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.
The technology overload doesn't stop there, it extends into one of the nicest interiors to launch in the past twelve months. The 10.3-inch display sitting atop the dashboard can be manipulated using the rotating iDrive controller between the seats, touching the screen or waving a finger at a gesture-control sensor on the dash. Bluetooth Apple CarPlay – a system debuted on the 5 Series sedan – is optional, and there's a wireless phone charger built into the glovebox.
Down back, there's more legroom and headroom, and nagging kids can be silenced with iPad mounts on the headrests. They'll be able to hear Dora the Explorer better, too, thanks to extra soundproofing on the roof, windscreen and load bay. The only kid caveat? We'd steer clear of white leather, lest it be sullied by muddy boots or chocolatey fingers.
Power comes from a range of efficient, turbocharged gasoline and diesel engines. At launch, the gasoline range will kick off with the 185-kW (252-hp) 530i, before jumping up to the 250-kW (340-hp) 540i. Meanwhile, the range of diesels starts with the 140-kW (190-hp) 520d, and stretches to the 530d, which punches out 195 kW (265 hp) and a massive 620 Nm (457 lb-ft) of torque. If it's effortless performance you're after, the 530d is the way to go.
The new 5 Series Touring will be on show at the Geneva Auto Show, where New Atlas will be on the ground covering all the action.