Touring cuts through the madding SUV crowd

Four-wheel drives might be taking over the roads, but old-fashioned station wagons are still getting some love in Europe. Volvo, king of the wagons, launched the V90 last year, and Mercedes has kept the ball rolling with the slinky E-Class Estate. Never one to be left out, BMW has whipped the covers off the G30 5 Series Touring, which has been treated to the same tech-onslaught as the sedan, but has room for the family, pets and all their baggage.

Before we go any further, it’s worth looking at why wagons deserve a bit of love. Although the world has gone crazy for faux-wheel drives, the whole city SUV concept is flawed. Extra ground clearance is crucial if you’re taking on the Rubicon Trail, sure, but it dulls handling and adds drag on city street. It’s the same story with four-wheel drive, which is crucial for scrabbling up sandy dunes, but just adds weight and ruins fuel consumption on a dry, smooth freeway.

Because they’re not pretending to be something they’re not, wagons don’t need to make these compromises. They usually have more luggage space than the equivalent four-wheel drive, and because they’re not designed to look tough and off-road ready, they drive like normal cars. To our eyes, the traditional wagon shape is damn sexy, too.

On paper, the new 5 Series Touring checks all those boxes and more. For one, it rides on the same platform as the sedan, and comes with the same set of semi-autonomous systems. That means it will handle steering, throttle and brakes at up to 210 km/h (130 mph) on the highway, provided the driver is on hand to take over should anything go wrong. Wayward pedestrians are protected by the auto-emergency braking system, and the car will actively steer itself to aid drivers swerving around an obstacle.