Group test: BMW 5 Series Touring v Mercedes-Benz E-Class v Volvo V90

Group test: BMW 5 Series Touring v Mercedes-Benz E-Class v Volvo V90
Group test: BMW 5 Series Touring v Mercedes-Benz E-Class v Volvo V90

Can the new BMW 5 Series Touring topple two other plush family-friendly load-luggers?

For some time now, it’s been hard to split the two finest executive estate cars of the moment, Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class Estate and the Volvo V90. They’re both formidably accomplished – but, undaunted, BMW’s here to have a go with the all-new 5 Series Touring.

BMW 5 Series Touring 520d M Sport

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Price: £41,385
Power: 188bhp
Torque: 295lb/ft
0-60mph: 7.9sec
Top speed: 139mph
Economy: 62.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 119g/km

Driving experience

We’re testing all in popular 2.0-litre turbodiesel guise; this means that neither is exactly a rocketship, although they are perform adequately enough. The E-Class is the fastest, but the BMW isn’t far behind, and only just shades the V90: they’re all up for lugging either a full load or a harassed one-up businessperson in the battle of the fast lane.

All have lots of gears in their auto transmissions: eight for the BMW and Volvo, nine for the Merc. They all shift smoothly, with the 5 Series proving the most intuitive and the Volvo the most occasionally indecisive. They’re all refined too: again, the BMW is the quietest, with the V90’s engine clatter and E-Class’ road noise spoiling the peace.

It’s no surprise to find that, dynamically, the BMW is also the best. Fitted with £895 of adaptive dampers, it was beautifully supple; the E-Class may also have impressed, had our test car been fitted with £1,495 of air suspension. But it wasn’t, proven by the shimmies and shakes it exhibited. The Volvo did have £1,500 of optional adaptive dampers and rear air springs though, and ran the BMW close as a result.

Surprisingly, the Volvo feels the most planted in corners, with the best grip and willingness to change direction. The E-Class is more wallowy and, to an extent, so too is the BMW. The saloon is better in this regard, and it’s also a surprise to find its steering is more vague as well.

Interior

Volvo V90 2.0 D4 R-Design

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Price: £38,365
Power: 188bhp
Torque: 295lb/ft
0-60mph: 8.0sec
Top speed: 140mph
Economy: 62.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 119g/km

The Volvo also has the best seats, although it also has the most confusing touchscreen system; the 5 Series is far more logical, and the interior, although rather unadventurous-looking, is exceedingly well built. The Volvo looks good too, as does the E-Class – at first glance. Peer more closely and it’s a surprise to find cheaper plastics and flimsy finishes.

You sit a bit too high in the front of the E-Class and it’s tight in the rear too, mainly because it lacks foot room – the BMW betters it, and this traditionally hasn’t always been the case. The Volvo is way better than both though, with cavernous rear legroom that makes it feel almost like a limo.

Boot space? The two German cars run each other close: you can pack eight carry-on suitcases into each – with ease. You can too with the Volvo, but it’s a bit of a squeeze; in contrast, the E-Class has so much room, its underfloor boot space will actually swallow a ninth suitcase. All three have fold flat rear seats at the touch of a button, but the space each serves up does vary…

The Volvo is the worst, with 1,526 litres with the seats down. Much better is the BMW, which has 1,700 litres, plus the largest and widest boot space of all. The E-Class is the monster, though: you can load a total of 1,820 litres into it – and the design is so thoughtful, Mercedes-Benz has even added two remote control switches by the rear doors, so you can fold the seatbacks down remotely.

Running costs

 

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate E 220 d AMG Line

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Price: £41,215
Power; 192bh
Torque: 295lb/ft
0-60mph: 7.6sec
Top speed: 146mph
Economy: 67.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 120g/km

Mercedes-Benz offers enormous discounts on the E-Class Estate – so substantial, they make the target price lower even than the V90, which is the cheapest on paper (although this does benefit company car tax rates). Its PCP rates are the most competitive as well; the still-new BMW can’t touch the others for price competitiveness. It did prove the most fuel-efficient in testing, though.

All three are very safe, with full-house Euro NCAP crash test ratings, and they’re all fairly well equipped, although you’ll want to add key options to each one of them – the 12.3-inch digital instrument display and air suspension for the Merc, adaptive dampers for the 5 Series and V90. Budget for a few thousand on top of the base price, then.

Verdict

In the final count, victory has to go to the BMW. In terms of space, luxury and overall ability, it’s the best here, and is the most likely to please buyers. It’s a deserved victory – and an honourable second place for the Volvo, which beats the E-Class to the runner-up spot. Why? It’s more fun, more relaxing and still spacious: we liked it.

The E-Class isn’t disgraced, though. It’s just a shame that it stumbles in key areas for executive estate car buyers, namely rear passenger space, interior quality and an awkward driving position. Even so, if you’re simply after the biggest executive estate car on sale, look no further: the E-Class, in that regard, is unbeatable.

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