New Volvo V60 vs Audi A4 Avant vs Skoda Superb Estate
Volvo is masterly at making estates – but its new V60 will have to be outstanding to beat the classy Audi A4 Avant and the cavernous Skoda Superb Estate...
Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI 190 S line S tronic
List price £38,135
Target Price £34,411
The A4 saloon is a previous Car of the Year, and the estate is a chip off the old block.
Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI 190 4x4 Laurin & Klement DSG
List price £37,625
Target Price £34,161
Our favourite wagon in its cheaper trims. Unbeatable if you just want as much space as possible.
Volvo V60 D4 Inscription auto
List price £37,860
Target Price £35,178
A smaller version of the excellent V90 that promises almost as much practicality and comfort.
Picture the scene. You’ve got £30 to splash out on dinner; do you go to your local Waitrose, select a couple of small but succulent steaks, accompanying vegetables and a decent bottle of Bordeaux, or do you go to KFC and buy the biggest bucket meal on the menu and some extra-hot wings on the side?
Yes, you’ve guessed it: it’s the classic quality versus quantity debate – one that applies rather aptly to the three cars we’ve lined up here. In the quality corner, there’s the brand spanking new Volvo V60, along with one of our favourite upmarket estates, the Audi A4 Avant.
But for the same sort of money as either of those mid-sized, premium-badged options (just shy of £40,000), you could have a fully loaded Skoda Superb Estate that’s large enough to double up as an aircraft hanger. So, which is it to be: quality or quantity?
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Each of our combatants comes with a 2.0-litre diesel engine that produces around 190bhp and drives through an automatic gearbox. But while the A4 and V60 are front-wheel drive, you get four-wheel drive in a Superb of this price.
There are drawbacks to this that we’ll explain in the buying and owning section, but the added traction of four-wheel drive certainly helps the Superb get away from the mark without fuss or drama – especially in slippery conditions. Even so, its more substantial size and hefty weight means it starts to lose ground to the A4 above 30mph.
Bringing up the rear is the V60, although it still feels pleasingly brisk. That running order is maintained when it comes to rolling acceleration – the sort of burst of speed you might need when joining a motorway or overtaking a caravanner. The V60’s performance is also hindered by a gearbox that tends to hesitate during kickdown, whereas the other two are more decisive.
There’s far more to separate these cars when it comes to cornering. All of our test cars were fitted with adaptive dampers (optional on the A4 and V60 and standard on the Superb) that allow you to soften or stiffen the suspension. Whichever mode you choose, the Superb always feels like a bit of a barge. It grips keenly enough and actually has the most natural-feeling steering, but body lean is pronounced in corners and it wallows heavily during sudden changes of direction.
The A4 and V60 feel like hot hatches in comparison. Even in their Comfort settings, they roll less and are much keener to tuck their noses into corners. Stick their suspension in Dynamic mode and you’ll find they scythe along twisty roads accurately and without leaning too much. While they both impress, it’s the A4 that comes out on top, because it has the most outright grip and feels the most balanced.
But unless you want to turn your nice new chest of drawers into a flatpack or make your family carsick, you’re probably more interested in how these estates ride. The V60 takes last place here, dealing with humps and dips in the most abrupt manner and proving the most fidgety over imperfect road surfaces.
Despite its handling prowess, the A4 is far more comfortable, dealing with urban ruts and bumps more adroitly and feeling far more settled at motorway speeds. Indeed, even if you put the suspension in Dynamic, the A4 still has a more composed ride than the V60 does in its softest Comfort mode. Our wider experience of the V60 suggests that you’re better off avoiding the adaptive dampers and saving yourself £750. You’ll enjoy a cushier ride – especially if you stick with standard 18in wheels.
Meanwhile, the squishy Superb delivers the most pillowy ride, both around town and at motorway speeds. Our only complaint is that it tends to bob up and down a couple of times after dealing with bigger bumps, and this can leave you feeling a bit queasy along undulating B-roads.
It may be comfortable, but the Superb is the noisiest car here, regardless of speed. Its diesel engine is the only one that’s audible at a 70mph cruise, and it generates the most wind and suspension noise. Although the V60 is technically the quietest (according to our decibel meter), its higher-pitched tyre slap at motorway speeds is more annoying than the A4’s lower-frequency road roar.