Wagon shootout: BMW 520d vs Jag XF, Volvo V90 and A6 Avant

Published: 04 September 2019

► Best posh estate to buy
► Two Germans, one Swede and a Brit
► Which is the best to own?

Smart estates with loads of kit are squaring up to the SUV hordes. But are they still practical family transport?

Check out these reviews:

Living with a Jaguar XF Sportbrake
BMW 5-series Touring review
Volvo V90 D5 R-Design long-term test
Audi A6 Avant review

How sporty is the look?

Jaguar XF Sportbrake
Handsome, if dated when you park it next to an i-Pace. R-Sport trim with Firenze Red paint works well, though. Lower ride, a beefier splitter and chrome-tipped exhausts that stick out like a modded Civic's all feature. Ours has optional 19s that manage to look tiny.

BMW 5-Series Touring
BMW is a sea of bulges and creases regardless of your spec but if you don't pick M Sport it'll look like a Munich airport taxi, which second owners won't want. Blingy double-spoke alloys are witchcraft; they're 19s like the Jag's but sit far more happily in the arches.

Volvo V90
Volvo design might have moved away from super-clean Swedishness but V90 looks ace regardless, with R-Design trim accentuating the best bits. Passion Red paint is supplemented by brushed aluminium details – both part of the R-Design deal.

Audi A6 Avant
It might look like it's had a run-in with Jaws but it's certainly got road presence. The 20-inch alloys used to be reserved for the RS6 and particularly draw the eye. Bulging arches a nod to the original Quattro.

How lumpy is the diesel?

Jaguar XF Sportbrake
This 237bhp four outguns the others by a decent margin (but the 178bhp version is around £3k cheaper) and grumbles like your grandad when he misses Countdown. It's the fastest sprinter, with swift progress if you egg the hesitant gearbox on. Changes in Dynamic mode are lurchy.

Best estates 2019 XF sportbrake side pan

BMW 5-Series Touring
Not at all – power is delivered smoothly up the rev range but it sounds tremendously gruff even at low revs, and a slight betrayal of the sweet-sounding sixes BMW is known for. Auto shifts are nigh on imperceptible even if you're caning it, and changes in manual mode barely jolt either.

Volvo V90
It only gets vocal when you poke it, but then don't we all? Least powerful and slowest on paper but you wouldn't think it, with responsive throttle and eager gearbox keeping things moving. Dynamic mode barely spices up the gearbox, and manual override feels wrong.

Audi A6 Avant
Barely noticeable. In fact, we rate it as one of today's most refined four-cylinder diesels you can get right now. It's shrouded in soundproofing (including optional acoustic side window glazing), pulls at low revs and has mild hybrid assistance for coasting and over-eager start/stop. Seven-speed dual-clutch (V6 diesel has eight-speed ZF auto) is snappy.

How rolly is the ride?

Jaguar XF Sportbrake
Corners flatter than a steamrollered pancake via a big steering wheel, feeling precise but over-assisted. Soundproofing has room for improvement; along with the gruff engine there's tyre roar at motorway cruising speeds. Self-levelling rear air suspension is standard.

BMW 5-Series Touring
It corners with assurance. Optional adaptive suspension does little to combat fussiness over lumps; best to bypass that and M Sport suspension, and go basic for the best comfort. xDrive is superfluous unless you live up an Alp. Brakes are mushy. Rear axle has self-levelling air springs.

Volvo V90
Ride is the best here, helped by decently squidgy tyres. R-Design is less wayward than a Momentum or Inscription version thanks to a lower, firmer chassis. Steering is low on feel but high on precision. Rear air suspension is a £1500 option not ticked in this case.

Best estates 2019 A6 avant side pan

Audi A6 Avant
Steering is more direct than the previous A6 and weighted better than the Volvo's, but it tilts more than the others round corners – it's marginally worse than the BMW. You have to go V6 if you want air springs. Giant alloys knacker low-speed ride and cause high-speed harshness – avoid.

How flashy is the cockpit?

Jaguar XF Sportbrake
Red and black leather combo looks the part. Thick-rimmed wheel is flanked by Jag's rise-on-start-up gear selector and vents that rotate outwards. Materials and InControl Touch Pro system both seem a step behind the competition.

BMW 5-Series Touring
Upholstery is premium, as is most of the switchgear. Low seating position is great for the BTCC driver in you and Comfort pack includes near-infinite seat adjustment and leccy side bolsters. Gesture control is silliest option.

Best estates 2019 520d touring

Volvo V90
Volvo interiors need light colours to set them apart, as this one demonstrates. Still, seats (with lava-level heaters) are supremely supportive, material quality is superb and Sensus screen is responsive, if tricky to get the hang of.

Audi A6 Avant
Screens aplenty will irritate many, but they hide cool tech like a 3D augmented-reality parking view. It's all about tactility here; steering wheel, gearlever, pedals and door switchgear have a pleasingly robust heft to them.

How roomy is the rear?

Jaguar XF Sportbrake
Good all round even for folk over six feet. Optional panoramic glass roof lightens things up and doesn't cut away much headroom. The high window line might annoy younglings, but generally it feels fine back here. The Cold Climate pack includes rear seat heating.

BMW 5-Series Touring
Rear bench is a bit flat but space is plentiful. Doors open wide for easy access and transmission tunnel doesn't intrude too far into central seat-dweller's footroom. Centre armrest has overly-engineered yet slightly tinny cupholders and panoramic sunroof cuts into headroom a little.

Volvo V90
There's plenty of head- and legroom, but that's not the full story. Given the beautiful attention to detail elsewhere, there's a lack of magic for rear-seat passengers. The rear doors are relatively stubby, there's a high transmission tunnel, and there's an absence of rear climate control, all combining to make you feel a little second-class.

Best estates 2019 V90 side pan

Audi A6 Avant
The Audi has the most rear space of the four. It's welcoming for those over six foot, with generous window opening and cubbies in the central armrest courtesy of the Storage pack. The seat squabs are raked higher for better thigh support and ours had quad-zone climate control adjustable from the front.

How useful is the boot?

Jaguar XF Sportbrake
It's 565 litres, like the A6's, yet the load bay is much wider (if a bit shorter) than the Audi's. The rear bench folds flat 40:20:40 and there are handy compartments under the boot floor. The AdBlue tank is in the boot sidewall, so be careful not to spill on refills.

BMW 5-Series Touring
Biggest here by five litres (at 570). Seats fold 40:20:40, but the ability to recline the rear bench for a little extra boot space is an option. A powered tailgate is standard and you still get a hinged rear window to chuck little things through.

Volvo V90
It's the smallest here (if not by much) with 560 litres of space, but it has a lower and wider opening than the Audi and a few handy cubbies either side. No lashing rails but a pop-up separator to stop bits rolling around.

Audi A6 Avant
Capacity of 565 litres matches the Jaguar. Seats split 40:20:40 and fold flat, and luggage rails are standard, unlike the Volvo. You can supplement that with a sliding bar fixed to the rail as an option for separating your kit.

Best estates 2019 rear group

Best estates 2019: the verdict

WINNER - Audi A6 Avant: ★★★★
Refinement, tech and kerb appeal in a no-nonsense package. Just don't spec big wheels.

Volvo V90: ★★★★
Eager powertrain and cheapest here, but rear is pokey and boot isn't as gigantic as Volvos of yore.

BMW 5-Series Touring: ★★★
Opulent cabin with great steering, but we'd try to find the extra funds to get a 530d.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake: ★★★
The driver's choice, but quality and refinement a hefty step behind.

Best estates 2019: specifications

Jaguar XF Sportbrake R-Sport 25d AWD
Price £43,810
As tested £52,890
Engine 1999cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 237bhp @ 4000rpm, 369lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 6.7sec 0-62mph, 150mph, 46.3mpg, 160g/km CO2
Weight 1805kg
Example insurance quote* £1123.40
On sale Now

BMW 520d Touring M Sport xDrive
Price £45,335
As tested £59,410
Engine 1995cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4000rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 7.9sec 0-62mph, 137mph, 55.4mpg, 133g/km CO2
Weight 1825g
Example insurance quote* £883.64
On sale Now

Volvo V90 R-Design D4 auto
Price £40,760
As tested £45,010
Engine 1969cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4250rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Performance 8.5sec 0-62mph, 140mph, 62.8mpg, 119g/km CO2
Weight 1722kg
Example insurance quote* £549.64
On sale Now

Audi A6 Avant S line 40 TDI S tronic
Price £43,210
As tested £52,640
Engine 1968cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 201bhp @ 3750rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
Performance 8.3sec 0-62mph, 149mph, 57.6mpg, 129g/km CO2
Weight 1710kg
Example insurance quote* £622.47
On sale Now

*Insurance quotes are from mustard.co.uk and are based on a 43-year-old, employed married male living in Stowmarket with 9 years NCD and no claims or convictions. Insurance quotes will vary depending on individual circumstances.

Further buying advice from CAR:

By Jake Groves

CAR's staff writer, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

Comments