Car group tests

Volvo V90 vs Audi A6 Avant

Volvo is returning to the premium large estate market with its all-new V90 - we see if it can beat Audi’s classy A6 Avant

Upmarket estate cars have suffered a torrid time in recent years, with buyers deserting them in favour of premium SUVs. Yet a number of manufacturers haven’t lost faith in these classy and cavernous machines, with Volvo in particular keen to get ahead in the space race.

The Swedish company made its name in the UK with a succession of vast and robust estate cars, so it comes as no surprise that it has just pulled the covers off a load-lugging version of its new S90 executive saloon. Called the V90, the newcomer aims to bundle luxury, refinement and efficiency into a stylish, practical and family-friendly package.

Best estate cars

The V90 isn’t short of showroom appeal, with a top-value price, sleek looks and generous kit. Can it take the estate car crown? We pitch it against the class-leading Audi A6 Avant to find out. With Jaguar’s XF Sportbrake discontinued and the new Mercedes E-Class Estate still some months away, the handsome and versatile A6 sets the standard, particularly in efficient ultra guise. So which great estate takes the spoils?

Head to head

Space race

Our contenders should be the ultimate load carriers, but both have smaller boots than a Skoda Octavia hatch. Still, in isolation the V90’s 560-litre capacity is decent, trailing the A6’s by just five litres. 

Both get remote folding rear seats and various handy luggage restraint systems, but Volvo has a lower load lip and a fully flat floor with the rear bench down.

Technology

The Audi’s age is starting to show in this encounter. For instance, adaptive cruise is a hefty £3,500 option, but comes as standard on the Volvo. What’s more, the V90’s set-up features Pilot Assist, which will steer, brake and accelerate the car at speeds of up to 80mph.

Spring upgrades

V90 buyers can specify self-levelling air springs at the rear for £750, while the same system with adaptive dampers costs £1,500. Audi’s set-up is more expensive at £2,000, but brings three-mode dampers and air springs for all the wheels.

Verdict

First place: Volvo V90

Big Volvo estate models are no longer the kings of the load, but what this V90 lacks in outright load space, it compensates for with value, style, kit and comfort. Few large estates are as good to look at or sit in as the Volvo, while its boot makes up for a lack of outright capacity with some handy touches. It’s also extremely attractively priced and comes loaded with standard kit.

Second place: Audi A6 Avant

Given the Audi’s age, it does well to finish so close to the Volvo in this encounter. The A6 Avant is still impressively roomy, plus it’s beautifully built, impressively refined and slightly sharper to drive. But there’s no escaping the hefty price tag and limited standard equipment tally, while the poor ride comfort andgear ratios seal its fate here.

Other options for similar money

New: BMW 520d Touring M Sport

Price: £39,065 Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 190bhp

A new 5 Series will arrive next year, but the current Touring still has a lot going for it. Keen drivers will love its sharp rear-drive handling, and a split tailgate boosts practicality. The 520d is quick and frugal.

Used: Jaguar XF 3.0d Sportbrake

Jaguar XF Sportbrake front action

Price: £37,995 Engine: 3.0-ltire V6, 271bhp

Jaguar’s Mk2 XF Sportbrake won’t be seen until next year, but there are plenty of used previous-generation cars to choose from. Our £40,000 budget will buy a V6 diesel Portfolio with delivery miles.

Figures

 Volvo V90 D4 InscriptionAudi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI ultra S line S tronic 
On the road price/total as tested£37,555/£49,480£39,375/£47,195
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£17,839/47.5%£16,380/41.6%
Depreciation£19,716£22,995
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,725/£3,450£1,809/£3,617
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,349/£2,248£1,352/£2,253
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost28/£667/C/£3033/£810/C/£30
Servicing costsTBC£18 per month (3yrs)
   
Length/wheelbase4,936/2,941mm4,943/2,912mm
Height/width1,475/1,895mm1,461/1,874mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,969cc4cyl in-line/1,968cc
Peak power/revs 187/4,250 bhp/rpm187/3,800 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 400/1,750 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 8-spd auto/fwd7-spd twin-clutch/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel55 litres/sp. saver73 litres/sp. saver
Boot capacity560/1,526 litres565/1,680 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,696/577/1,800kg1,725/630/1,800kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.4 metres/0.30Cd11.9 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers18,000 miles (1yr)/118 Variable (1yr)/114
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.13th/17th21st/26th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/starsN/A91/83/41/86/5 (2011)
   
0-60/30-70mph7.3/7.1 secs7.6/7.2 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.2/4.1 secs2.9/3.9 secs 
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th5.1/6.1/8.1/11.1 secs5.8/10.0/23.8 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 140mph /1,500rpm140mph/1,400rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 42.0/27.9/8.0m36.7/31.3/8.1m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph72/51/59/69dB70/43/61/69dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range45.5/10.0/550 miles45.4/10.0/729 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 54.3/68.9/62.8mpg57.6/68.9/64.2mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 11.9/15.2/13.8mpl12.7/15.2/14.1mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket166/119g/km/23%167/115g/km/23%
   
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/cameraSeven/yes/£400Six/yes/yes/£810**
Auto box/stability/adaptive cruise/AEB*Yes/yes/yes/yesY/y/£3,500^/£3,500^
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£700/yes/yes£675/yes/£750
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes

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