By Richard Bosselman
SPORTS utilities might be set to rule the world, but traditional station wagons still have relevance – enough, in fact, to warrant a reintroduction.
BMW New Zealand has announced that it will officially bring in the wagon version of the all-new Five Series around June, following the arrival of the sedan which lands next month.
While the Auckland-centred distributor is sorting through its specification and drivetrain considerations for the Touring, it has left firm impression that one decision has been made: It will almost certainly be availed only in all-wheel-drive.
While that seems to take the car into X5 territory, spokesman Paul Sherley suggests there will be clear distinction because the Touring has no crossover pretension: It is pure and simple a road car.
Is that what people want? “Well, 30 percent of our 3-Series volume is accounted for by Touring models …” counters Sherley.
Officially, the Touring’s introduction is actually a return to old form. The type was dropped from the inventory after the model change before last – though the format continued to avail nonetheless, as a special-order item.
“The car never fell completely out of demand – we have been continuing to bring in the old car as a wagon for those who wanted it,” said Sherley.
Today’s images, released ahead of the global debut at the Geneva motor show opening on March 9, suggest it will deliver strong styling plus super practicality, much resulting from an upsize over the outgoing equivalent.
At 4943mm long, 1868mm wide and 1498mm tall, the new wagon is 36mm longer, 8mm wider and 10mm taller than before and also has equivalent interior space to the X5.
Boot capacity has grown 10 litres, to 570 litres, with the new 40/20/40 split-fold rear seat in the upright position. With the seat folded, cargo room grows to 1700 litres – 30 litres more than before.
As before, the Touring retains the old-style flip-up rear hatch window to save having to open the whole hatch to access smaller items.
That rear seat folding mechanism can be released with a press of a button in the boot, while the hatch gets electric closing as standard, with a hands-free version an option.
The derivative also benefits from the extensive weight-saving measures meted the sedan, with BMW claiming it is 100kg lighter than the outgoing generation but can carry an extra 120kg of cargo, thanks to a new rear air suspension system that becomes standard across the range.
In respect to powertrain options, but logically whatever gets the tick will mirror the sedan line, meaning potential for a 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder 520d diesel and 3.0-litre six cylinders in 250kW/450Nm 540i petrol and 195kW/620Nm 530d diesel form. All tie to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The 540i Touring comes standard with xDrive, while the 530d will be produced in a choice of rear-wheel drive and xDrive.
Germany is not commenting about whether the Touring will get a version with the promised plug-in hybrid powertrain from the sedan, or if it is planning a high-performance variant with technology from the upcoming twin-turbo V8 M5 flagship.
The Touring has the same comprehensive suite of driver safety aids as the sedan. Collision warning, autonomous city braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping, active side collision protection, evasion aid and lane keeping assist at up to 210kmh all provision. So too remote control parking using the BMW key.
Connectivity has been improved with the inclusion of features such as rear-time traffic reports, on-street parking information and calendar, email and contact detail via Microsoft Exchange.
The latest iDrive gets a touch controller and connects with a 10.25-inch touchscreen, it has a head-up display and LED headlights and daytime driving lights have automatic high-beam switching.
Smartphones get inductive charging and a WiFi hotspot for up to 10 devices.
Interestingly, the model might find itself in a segment without a direct rival, as most other marques in the big wagon game are now preferring to tailor their offers with in high-riding crossover format.
That includes Mercedes-Benz, which having previously sold its E-Class in road-pure format is taking a new turn with the latest generation, set to land in May. The E-Class All-Terrain is an elevated estate tailored to take on Audi’s A6 Allroad and the Volvo V90 Cross Country. Benz reckons the lifted car will also significantly elevate E-Class estate sales.
BMW has not said if it is tempted to deliver a Five Series Touring in a crossover format, but given that this is a role that the X5 performs, the prospect seems slim.