow out, all you’ll know about it is a small red warning light on the dash, your towing will carry on regardless, until you can find somewhere safe to pull over.

BMW 520d xDrive Touring M Sport insideInside, this estate has plenty of space for five. Legroom is good and the seats are comfy and supportive. I found the driver’s seat side bolsters a little narrow, but then I am XL. Visibility is excellent all around, while the dash and centre console layouts are super-stylish.

The iDrive system, which controls most of the infotainment ancillaries, has evolved in recent years, and is very intuitive to use. Mind you, it’s being phased out and replaced by BMW Cockpit, a system that includes an assistant like Amazon’s Alexa. “Hey BMW, take me to work,” will result in the Sat nav automatically mapping your route to the office.

BMW 520d xDrive Touring M Sport boot spaceThis is not a cheap motor to buy new. With a few ‘essential extras’ added, like the Concierge Service, Gesture Control and Microsoft Office 365 software, our test car was tickling 60-grand. However, in three or five years it starts to look like extraordinary value.

In 2024, it’ll still look like new, have under 60,000 on the clock and, with a full service history, will cost around £14,000.

Summary

This car delivers effortless and luxurious towing. The torque comes easily, is refined by the eight-speed gearbox, then meticulously applied to the Tarmac.

‘Armchair drivers’ may prefer the cushioning of a Merc, but those who appreciate the thrill of driving will favour this. Its ergonomics are spot-on, too.

Revisiting my test notes, this car was summed up in four words: “A near-perfect drive”.

Information

  • Price £45,335 (£59,410 as tested)
  • Tax band H
  • CO2 133g/km
  • Insurance group 31
  • Kerbweight 1,750kg
  • 85% match 1,488kg
  • (Caravan MTPLM weight)
  • Noseweight 90kg
  • Engine Diesel four-cylinder
  • Capacity 1,995cc
  • Torque 295lb/ft @1,750-2,500rpm
  • Gears 8-speed auto
  • Drivetrain Full-time 4x4
  • Top speed 142mph
  • 0-62mph towing 16.35secs

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