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Is the climb worth it: BMW 3 Series Touring and 5 Series Touring

In its seventh generation, the BMW 3 Series Touring has grown so much that the question arises: is the 5 Series Touring still needed? We answer this using the new plug-in hybrid versions 320e and 520e.

Here we have two differently sized BMW station wagons with almost the same fuel-saving technology under the bonnet, namely the combination of a combustion engine and an electric motor. So the obvious tip seems to be obvious: Instead of the 520e Touring, take the slightly smaller 320e Touring, because it's cheaper and more economical - or read the article to the end.

Even with hybrid consumption, the basis of the cheap tip crumbles. Let's assume you cover 15,000 kilometers a year and are a busy Wallbox user, so you always start your journeys with a full battery. Let's also assume that you drive two thirds of your journeys without a combustion engine. Then the 5 Series would be a touch more economical - it roams 59 instead of 55 kilometers.

If you get further purely electrically, you drive cheaper per 100 kilometers. In principle, it is cheaper to cover one kilometer with electricity than with petrol. When it comes to the maximum range, the 520e Touring also offers an advantage, thanks to the 46 instead of 40 liter tank it has a striking distance of 581 instead of 514 kilometers.

Both rely on very similar drive trains, combining a two-liter petrol engine with 163 hp and 300 Nm torque with an electric motor. That delivers 80 kW in the 520e and three more in the 320e and draws its fuel from a lithium-ion battery. The system performance of both station wagons is 204 hp and 350 Nm, which is routed to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ZF automatic torque converter.

Especially interesting for station wagon users: Because the battery is mounted under the back seat, part of the loading volume is eliminated. The 3 Series leaves 410 to 1,420 liters, the 5 Series at least 430 to 1,560 liters. In addition, the larger model can be loaded with 576 instead of 468 kilograms and can take 200 kilograms more when braked.

Modest torque

On paper, there is sufficient torque available for pulling loads, but the 350 Nm or 204 hp by no means feel like a drive luxury. Even if you want to overtake quickly, you can use the kick-down on both models, which makes the four-cylinder roar.

Even when gliding along, the drive train is not entirely convincing. Again and again, slight jerks are irritating - the combustion engine and electric motor do not work hand in hand as smoothly as one would wish.

In addition, the purely electric start-up is difficult to achieve without jerks. The resolute initial torque of the e-machine compared to the somewhat phlegmatic starting behavior of the combustion engine surprises the accelerator again and again, and he has to get used to it all the time. Drives from the Bavarian Motor Works are generally imagined to be more cultivated.

What's also amazing about the 320e: It has shockingly hard suspension, rumbles through holes, tramples over bumps - even though the test car is equipped with the adaptive shock absorbers, which are subject to a surcharge, along with three basic set-ups. Whereby the name "Comfort" is quite misleading for the first level: "Sport" would be our suggestion, followed by "Sport plus" and then "Sport Superplus" for the hardest setting.

Of course, the 3 series gives in spontaneously, of course it leaves the 5 series behind in the driving dynamics tests. Apparently, the 320e sees itself as a sports suit - without making concessions to everyday needs.

Unrepentant agility

This one-dimensional design is all the more questioned when the BMW technicians on the 520e show that they understand very well how to tune chassis for everyday use. The 5 Series combines exactly that unrepentant agility with superior long-distance comfort, for which the manufacturer stood as an example for many years and which the 3 Series also mastered - before it got lost in a constant up and down between comfort and hardness.

Hardness is back in fashion at the moment, and that doesn't go with the large and comparatively heavy car that the 3 Series Touring has become in the meantime. After all, the test car weighs 1,887 kilograms with a full tank but unoccupied. The 5er puts another 87 kilograms on it - only, you almost want to write.

So here's a brief interim conclusion: If you've always dreamed of a spacious mid-range station wagon with a dedicated sports chassis, you can consider the 3 Series with a clear conscience. Incidentally, he will then also get the car with the better braking performance. Because we don't want to hide that: The 5 Series needs 80 centimeters more to come to a standstill when braking from 100 km/h.

Early inheritance, please

Nevertheless, our advice is: keep saving, top up the credit line, beg grandma for an early inheritance. What ever. But afford the 520e.

If you include the total hybrid subsidy of 5,981 euros for models over 40,000 euros (excluding VAT), the price difference is 6,600 euros. That's a lot, no question. But if you invest this sum, you will then drive in the upper class, enjoy the significantly better suspension comfort and lower interior noise in addition to the more luxurious ambience and can also transport more.

Since you obviously didn't fall for the obvious tip at the beginning, but continued reading to the end instead, you're now one of the lucky ones - the lucky ones who know that the climb to the 520e Touring is definitely worth it.

Conclusion

The size does make a difference: on the one hand with the cargo space, which holds up to 140 liters more in the 5 series than in the 3 series. Above all, the 5er springs in a top-class manner, without tumbling around the corners. On the contrary - the chassis can curves and comfort.That alone is worth the high surcharge for the much too tight 3 Series Touring.

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