New Audi A6 vs BMW 5 Series vs Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Has the Audi A6 made sufficient ‘progress through technology’ to surpass the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and class-leading BMW 5 Series luxury cars?...

Audi A6 rear seats

Space and practicality

Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

As you might expect, each car provides masses of front leg room, while the Audi A6 has the most head room. That’s because the optional sunroof fitted to the BMW 5 Series robs some, and the one in the Mercedes E-Class more still. Even so, you’d have to be really tall to struggle. The 5 Series has the widest interior and, like the E-Class, ideally placed armrests either side.

The A6 is the narrowest across, but not enough to make you feel squeezed. One thing to note if you’re tall and have the seat slid back, however, is that you run out of armrest on the door. The A6 also has the least storage space in the front, mainly because it doesn’t have a deep well under the centre armrest like the other two.

BMW 5 Series rear seats

For the most limousine-like experience in the rear, choose the A6. That’s again partly due to it having the most head room, but also due to a rear seat design that, despite what the measurements suggest, serves up a centimetre or two more knee room than the 5 Series’. The A6 also has a little more space for your feet under its front seats. The E-Class is the least accommodating, with head room feeling tight if you’re edging much past six feet tall, the least foot space and decent rather than outstanding leg room.

We’d also commend the A6 to you for being able to fit three in the back. It may have the least width between its doors, but its rear bench is actually the widest for three rumps. The E-Class is weakest in this respect, but the 5 Series is the one to avoid if you’re the middle passenger, because the lighting console above your head makes head room woeful.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

It’s another victory for the A6 when you compare boots. For a start, it’s the only car that has 40/20/40-split folding seats as standard; these cost £335 in the 5 Series and £345 in the E-Class. And you’re less likely to need to lower them in the A6, because its boot is the longest and, on average, the widest. That means it can hold nine carry-on suitcases easily. It was tight getting eight into the 5 Series, and while the E-Class only matched that above its boot floor, it had room for one more in the large well beneath. You’ll also find a folding basket in there – a nice touch that might save you splashing out 5p on a carrier bag. Every little helps, after all.

Audi A6

Audi A6 boot

The Audi A6 boot is biggest, being the longest and squarer than its rivals’. It has the smallest load lip, too, and the A6 is the only car with standard 40/20/40- split folding rear seats. A6 has the most head room and plenty of leg room in the front. Its rear seats are also the roomiest, with the most leg and head room and the widest bench for three abreast. As in the others, mind, the middle passenger has to straddle a hump in the floor.

Boot 565 litres Suitcases 9

BMW 5 Series

BMW 5 Series boot

The BMW 5 Series boot is tallest but overall smallest and most awkwardly shaped, due its contours. Optional folding rear seats have convenient release levers at the boot opening. The 5 Series’ panoramic roof, like the E-Class’s, robs head room, but there’s still loads of space for six-footers. This car is also the widest in the front, and it feels it. The roomy rear seats are fine for two, but head room for the central passenger is poor.

Boot 530 litres Suitcases 8

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The Mercedes E-Class boot is the shallowest and has the smallest aperture, but it matches the A6’s suitcase tally using its underfloor space – which also stores a folding basket. The E-Class has the least head room and feels the most intimate up front, but even so, taller folk will fit without a struggle. It’s the same in the rear, with the least leg and head room, but a pair of six-footers can still fit comfortably. Three abreast is tight, though.

Boot 540 litres Suitcases 9

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