Charles Rangeley-Wilson finds that BMW’s latest incarnation of its 5-Series Touring estate handles like a dream without compromising on space, fuel economy or looks.

This new BMW is an object lesson in how to make a roomy, comfortable, family-friendly mile-muncher. I’d like to say it was perfect, and perhaps should, because what stopped it from being so – bossy, intrusive automation (it twice tried to shut me inside its own boot) and an arcane interface between driver, computer and car – is no more than standard fare nowadays on every new car I drive. Even so, at least the singing, ringing, binging and pinging was not quite so tinging, plinking and plonking as in the Volvo V90 I reviewed a few months ago, a direct rival with all-wheel-drive and similar levels of space and refinement.

With the exception of its infotainment system, the V90 was a fine interpretation of what
a big estate should be and yet, beyond the almost untouchable comfort, front and back, of the big Swede, the Bavarian rival shades it in key areas such as real-world economy, performance and smile-on-the-face dynamics.

Although I rather liked the Volvo’s chillaxed demeanour, there’s no arguing with the handling qualities of the Beemer. It’s an ineffable thing, but climb behind the wheel and, suddenly, you’re in control of something that feels much lighter and more responsive than this very big car has any right to be. Couple that fleet- and sure-footedness with the silky straight-six, pleasingly zingy diesel engine, and you have one big cruiser that will quite easily kid you it’s a sports car those times when there’s no luggage in the boot and no passengers asking if you’re nearly there yet or when you can stop so they can pee.

For those times when you do have the whole tribe aboard – and this car is undoubtedly for families—there’s plenty of room. My 6ft, cramp-averse frame was just fine in the back. A fifth passenger would be quite comfortable, too, although their legs must straddle a drive-shaft tunnel and they might not want to go all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats that way.

To keep them all happily entertained, the BMW comes with Apple CarPlay, which seamlessly hooks you up to an iPhone and various apps, including music, but most usefully a library of audiobooks, should you have one: Martin Jarvis reading Richmal Crompton’s ‘Just William’ stories will shrink any journey by half.

To stow all those wellies and suitcases, the 5-series Touring’s boot is comparable with the opposition without being class- leading: its 570 litres plays 560 in the Volvo, 565 in the Audi A6, but is trumped by the Mercedes E-class with 640 and the Skoda Superb’s cavernous 660 litres. So, the Merc and the Skoda have a bit more room for Fido: you pays your money and you takes your choice.

How much money, exactly? The car I reviewed with its three- litre diesel engine and all-
wheel-drive would set you back a smidgen over £50,000 in standard trim, although standard trim is so generous there’s not much need for the options list: it includes satnav, self-levelling suspension at the rear, LED fog lights, leather upholstery, M Sport bodykit and snazzy wheels.

I’m not I’d sure miss the extras that lift this spec over the more basic SE, however, and
so, for a saving of £3,000, I could lose the 19in wheels and get a better ride into the bargain. You’d pay about the same for a similarly equipped Audi A6, Mercedes E-class, Jaguar F-Type or Volvo V90 and each has its own qualities, whether that’s dynamics, sumptuous interiors or a cosseting magic-carpet ride. It’s probably fair to say, however, that, right now, none roll all that into one package quite so well as this imperious BMW.

On the road: BMW 530d xDrive M Sport Touring

Priced: From £50,555
Combined fuel consumption: 51mpg
Annual road fund licence: £450
Power: 265bhp
0–60mph: 5.6 seconds
Top speed: 155mph