New BMW 5 Series Touring vs Mercedes E-Class Estate vs Volvo V90 Comparison

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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?

*** Note : £1 = $1.30

“Two’s company, three’s a crowd,” or so the saying goes. But when it comes to spending your hard-earned cash on something as lavish as a luxury estate car, frankly, the more choice the better.

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So, we’ve assembled three estates that represent the crème de la crème of the breed, starting with the all-new BMW 5 Series Touring. More efficient, faster and roomier than its predecessor, it’s sure to be a contender, not least because it’s based on our 2017 Car of the Year, the BMW 5 Series saloon.

Except that it’s up against the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate. This formidable rival has, throughout its iterations, provided Middle England with a surplus of grace, space and pace, and this latest model is no different.

And how could this luxury estate trio be complete without that supposed antique dealers’ favourite, a Volvo? Yet there’s nothing turn-of-the-century about this new V90; it’s the very embodiment of contemporary Swedish design, and it undercuts its German rivals on price.

What are they like to drive?

It’s unusual to see estates driven like the proverbial bat out of hell, and that’s just as well, because none of these cars can go like one. Brisk progress is what you get from their 2.0-litre diesel engines, with the E-Class nippiest whichever way you slice it – in a straight 0-62mph dash or kicking down on the move. But with the 5 Series only fractions behind, followed closely by the V90, the crux is that all three have the guts to easily haul a packed car or do battle in the fast lane.

Both the 5 Series and the V90 come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while the E-Class top trumps them with a nine-speed ’box. All three change smoothly and generally find the right gear for the circumstance, although the 5 Series’ is the most intelligent and the V90’s can be a little hesitant when pulling away.

Having that extra gear means that the E-Class’s engine spins the slowest at 70mph, although you can barely hear a peep from any of the engines at a steady cruise. The 5 Series is distinctly the quietest car overall, mind; its engine remains muted even when thrashed, while neither wind nor road noise is bothersome at speed. The E-Class makes the most road noise and its engine is the grumbliest under acceleration. Meanwhile, the V90’s engine is the most clattery at idle, plus the door mirrors whip up the most wind noise.

The air of calmness the 5 Series exudes also extends to its ride – if you add the (£895) optional adaptive dampers and set them to Comfort mode. Do so and the 5 Series sails over pimpled roads and soothes you across speed bumps in a wholly sublime fashion. A deep, jagged-edged pothole taken at speed is the only thing that will ruffle your feathers, but still less than it would in either rival.

Like the 5 Series, the E-Class’s ride is significantly improved by adding the adaptive all-round air suspension (£1495). Yet, as tested here on standard front steel springs and rear air suspension, it shakes and shimmies in a manner that’s mildly grating, although it never becomes genuinely uncomfortable.

It’s a similar story with the V90. From previous experience, we know that it, too, doesn’t ride perfectly on its standard passive springs and dampers. But our car came fi tted with optional all-round adaptive dampers and rear air springs (£1500), giving a suppleness on motorways that’s almost a match for the 5 Series. The V90 is the most controlled over dips and crests, too – an advantage that benefi ts its handling at the same time.

The V90 leans the least in corners, changes direction with the greatest alacrity and has the most grip. Its fi rm brake pedal is the most reassuring as well, although the steering is mildly disappointing: it doesn’t weight up consistently enough, nor feed back what the front tyres are up to well enough.

The E-Class steers more sweetly than the V90 and grips almost as keenly, but it sways about more in tight corners and takes longer to recompose itself. To a degree, this is something the 5 Series is also guilty of, making both German cars less planted at the rear than the Swede. It’s also fair to say that this Touring isn’t quite as pin-sharp to drive as the 5 Series saloon, with the least front-end grip and steering that’s slightly vague off-centre. It’s the most easily affected by crosswinds on the motorway, too.

New BMW 5 Series Touring & Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate vs Volvo V90

What are they like inside?

Behind the wheel

All three cars have ‘sports seats’ with part-electric adjustment, but only the E-Classand 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.

Infotainment systems

BMW 5 Series Touring

As standard, the 5 Series gets a crystal-clear 10.3in touchscreen that you can also control with a rotary dial by the gear selector; this is easier while you’re driving. Either way, this is by far the most user-friendly interface; it’s supereasy to navigate and there are no delays while the system loads functions. You don’t need to pay extra for the many online services, either, although you do for smartphone mirroring.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate

You can’t miss the wall of colour that is the two 12.3in screens in front of you, but both are optional (£1495 for Comand online, £495 for the digital cockpit display). The standard infotainment is an 8.4in screen with sat-nav, but we recommend the upgraded system. Along with the bigger screens, it brings enhanced connectivity, although the rotary dial interface isn’t as slick as the BMW’s and the menus are slower to respond.

Volvo V90

We’ve no complaints about the clarity of the V90’s standard tabletstyle 9.0in touchscreen, and it has plenty of features, including satnav, wi-fi and online services. The problem is, it’s like an iPad to use, and swiping screens or trying to pick out small icons while driving is hugely distracting. Having to use it for so much, including the climate control, makes things worse. An emergency call system, which the others get as standard, costs £550.

Boot space

It’s nip and tuck between the 5 Series and the E-Class for boot space. Both can easily swallow eight carry-on suitcases in their main boot area (below the tonneau covers), while the V90 only just achieves that feat. However, there’s a great trough under the E-Class’s boot fl oor that fi ts the winning ninth case or, if you’d prefer, for an extra £1220, a couple of extra seats, making it the only car here with the potential to seat seven. The 5 Series gets two underfloor storage compartments, but they’re much shallower than those in the E-Class, while the space under the V90’s floor is shallower still.

All three cars let you fold down their rear seats at the touch of a button. These are split 40/20/40 in the 5 Series and the E-Class, while the V90’s are less usefully divided 60/40. In each of our protagonists, the rear seats lie almost fl at once folded, leaving a vast acreage between the lipless boot openings and the backs of the front seats.

BMW 5 Series Touring

The widest in the front, while rear head and leg room are good. Boot is the widest and tallest here and, like the other two, has a flush lip. Two underfloor storage areas are deep enough to hold laptop bags.

Boot 570-1700 litres Suitcases 8

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate

Takes eight suitcases and can fit a ninth in the deep underfloor area, which also contains a fold-up crate. All three cars have buttons in the boot to fold the seats; the E-Class has them by the rear side doors, too.

Boot 640-1820 litres Suitcases 9

Volvo V90

Easily the best rear seats, with a vast amount of leg room. Eight suitcases squeeze into the boot, but it’s still the smallest here. There’s a pop-up divider in the ¬ oor to stop things sliding about.

Boot 560-1526 litres Suitcases 8

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What will they cost?

For cash buyers, the V90 appears a relative steal – until you factor in the huge discounts you can get on the E-Class. The latter also offers the cheapest monthly repayments if you’re buying on a PCP finance deal, while resale values are similarly strong across the board.

Unsurprisingly, our real-world True MPG tests proved that none of our trio can come close to its official claims. They all still achieved an average of around 40mpg, though, with the 5 Series most frugal, giving all three a decent potential touring range of just under 600 miles.

As company cars, the 5 Series and E-Class cost a similar amount in tax, but the V90 is considerably cheaper than both.

They all come reasonably well equipped, although we’d certainly suggest adding a few extras. For the E-Class, we’d recommend the 12.3in digital instrument display and air suspension, and if you’re buying the 5 Series, adaptive dampers are a must-have. Adaptive dampers are certainly worth considering on the V90, too.

Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz offer three-year/unlimited-mileage warranties, while Volvo limits you to 60,000 miles. Each car was awarded fi ve stars for safety by Euro NCAP (albeit in saloon form in the case of the 5 Series and E-Class). Drill into the details and you’ll discover that all provide excellent protection for adults inside and pedestrians outside, while the E-Class scores highest for child occupant protection. Mind you, the V90’s safety systems are the most effective at preventing you from having an accident in the first place.

verdict

Each car here has its strengths, but it’s the 5 Series Touring that takes the win. Why? Because estate buyers are primarily looking for luxury and space, and the 5 Series is the most comfortable by a mile and offers the best compromise of passenger and luggage space.

The surprise is the V90, which squeaks into second place. It still has the space to deliver your youngest, with a year’s worth of luggage, to their far-flung halls of residence, then keep you relaxed on the journey home. The tidy handling of this R-Design model lets you have a modicum of fun behind the wheel, too.

But rest assured, the E-Class is no rotter. As with the others, it’s comfier on optional all-round air suspension, which we have factored in, but the marks lost for passenger space, interior quality and driving position leave it third – just. But if outright boot space is your absolute priority, it’s still, by a small margin, the best of its breed.

1st – BMW 5 Series Touring

  • For Best ride; quietest on the move; best interior quality; most user-friendly infotainment
  • Against Priciest to buy and own; doesn’t handle as well as the 5 Series saloon
  • Must-have options Adaptive dampers (£985)
Specifications: BMW 5 Series Touring 520d M Sport
  • Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
  • List price £41,385
  • Target Price £39,262
  • Power 188bhp @ 4000rpm
  • Torque 295Ib ft @ 1750-2500rpm
  • 0-60mph 7.9sec
  • Top speed 139mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 62.7mpg
  • True MPG 44.9mpg
  • CO2 emissions 119g/km
2nd – Volvo V90

  • For Well-controlled handling; roomiest rear seats; smart and solid interior; com¬fiest front seats
  • Against Distracting infotainment system; noisiest engine at idle; most wind noise
  • Must-have options Adaptive suspension (£1500)
Specifications: Volvo V90 2.0 D4 R-Design
  • Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
  • List price £38,365
  • Target Price £35,827
  • Power 188bhp @ 4250pm
  • Torque 295Ib ft @ 1750-2500rpm
  • 0-60mph 8.0sec
  • Top speed 140mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 62.8mpg
  • True MPG 40.2mpg
  • CO2 emissions 119g/km
3rd – Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate

  • For Largest boot; seven-seat option; pokiest engine; cheapest on PCP
  • Against Lumpiest ride; so-so handling; iffy quality; road noise
  • Must-have options Air suspension (£1495); Command Online (£1495); Widescreen cockpit (£495)

Specifications: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate E 220 d AMG Line

  • Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
  • List price £41,215
  • Target Price £36,778
  • Power 192bhp @ 3800rpm
  • Torque 295Ib ft @ 1600-2800rpm
  • 0-60mph 7.6sec
  • Top speed 146mph
  • Gov’t fuel economy 67.3mpg
  • True MPG 41.2mpg
  • CO2 emissions 120g/km

(whatcar.com, https://goo.gl/J29kEA)

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