Review: Audi A4 Avant v BMW 3 Series Touring v Mercedes C-Class Estate

Review: Audi A4 Avant v BMW 3 Series Touring v Mercedes C-Class Estate
Review: Audi A4 Avant v BMW 3 Series Touring v Mercedes C-Class Estate

Which of these three would be best for taking the load off?

Estate cars still have a valid place on many people’s shortlists, even if they do lack the high seating position which the SUV alternatives offer. If you need a load lugger then these estates are every bit as practical as an SUV yet they can offer better handling and economy in many cases. Here we test three of the best medium sized premium estates, with a fine blend of sporty trim and economical diesel engines.

Driving experience

The Mercedes may have the slightly larger engine, but the others actually produce more power. That doesn’t stop the Merc from accelerating a bit harder than either of them though. However, give it stick and you’re in no doubt that you have an oil-burner under the bonnet. It doesn’t sound that refined, but at cruising or more normal duties it settles down nicely.

Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI 190 S line S tronic 

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Price: £36,590
Power: 188bhp
Torque: 295lb ft
0-60mph: 8.5sec
Top speed: 143mph
Fuel economy: 65.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 113g/km

Unlike the BMW, which tends to make more noise from both engine and tyres. This is in contrast to the much quieter Audi, which delivers the most refined performance of the three. It also handles very tidily with lots of grip. This was admittedly helped by the adaptive comfort suspension – a £600 option – but we’d stick with the stock 18-inch wheels rather than going for bigger rims.

The two rear-wheel drive cars, though, handle rather differently to each other. The C-Class is comfy and a bit wallowy, like a rather luxurious sofa, but it’s no surprise that it’s the 3 Series that waltzes off with the handling prize. Where the ride in the Mercedes is supremely comfortable, that in the BMW is much firmer but, even with the M Sport package, the ride is not too firm.

Interior

The sporty theme continues inside, with the BMW having the seats that best hold you in place, although generally the Touring’s cabin feels the plainest and least generously equipped. On the other hand, it also has the most room of the trio, particularly in the rear, with the C-Class feeling just a touch tight for bigger passengers.

Mercedes C-Class Estate C 220 d Sport auto

Engine: 2.1-litre diesel
Price: £35,620
Power: 168bhp
Torque: 295lb ft
0-60mph: 7.5sec
Top speed: 142mph
Fuel economy: 64.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 114g/km

All three cabins are delightful places to be, being well designed and with premium materials – bar the exceedingly annoying creak you get from the C-Class fascia every time you press a control there.

But one major factor has to be what happens at the back of the cabin. All three get split seats and all three have large boots of about the same size and you can access all three via a powered tailgate. You could niggle through the numbers as to which was highest, or widest or deepest, but really they’re all very similar and pretty generous.

The three estates all have decent infotainment systems, as you’d imagine, but you do need to spec up to get the best options. For example, the BMW offers sat nav as standard on all models, but if you want the more Professional system then that’s a £900 upgrade. The rotary controller system on the Mercedes seem a bit of a faff, but for the most features, including a hard drive, you’ll need another £2995 for the Premium Plus package. In the A4 the basic SE trim doesn’t have sat nav although all other levels do. However, our test car upgraded the standard seven-inch screen for an 8.3-inch screen with more advanced features. So that’s another £1450 please for the Technology Pack.

Running costs

Depreciation on these three, if you buy them privately, is going to hurt. You’re looking at around £16k loss, or even £17k in the case of the BMW. The Audi would be the cheapest to run over three years as a private buyer. If you’re buying on PCP finance then it’s the Mercedes which will cost the least, and the BMW the most – but don’t forget that final and expensive balloon payment with PCP.

BMW 3 Series Touring 320d M Sport auto

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Price: £36,340
Power: 188bhp
Torque: 295lb ft
0-60mph: 7.6sec
Top speed: 140mph
Fuel economy: 62.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 119g/km

The Mercedes has the most standard kit, which would add about £2000 to the others’ bills to match. The Audi and BMW get the more sporty equipment, but for a sensible £1495 you could upgrade the Mercedes to AMG Line spec to match that.

Verdict

So there’s a lot of to and fro here, with each of these three representing a very desirable luxury and premium offering for something that can carry a load of gear. In many areas there really isn’t that much to choose between them.

But the BMW, partly by dint of being the oldest car here, is going to cost you the most, including in depreciation. It doesn’t come that well equipped and misses out on some of the latest safety kit. That’s a big omission in a car which is very family friendly.

The Mercedes C-Class offers the most comfortable solution here for the family. You’ll get to the end fresh and stress-free. It’s a seriously hard car to beat.

But the Audi A4 Avant does just that, although not by a huge margin. It has the cabin, the engine and the sheer quality to put it at the front. It’s got sensible running costs, and the biggest boot so there really isn’t an area where it falls short. Doubts? Well, the 3.0 TDI 218 is even quicker and smoother and really doesn’t cost that much more to buy or to run.

 

 

Review: SsangYong Turismo

A great deal of space for not a great deal of money. Is that a good deal?In our vehicles, particularly if we’re thinking of family transport,

Living with: Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio

Can Alfa Romeo really make a BMW M3-beater?There’s nothing like living with a car to find out what it’s really like. The road testers

Review: Audi R8 Spyder V10 Plus

There are some surprising oversights but they don’t stop Audi’s stunning drop-top appealingYou could save yourself £25,000

Review: Porsche 911 GT2 RS

A racing driver describes this 911 as ‘ridiculous’. ExcellentThere we were, minding our own business at Silverstone, when the winner