New BMW 5 Series Touring vs Mercedes E-Class Estate vs Volvo V90
Plush estates make great family cars, with the latest to join the club the new BMW 5 Series Touring. But how does it compare to its two most competitive rivals?...
What are they like inside?
Behind the wheel
All three cars have ‘sports seats’ with part-electric adjustment, but only the E-Class and V90 have adjustable lumbar support as standard. Our 5 Series and E-Class had optional fully electric seats fitted, yet the V90’s still feel the most comfortable and supportive the moment you slide in them, and they stay that way on a long drive.
With the seats in their lowest positions, you sit higher in the E-Class and V90, contrasting with the low-slung, cocooned driving position offered by the 5 Series. Which is best is mostly down to personal preference, although taller drivers might find the E-Class’s dials obscured by the steering wheel.
On which point, all of our cars had digital instrument displays, although Mercedes-Benz makes you pay £495 for the privilege. In all three cars, these screens are great additions, because they show extra information, such as sat-nav directions, conveniently near your eyeline. The 5 Series has the most logical and easy-to-use dashboard, followed closely by the E-Class’s, while the fact that you have to use the V90’s touchscreen just to alter basic functions such as the air-con is both a faff and a distraction.
Inside, the 5 Series seems comparatively unadventurously styled, but it wins the perceived build quality contest, being solid and smartly finished, with the classiest plastics. This is no small matter, given that these are luxury estates. The V90 may have some usability bugbears, but boy does it look sharp, with plush materials that seem almost as robustly screwed together as the 5 Series’. In some respects, the E-Class appears the most swanky inside, thanks to plenty of wood, chrome and glossblack highlights, but there are more low-rent plastics at key touchpoints, and some of the panels feel flimsy when you prod them.
Space and practicality
Front seat space is more than fine in all of our contenders; it’s in the back where noticeable variations appear. True, even with optional panoramic roofs fitted, head room in each is similarly generous, but the V90 simply smashes its rivals for rear knee room. The 5 Series just pips the E-Class in this respect, but factor in the shortage of foot space under the E-Class’s front seats and, while it’s hardly cramped, it’s certainly the tightest in the back.