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Used test: Audi A6 Avant vs Mercedes E-Class Estate vs Volvo V90

These used estates are all luxurious, hugely practical and available for around half what they cost new, but which is the best buy?...

Audi A6 Avant vs Mercedes E-Class Estate vs Volvo V90

The Contenders

Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI 190 Black Edition S tronic

List price when new £41,600
Price today £21,000*
Available from 2011-2018

A compelling package made up of a frugal diesel engine, a big boot and a large, luxurious interior.


Mercedes E-Class E22o d AMG Line

List price when new £40,430
Price today £21,000*
Available from 2016-present

The sleek E Class has lots of technology and a highly efficient diesel engine, but does that make it a winner here?


Volvo V90 D4 Inscription

List price when new £37,555
Price today £21,000*
Available from 2016-present

Volvo’s largest estate offering is suave and estate has comfort, style and luxury taking priority over sportiness.

*Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing


A class-leading estate car is a jack of all trades. It has to cater for family holidays and manage trips to the supermarket, all the while remaining good to drive, comfortable and economical. A reasonable price is important, too. Fortunately, you'll find all the qualities and then some in a used Mercedes E-Class Estate.

It's one of the most luxurious load-luggers around. And in AMG Line trim, there's also a sense of sportiness about it. Most examples feature our test car's efficient 2.0-litre diesel engine, which promises punchy performance and low running costs as well.

Audi A6 Avant

For a similar price, however, you could have a previous-generation Audi A6 Avant: a car that shouldn't be glossed over, especially in our test car's posh Black Edition trim. It, too, is very spacious and premium inside, not to mention it packs a strong 2.0-litre diesel engine under the bonnet.

Last but by no means least, we've brought along the excellent Volvo V90 to round off this used triple test. Here in Inscription trim, it packs many of our other two contenders' plus points but is also ripe with Swedish style and minimalism inside and out. 

Which should you put on your driveway? Read on to find out.


Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

You might think straight-line performance isn’t overly important in a big family estate, but a punchy engine helps immensely when you’ve got passengers and a full boot. All three of our contenders have 2.0-litre diesel engines, but the E-Class is the quickest accelerating from a standstill and when you ask for a burst of speed on the move.

Following in a close second place is the V90, proving only marginally slower than the E-Class in most of our acceleration tests. Bringing up the rear is the A6, although you still wouldn’t call it sluggish; in fact, all three cars are more than strong enough for the job they need to do.

Mercedes E-Class Estate

It isn’t just what’s under the bonnet that gives the E-Class the performance edge; it’s the gearbox, too. With nine speeds, it can keep the engine on the boil more of the time. The ’box helps refinement, too, by allowing a taller top gear; the E-Class is the quietest on the move. While shifts can thump a little in Sport+ mode, they're silky smooth if you stick to the Comfort setting.

The eight-speed gearbox in the V90 changes gears quickly, but can be disappointingly jerky at times. As for the A6, it shifts between its seven gears with virtually no fuss. It also has the smoothest engine of our trio. The E-Class’s isn't far behind, but the V90’s engine is rather gruff by comparison.

Despite having the firmest ride, the E-Class remains comfortable. Its suspension has good damping that gives the most consistent ride with no nasty jolts over scarred surfaces. The rear suspension can be noisy going over bumps, though.

The A6 and V90 are much softer and float over larger road imperfections. Unfortunately, potholes and expansion joints trip them up (especially the V90), transmitting a thump through the suspension and into your seat.

Volvo V90 front cornering

In bends, the V90’s soft springs allow lots of body lean and you’re very aware of its mass when you ask for a sudden change of direction.

From past experience, the sports suspension fitted as standard to Black Edition A6s gives you a more planted and stable feel in corners at the expense of ride comfort – particularly on these 20in alloy wheels. However, our Avant had the optional air suspension fitted that has multiple modes to help mitigate the effects of bumpy roads, particularly when set in its softest Comfort mode. Mind you, even when set to Dynamic mode, it can’t match the E-Class’s agility. The latter corners the most eagerly, yet feels safe and secure when pushed hard.

The E-Class’s steering is the quickest acting, and it's well weighted. The V90’s also has a good level of heft, something that can’t be said for the A6. Its steering is far too light unless you’re in Dynamic mode.

As for braking, the E-Class posted the shortest stopping distances, followed by the V90.


Next: What are they like inside? >>

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