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Volvo V90 vs BMW 5 Series Touring vs Mercedes E-Class Estate – which is best?

If you’re in the market for a posh executive estate car, there are loads of great German cars you can choose from. If you don’t want to follow the crowd, however, the Volvo V90 adds a touch of Swedish style to the mix. How does it compare to the excellent BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class Estate? Mat Watson puts all three through their paces to find out…

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The Volvo costs from £35,865 for an entry-level V90 model, rising to £59,705 for the T8 Twin Engine hybrid in top-spec Inscription Pro trim – a few options will see this top £60,000 easily. The BMW costs from £38,075 but basic 520 petrol or diesel models should have all the equipment most people want, although the range goes up to the powerful all-wheel-drive 540i that’ll set you back more than £50,000. Bottom-rung E-Class Estates cost £37,205 and the most expensive non-AMG versions are a little more than £55,000, too.

However, with carwow discount, the gaps are much larger. The Volvo can be had for a fraction more than £32,000 – a healthy discount of £4,984 – but the BMW and Mercedes discounts are even more impressive. At the time of writing, carwow can save you an average of £6,755 off some 5 Series Touring models and a huge £7,060 on average off E-Class Estates, bringing the latter down to less than £30,000.


In this company, the BMW doesn’t come off too well. It’s not bad looking in any way, but doesn’t stand out as well as its rivals and its marginally bulkier styling makes the 5 Series look bigger. Specify M Sport trim to get some nice bumpers and other visual tweaks, although some critics prefer the smoother, more inconspicuous lines of SE trim.

The Mercedes seems to have better proportions than the BMW, lending it a slightly more elegant and polished look. You could even call it pretty from a few angles. One downside to the E-Class’ styling is the obviously fake exhaust tips – they’re filled in, making them look tacked on and cheapening the style of what is otherwise an expensive-looking car.

Twenty years ago, you might’ve struggled to believe a Volvo would end up one of the most stylish estates on sale. Nevertheless, the modern V90 in classy and understated, with sharp creases and handsome proportions. The front features Volvo’s lovely ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights, while the rear lights trace the shape of the bootlid before cutting across to the number plate holder.


The 5 Series’ interior doesn’t look that modern or outstanding, but everything feels posh and all the places you touch are made of good quality materials. BMW’s infotainment system is great – it’s quick to load and the control wheel is intuitive. It also comes with gesture control, but it’s quite gimmicky and not any easier to use than the touchscreen.

The E-Class’ cabin is a lovely place to spend time. It’s high tech and looks smart, although the large display screen that sits behind the steering wheel is an optional extra. The infotainment system can be confusing and isn’t as easy to operate as the other cars here.

First impressions in the V90 interior are good. The interior is built well and the seats are slightly comfier than either the BMW or Mercedes. All the systems are simple and intuitive to operate, although one slight bugbear is that the touchscreen isn’t as responsive as the others.


All three have loads of space in the rear seats, although the BMW and Volvo are slightly too narrow to comfortably accommodate three passengers on longer journeys. Both the E-Class and the V90 on test have panoramic sunroofs but neither are wanting for headroom. The way the BMW’s rear seats are angled means they offer more back support and are better for longer journeys.

Volvos have always been the king of the large estates because the boot was big enough to fit most of a small village. In the V90, the 560-litre boot is large, but isn’t as capacious as either the 570-litre BMW or the vast 640-litre Mercedes. Both the BMW and Mercedes come with cargo nets as standard, as well as having underfloor compartments for extra storage. In the 5 Series, there’s the option to open only the glass part of the bootlid for quick access.


The 5 Series Touring on test isn’t as sharp to drive as the saloon. Although, with rear air suspension as standard, the BMW is sublimely comfortable to drive. The 3.0-litre straight-six engine is larger than the others here and gives the Touring a powerful-yet-unstressed feel. The BMW has a neat party piece, to0 – the car’s key can act as a remote control letting you drive the car out of a parking space at the push of a button without being sat in it.

The V90 drives as well as the Germans – it’s amazingly comfy, quiet and impressively swift. Volvos are traditionally more focussed on comfort and safety rather than handling panache, so it’s not quite as sharp as the others but remains easy and undemanding to drive. Its automatic gearbox is more sluggish than its rivals which lets the driving experience down slightly when you’re going quickly.

The E-Class Estate is the best to drive here. It, too, has air suspension as standard on the rear and the optional air suspension on the front, and provides a great all-round driving experience. It focuses on comfort and refinement – feeling relaxing, quiet and smooth on the road – but also feels agile and impressively stable. The engine is also smooth yet punchy while returning decent fuel economy, too.


Choose any of these cars and you’re very unlikely to be disappointed. All are luxurious, wafty estates with plush interiors, well-rounded driving experiences and desirable badges on the nose.

The Mercedes E-Class Estate is the winner though. Its styling is elegant, it’s interior is the most practical and features simply gorgeous fit and finish throughout. The BMW and Volvo are very good, but the Mercedes narrowly bests them both.

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