Ahh, wagons. The forbidden fruit of the United States. Unfortunately for us North American enthusiasts, we don’t get many sporty wagons to play with. To be honest, it’s our own damn fault because we didn’t buy them when they were on sale here. So now we’re stuck with things like the Audi A4 Allroad and Subaru Forester, so people who wear socks with sandals can feel “active”. However, our friends across the pond get all the fun wagons we wish we had. So which is the best of them, the Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring or Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate? We find out in this Evening Standard comparison review.
All three of the cars in the test were equipped with their four-cylinder diesel engines, automatic gearboxes and two-wheel drive (rear-drive for the Bimmer and Benz, front-drive of the Audi).
Of the three, the BMW 3 Series Touring is the oldest. Having debuted in 2012, it’s already pushing the end of its model’s life cycle, with a new one waiting in the wings. However, it’s still a respectable car in this class and can still show the younger cars a thing or two. For example, its rear-wheel drive chassis is still the most engaging to drive and it’s the sportiest car of the three. But its age is starting to show in its engine refinement, interior noise and cabin materials. It’s still a fine car but it can’t compete with the two much newer cars in the class.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate is the middle child of the bunch, being newer than the Bimmer but older than the Audi. It’s a few years old now, looking at it and inside it, though, and you’d think it came out yesterday. The design is fresh and handsome, while the interior feels very modern and flashy. But does start to fall down once you get moving. Its engine is the least refined of the bunch and its handling is the sloppiest. You’d expect that its handling tradeoff would be comfort and that’s true at low speeds but it gets too choppy at highway speed. So, while it’s an attractive and luxurious car, it gets second place here.
That leaves the newest car in the bunch to claim first place — the Audi A4 Avant. We’ve long been admirers of the new B9-generation Audi A4. The A4 has never been the scalpel sharp instrument that the 3 Series used to be, nor the luxurious executive car that the C-Class used to be. But now that the 3 Series has fallen from its sporty throne and the C-Class is less executive, more D.J., the A4 fills both roles better than either of its competitors. Its engine is the smoothest, its handling is a bit shy of the 3 Series’ but bette than the Merc’s and its cabin is the tops. It’s just more well-rounded and does everything at least as good or better than its other two competitors. We just wish we got it here in the ‘States.