Although Touring versions of the 5 Series had been around in its earlier guise, when BMW launched the revised 5 Series in 1996 there were no Touring models in the line up. This raised a few quizzical eyebrows at first, but BMW's top brass knew what was coming. The Touring (BMW-speak for Estate) models arrived in 1997, with the 528i and 525tds diesel arriving in January, followed by 520i and 523i Touring models in April and the 540i Touring in September 1997.
September 1998 saw the introduction of the excellent 530d SE Touring, powered by the 184bhp direct injection turbodiesel 3.0-litre engine which was to go on to garner such critical acclaim under the bonnet of the BMW 330d. This mega-Touring was a little slow to catch on, hindered in no small part by a hefty price tag that broke the psychologically significant £30,000 barrier. At the same time as the 530d's unveiling, BMW quietly withdrew the unloved 525tds model.
Those looking for the ultimate Touring were to have their hopes dashed when, in March 1999, BMW released the M5 saloon and refused to sanction an M5 Touring variant. Few realised in this country that the old M5 was available in Europe as a Touring version and a few left hand drive cars filtered into the UK. If the prospect of a 380bhp estate for £12,00 sounds like fun, you know where to go.
The 5 Series range received a through makeover in September 2000. The 520i's 2.0-litre engine was consigned to the history books, replaced by a 2.2-litre unit that developed 170bhp, an identical output to the 523i which, unsurprisingly, was also replaced. Its successor, the 525i was powered by a 2.5-litre unit developing 192bhp, only 1bhp less than the 528i. See where this is going? You'd be right. The 528i was axed, making way for the 231bhp 530i, with its 3.0-litre straight six cylinder engine.
To attract diesel buyers disenfranchised by the 530d's big sticker price, but wanting similarly sophisticated technology, BMW also introduced the 525d. This 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine utilised much of the 530d's technology in a more manageable package, still pushing out a respectable 163bhp.
BMW also made a number of cosmetic changes for the 2001 model year. Pay attention and you'd spot body-coloured rubbing strips, round fog lights and a redesigned front spoiler. The headlights were now of the fashionable clear lens variety and the indicator lamps became round. To help some of the M5 magic trickle down through the rest of the range, that model's wider chrome grille surround were found on all variants. The V8 versions also gained chromed vertical grille slats. The effect was very subtle but clearly adhered to the BMW family look.
The interior benefited from a few tweaks as well. If the rear side airbag option was specified, additional airbags were fitted in the rear pillars, bringing the total number of airbags to no fewer than ten. A revised range of options were also available, including a Mini Disc system, a voice-controlled telephone and a larger television screen. An all-new BMW 5 Series was announced in early 2003, numbering the days of this particular Touring model.