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Car group tests

Volvo S80 v Mercedes E220 v Audi A6 v BMW 525d

Looking for a new executive car? There’s only one country to turn to: Germany...

The dominance of this sector by the nation’s manufacturers is well documented; its three most successful automotive brands (BMW, Audi and Mercedes) account for 75 per cent of all exec­utive saloons bought in UK showrooms.

So does that mean rivals are left to pick over the scraps? Not if Volvo is to be believed. The second-generation S80 is just arriving in dealers here now, and top brass in Sweden reckon 70 per cent of customers will be new to the Volvo marque – in other words, they will be buyers who have been tempted to defect from other brands.

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So, only one question needs to be answered: does the latest S80 have what it takes to steal sales from its German competitors? To find out, we test the newcomer against the 5-Series, A6 and E-Class, all in their most popular guises – powered by mainstream diesel engines and in mid-range trim.

Verdict

The one thing that stands out in this test is how similar these saloons are. This isn’t surprising considering the makers benchmark test them against each other – but does that mean none of them stands out from the crowd.

Volvo’s S80 is excellent value and well laid out inside, but the driving experience falls short and the engine is comparatively unrefined. As a result, it finishes last behind the stylish Audi A6 by the smallest of margins.

A refined powerplant, comfortable cabin and smooth ride mean the Mercedes E220 CDI is the best model here on the road. But two factors caused it to finish second – it’s expensive to buy and costly to run. So once again, the BMW 5-Series clings on to victory by the skin of its teeth.

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