Feature

Audi A4 vs BMW 5 Series vs Volvo S90

The all-new Volvo S90 executive saloon and a small but potent Audi A4 take on the mighty BMW 5 Series

Words ByWhat Car? team

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Audi A4

What are they like inside?

You’re unlikely to have a problem getting comfortable in any of these saloons. All have plenty of leg and head room up front, and steering wheels with loads of adjustment.

True, you sit quite high up in the Audi A4’s optional electric front seats – the standard manual seats drop lower – but you soon get used to this. The Volvo S90 and BMW 5 Series have part-electric seats as standard, but the S90 is the only one with standard adjustable lumbar support, and has the most comfortable seats all-round.

Our A4 came with Audi’s optional Virtual Cockpit, a 12.3in digital screen in place of the usual analogue instrument dials. It’s highly configurable and can put lots of information, including sat-nav maps, in front of your eyes. The S90 also has digital dials as standard, but the screen behind the steering wheel is smaller and shows less information than the A4’s.

The 5 Series makes do with traditional, but very clear, analogue instrument dials. However, it has the most intuitive infotainment system; a rotary dial next to the gear lever lets you quickly skim through on-screen menus, while programmable shortcut buttons take you straight to the functions you use most.

The infotainment system in the A4 works in a similar way to the BMW's and is almost as intuitive. By contrast, the S90 gets a tablet-style touchscreen interface. The screen is clear and the graphics look great, but with so many functions and some small icons, it's the most distracting to use on the move.

The A4 has the plushest interior. The 5 Series impresses, too, and is only let down by details such as the plastic around the air-con controls. The S90 also has a nice mix of soft-touch and aluminium trim, but there are some sharp edges and gaps where surfaces meet.

Rear-seat passengers will be happiest in the S90, though, mainly because it has the most leg room. The 5 Series also has enough space for someone tall to comfortably fit behind an equally lofty person sitting in front of them but they will feel more squeezed in the A4. This also has the least rear head room and is narrower, so it’s not the best choice if you regularly carry three people in the back.

Each car’s boot will swallow a large suitcase and several shopping bags. The 5 Series' is the biggest, although you have to pay extra for split-folding rear seats, which are standard in the other two. In the S90, these release electrically via switches positioned behind the rear headrests.

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