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A6 Avant, 5 Series, E-Class, Passat: 4 all-rounders in comparison

Hans Dieter Seufert
Audi A6 Avant, BMW 528i, Mercedes E 250, VW Passat
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D ie The present also has its wild days behind it. If we had carried out this comparison test 20 years ago, the following would have been in this performance class: Audi S6 Avant with five-cylinder turbo and 230 PS, BMW 530i Touring with V8 and 218 PS, Mercedes E 320 T with in-line six-cylinder and 220 PS and the VW Passat Variant as VR6 syncro with 184 hp.

If we wanted to rave about the goodness of the old days, we shouldn't mention the prices - a 530i Touring cost 78,500 marks, an E 320 T even 82,053 marks, of course without automatic air conditioning (4,927.75 DM), Radio (1,035 DM, plus 230 DM for the antenna) or hands-free kit (2,346 DM). The best in the past was the variety of engines, we think as we look under the hoods of the group test candidates. All CO2-optimized downsizing four-cylinder, all with a turbo, all with two liters displacement. All reasonable. All the same?

Hans Dieter Seufert
Four station wagons in the test. Who can convince?

Audi A6 Avant too sluggish despite 252 hp

In 1995 the A6 was in the premium Liga just tolerated, now he often guides them. But not this time. What is surprising at first is that it benefited a lot from the 2014 facelift. Since then it has appeared more balanced, more mature and even more brilliantly processed. Details make the difference, such as the finely locking seat adjustment, the silent retraction of the navigation screen or the gentle click of the rotary pusher for infotainment. Whereby you often twist around until you can find your way around the menus. Otherwise it works with the operation - and with the variability. The rear seats are spring-loaded and throw themselves forward into onealmost flat surface. Although it has the same loading volume as the BMW, the flat rear window of the Audi limits the suitability for bulky goods.

Otherwise, passengers on the steep back seat travel a little too upright, which would have given us a nice level, from its height we can whine. Meanwhile, we settle into the comfortable front seats and turn on the engine. Selector lever to D and down. The two-liter turbo starts with a brief hesitation to start, which is also responsible for the dual clutch transmission, because it reacts too slowly - to driving off and otherwise. Apart from the high consumption (10.1 l /100 km), the engine can only be emotionally neutral Accuse character. Otherwise everything is good: Acceleration, pulling power, but after 252 hp it all seldom feels.

It doesn't get really dynamic when driving either, the A6 drives too imprecisely around bends with little feedback in the steering . Then his front-wheel drive pulls him out again with weak traction but strong drive influences in the steering. Meanwhile, the 19-inch wheels rumble over bumps, which the air suspension cannot prevent. Later the A6 will whiz through the slalom and bypass lane, but at the end of the test it will follow the rivals.

BMW 5 Series impresses with good comfort

There was no other brand among fans there was more nagging about downsizing than at BMW. With the two-liter turbo, the 5 Series succeeds in what it should be for an engine factory car - it wins the drive chapter. But with the VW and without shine. Overall, the opponents are only three points apart anyway, which says everything about how similar the machines are. On the 528i we like the more energetic response, the more pronounced revving and the eight-speed automatic (2,250 euros extra), which also works well with the somewhat grumpy gasoline engine.

Hans Dieter Seufert
BMW 5 Series Touring: Almost six years on the road on behalf of cultivated driving pleasure.

The great drive harmony, as already achieved with the 520d with the diesels, is still missing. Which does not change anything about the second core competence of the 5 Series: handling. So farhe ruled the rivals in his class. With the precise, feedback-real steering, it bends courageously in curves, always safely and mostly neutral, except for you it should be after a little gentle rear shoving. It can do all of this better than the A6 and especially the E, but not than the Passat. Because compared to that, it feels heavier. Because he is heavier, around 236 kilos.

Since he cannot develop a lead with his greatest virtues this time, it is now more a matter of comfort and combination skills. With the adaptive chassis, it cushions even bitter bumps when empty, but it is no longer so smooth when loaded. But with excellent seats and brilliant infotainment it creates advantages. In the body section, it scores with easy-to-use controls, enough space and clever details such as the separately opening rear window or the rear seat backrest that folds into three parts. Does it also work out with victory?

Safe driving in the Mercedes E-Class

We can slowly begin to transfigure the station car 212 as the last real Mercedes. The successor has already turned through the magazine several times. When we see that he can get a fashionable, fully digital cockpit on request, we cuddle closer to the tight multicontour seats and look at the cockpit, which even in the avant-garde version retains a massive, secure living room charm.

It worked The S212 is always about safety, comfort, safety, functionality, safety, never about big emotions, but about safety. Let's start with security, since the Mercedes drives a comprehensive arsenal of assistance. A few months ago we saw an E-Class crashed on the autobahn - fortunately not bad - and wondered how the driver could manage that.

The T-Model does not only brake automatically in case of danger , but also otherwise always vehemently, has always preferred safety to driving pleasure when cornering. The rather sterile steering gives the impression that the handling technicians at Mercedes sometimes go down to the basement to laugh. So Aunt E turns slowly, which the very superfluous sport mode of the air suspension (1,345 euros) does not change anything. Even on this characteristic curve, the T springs more gently than the Audi in comfort mode. It gets really cuddly in the T-Model on 'Comfort'.

Hans Dieter Seufert
The E-Class brings safety to driving pleasure before.

Space instead of performance

Whenever he whispers about country roads or highways, always the star on the hood after, it doesn't really matter what kind of engine is under it. That's a good thing, because the two-liter turbo gasoline engine lacks power compared to its rivals, which the engine cannot make up for with more commitment. It doesn't like turning, it pulls slowly - the automatic shifts thoughtfully through its seven levels.

Here, too, the force of turbo-diesel torque is missing. However, there is more space for this, because unlike the diesels, whose AdBlue tank occupies the basement of the cargo space, there is the full volume of a total of two cubic meters. So the S212 is still a real size. And it will stay that way.

VW Passat wins the comparison test

The Passat, on the other hand, remains unbeaten. And by no means just because, adjusted for equipment, it is a good 13,000 euros cheaper than its rivals. The VW already wins the property evaluation. He's the only one to put the engine across the hood, creating the most space despite the tightest exterior length: In the rear, it has up to 9.5 centimeters more standard seating space than the others, and comes closest to the T in terms of load volume.

The Passat uses the same base as the Golf (the MQB, we had to mention that again), and the deeply positioned touchscreen navigation system from the modular infotainment kit. The two-liter EA888 also comes from the Golf - the GTI - and, like there, has 220 hp. The turbo engine can be programmed for almost any output, in the Golf R it's 300 hp, in the Seat Leon Cupra 290 or 265, in the Audi A6 just 252 hp.

The EA888 is called that because the eight the Chinese lucky number and the engine should be particularly successful there. VW combines the gasoline engine in the Passat with the six-speed double clutch transmission as standard. Sometimes things get tangled up briefly when starting up, then shifts the gears seamlessly, while the engine moves forward homogeneously, sometimes robustly, always with great liveliness.

Dynamic lightweight

That it is just as fast and even is more economical than the Audi, is also due to the lower weight of the Variant. At 1,578 kilos, it is far below the others, which, in addition to driving performance, makes handling more dynamic. The Passat turns carelessly in curves, remains neutral for a long time, pulls out again with a lot of grip and hardly any drive influences in the sensitive, direct steering. The characteristic curves for steering and dampers can be sharpened, which is more damaging to the fine suspension comfort in the 'Comfort' than it is to the agility.

The Passat is also the fastest in terms of driving dynamics, and has comfortable seats, brakes hard, consumes the least, and is sensiblehe too. Nevertheless, we would have preferred to keep the unreasonable V8, five-cylinder turbo, in-line and VR six. What enables us to end with the old Baron Montesquieu: 'Man almost never comes to his senses from reason.'

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