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Audi A4 Avant 50 TDI, BMW 330d and Mercedes C300d in the test

Do you remember diesel station wagons? Those were the... No! These ARE the particularly noble emissaries with unequaled competent chassis. Here in the test economical power engines provide (not only) for coccyx tingling.

Why should you drive a diesel today? When the zeitgeist punishes him with contempt and the world rescue lobby slanders him as an air polluter? If we ran through the village after every hysterical sow, we could start pondering. But as car activists, we stick to the economical, yet anything but fun self-igniter. Of course, we also register the liter prices at the gas station with incomprehension, which suggest racing fuel, when only a kind of premium heating oil is bubbling at the diesel tap.

Since the filling up has been in the three-digit euro range, we naturally particularly appreciate the high fun density per liter. Enjoy this special use of torque all the more, this wave on which it washes the car away. The boost that creates a cozy dimness. And which is not at all reminiscent of clumsily pouring out a full bucket - as is often the case with electric cars when they blow out all the power reserves at once when accelerating. No, the transition from a little to a lot is as quick as it is soft with the good diesel engine. And with full draft it tingles up the coccyx.

The impact experience


Just like the BMW 330d Touring. It is true that the text here is about noble station wagons in general; but we want to use last year's facelift of the classic in particular to pay homage to the exceptional diesel, as long as the three-liter can still give the 3 series a similar impact experience as the petrol engines of the M world.

One has to worry about the continued existence of this cream self-igniter, because the politically decreed eradication of combustion engines primarily pursues short-term CO2 goals - and sustainability over a long (worldwide) service life does not (any longer) play a role. Accordingly, the legislative requirements are sweeping all special features off the technical map, motor simplicity is spreading where diversity has previously reigned.

Even in the 3-series, BMW only uses the in-line six-cylinder to improve the image of top models. It is actually part of the technical tradition. At Audi, the V6 is only allowed to rumble in the most powerful diesel tested here, the Avant 50 TDI Quattro. And the self-igniting C-Class generally has to be content with four pots - like the 300 d as the third in the group. The fact that it easily keeps up on our comparison drive is also due to its e-boost; he helps out when accelerating with 200 Newton meters until the two chargers are fully inflated.

Economical on the go


The T metabolizes effectively, covers an enormous distance with the 66-liter tank, which is subject to a surcharge, and cruises over our traditional eco-lap with 5.2 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers.Each test car has to prove its efficiency on the same route, always with the same staff, always using the same specifications. This is the only reason why this eco round is meaningful and creates comparability.

The BMW (5.4 l/100 km), which is attentively on the gas, completes it just as economically. This is due both to the fixed, high-revving register charging including the low-pressure stage with variable input geometry and to the 55 Nm of the starter generator, which initially also pushes. In combination, this ensures the strongest pull, the most brilliant acceleration and the most intense coccyx tingling.

Reserved ratio


Only the Audi is a bit out of the ordinary. Not when accelerating to the max: If you catapult the all-wheel drive A4 away from the brakes at full throttle under test conditions, it almost reaches the values ​​of the BMW 3 Series. It's different in everyday life, for example when you spontaneously demand propulsion at the intersection: then the Avant struggles to get out of its performance slump; this results in a significant loss of points.

Unlike its competitors, the Audi cannot rely on an e-boost - although it basically has a belt starter generator. But the technicians only used it for the sake of efficiency, according to the press department. Well, obviously the competitors are better at this, because the 50 TDI Quattro injects measurably more into the combustion chambers (6 l/100 km with Eco consumption). Which is why it achieves a lower maximum range than the Touring with a tank that is practically the same size.

To be fair, we should mention that the Audi A4 has had to prove itself since 2015 - but with the paid sport differential, it keeps up well with the younger ones in terms of lateral dynamics, and when it comes to driving dynamics times, it wrestles with the BMW, which the M Sport package supports. Whereby the Avant helps that he is the only one who distributes the Nm over four wheels.

What is negative about the Quattro is the slightly reserved relationship between the chassis and body. Both travel the topography somewhat detached from each other, which affects the steering feel. Irrespective of this, the Audi initially sniffs bumps like a good pinch of snuff; until he is loaded and challenged. Its adaptive shock absorbers react defiantly to this.

The BMW does it the other way around, needs the challenge, otherwise it takes care of comfort by the book, only takes the top of impositions, logs them in the chassis. The test car behaves like a tough guy with the M tuning of the spring-damper unit including stiff-sided performance tires: Accordingly, the chassis can hardly be levered out in the corner scramble, the structure fixes the bumps and drops of the road and follows them briskly.

The BMW dampers spread rather sublimely in the direction of comfort, emphasizing the sporting spirit like a woodcut.Until you confront the substructure with speed and weight: the suspension is already more open, the Touring deals with bumps with more interest, receives them more open-heartedly - in about the same way as the C-Class is able to do in the "Sport plus" position.

On "Comfort", however, the rear axle of the T-model confidently masters what is otherwise only found in the luxury class: swinging over bumps. Once long, once short, then the rear is back, gently captured by the adaptive shock absorbers.

Mercedes has transferred the character of the (saved) earlier air suspension to the steel counterpart - as an offer, not as an obligation. There is still "Sport" and "Sport plus", since the C-Class stays true to itself. No competitor dares to diversify the available damping modes to a similar extent.

It's great that the people of Stuttgart serve up this special driving experience - since everyone wants to be perceived as dynamic. It's even better that that rocking and swaying is linked to the road with a pronounced grip and with an extremely well-founded straight-line stability.

No other class competitor is currently balancing conflicting goals as well as Mercedes: The rear is stable at the sides, the front bites, which is why the C 300 d never moves roughly, instead stretching a direct line between the steering and the steering wheel. Another compliment: the optional rear-axle steering enables the smallest turning circle and correspondingly the highest agility in the urban hustle and bustle.

Touch-heavy infotainment


Traditionally, one would also assume that the T-model had a lead in terms of variability and functionality, which is actually the case compared to the Avant. But the rear window that can be opened separately and the four automatically extendable rubber rails that are mounted in the direction of travel and that prevent luggage from sliding around in the trunk are only offered by the Touring. It also gets infotainment plus points with its legendary iDrive operation.

Turning and pressing on the controller is still far superior to touching and tapping on screens when scrolling through the menus with little distraction; Unfortunately, BMW is worsening its own benchmark system with the facelift, following the dubious anti-button fashion. There are no longer the practical favorites buttons, instead there are digital shortcuts. And controlling the air conditioning is largely only possible via infotainment, as is the seat heating.

We also miss quick access to the assistance systems. Here, too, you guessed it, you want to rummage through the menu. The new infotainment display, which is extra wide but not particularly high, brings few advantages for the map display of the navigation system, for example - except that there is now space for a plethora of icons.

So the lead over the competitors could be bigger, also because the readability of the crescent-shaped scaled instruments remains questionable even after the layout has been revised. In addition, as with the Mercedes, many functions of the air conditioning system can only be changed on the touch display, while others can be changed using touch-sensitive surfaces.

Conveniently at hand


Audi does this better with the A4, using buttons and controls that are easy to grasp. It pays off here that the relatively old model already uses the very variably configurable and high-resolution speedometer screen, which we appreciate very much. At the same time, however, the general operating concept still comes from the analog and correspondingly intuitive time. You don't have to search and ponder first, you can discover control elements where you expect them to be - and where they are within easy reach. Consequently, the Audi triumphs in the body chapter just over the Mercedes.

They already found out in Ingolstadt how it gets worse and use their acquired knowledge for new models. That only marginally. Speaking of worse: Similar to the BMW, the automatic recognition of the traffic signs allows for gross blunders, after all it detects limits on our test track, but ignores them when they are set higher. Or realizes this fact very late. As a result, the cruise-controlled Audi creeps on at 60 km/h instead of the permitted 120 km/h.

The Mercedes completes the exercise much more skilfully and gets a five-point bonus, which brings us to the evidence of the safety chapter. Here we reprimand the C-Class for its indifferent pedal pressure point. Nevertheless, their short braking distances in combination with the better recognition of traffic signs result in a considerable advantage.

Conditionally sets scent marks


Protrusions like these are enough for the T-model to secure the property rating in the comparison test - as a stable starting point for the final round. In that, the A4 is only conditionally scent marks: with the smallest amount of oil that has to be refilled over 100,000 kilometers.

Oil change? Yes, we are now emphasizing that in the environmental chapter - the less lubricant a vehicle needs and the less frequently it has to be replaced, the better for the environment. Apart from that, we have recently been assessing the effort required to keep a constant speed of 130 km/h. This in turn allows conclusions to be drawn about the general efficiency of the model.

With the C-Class, Mercedes even pays attention to this. Which, on the one hand, secures the environmental chapter. On the other hand, it manifests the manufacturer's efforts to rethink and optimize a vehicle as a whole, even in those areas that have so far remained unexamined in comparative tests, i.e. in which one could not strive for plus points. Now.

It denotes an attitude of going further, of challenging oneself more than is necessary. In this sense, the C-Class is a worthy winner in the three-way comparison of the noble middle-class station wagons.

The fact that she also secures the cost chapter does not speak for a customer-friendly calculation. The T is only more conciliatory in direct comparison; In general, however, the incomplete standard equipment of their models should put all three manufacturers to shame. So are the high bills for maintenance and repairs. As well as the miserable guarantee promises. Since the enthusiasm swallowed briefly.

Too bad, because apart from that, all three station wagons give reason enough to do so. Also or especially as a power diesel.


1. Mercedes C 300d 635 points
2. BMW 330d 615 points
3. Audi A4 Avant 50TDI Quattro 601 points


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