Audi A4 Avant vs BMW 3 Series Touring vs VW Passat Estate

Audi’s latest generation A4 and A4 Avant are greatly improved over their predecessors, offering far superior driving dynamics, performance and efficiency. The new Audi A4 Avant puts it squarely in the race for being the best executive wagon in the segment, right up there with the famous BMW 3 Series Touring. But how exactly does the Audi A4 Avant stack up against its competitors? Auto Express took them to find out.

The most popular car in the segment is the BMW 3 Series Touring, by far, so it’s the car to beat. But the new Volkswagen Passat Estate is a worthy competitor as well. So Auto Express took all three and put them to the test to see which is the best executive wagon.

2016 Audi A4 Avant

The Audi A4 Avant is the newest car of the bunch, so it has the most to prove. Being that the previous A4 Avant caught quite a bit of flak for being somewhat dull to drive in comparison to its competitors and for having a bit of a rough ride. So this new B9 iteration needs to prove itself against steep competition.

BMW’s 3 Series Touring is often considered the best executive wagon in the segment, offering a near-perfect blend of performance, handling and practicality. However, the latest F30 iteration has lacked in the handling department in comparison to its predecessors. While still and excellent overall car, this may be its weakest time in its 40 year history, so Audi’s time is now to beat it.

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The newcomer in the group is the Volkswagen Passat Estate, which isn’t typically compared with the likes of the A4 and 3 Series. While the newly Volkswagen Passat is a great car in its own right, its quite a bit cheaper than the other two cars in the test and lower on the food chain, so it may not have the quality or performance to keep up. However, it is incredibly efficient and has the most cargo space of the three. So maybe its added practicality, efficiency and cost can gain it top marks.

All three cars were equipped with 2.0 liter diesel engines and come in their sportiest trim levels. So it’s the Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TDI 190 S-Line, the BMW 320d Touring M Sport and the Volkswagen Passat Estate 2.0 190 TDI R-Line. Oddly enough, all three cars have 187 hp, however they all have different 0-60 mph times. The BMW 320d Touring is by far and away the fastest of the bunch, with a 06 mph time of 7.2 seconds, while the A4 Avant takes 9.1 to do the same sprint and it takes the Passat 9.3. As far as economy goes, the BMW is the best of the three again, getting 48 mpg, while the Audi gets 39 and the Volkswagen 44. So BMW clearly has the powertrain advantage.

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In terms of practicality, the Passat Estate is the most capacious of the three by far, with a 650 liter trunk (or boot), while the Audi has to make due with 505 and the BMW a paltry 495. However, both the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 320d Touring have power-lift tailgates while the Passat does not.

All things considered, Auto Express felt as if the BMW 320d Touring was the best car in the test, as its driving dynamics were superior to the others, it’s the fastest of the bunch by far and it’s the most economical. Its trunk is a bit small, but it makes up for it with excellent driving dynamics and a fantastic engine. The Audi A4 Avant came in second place, having the nicest interior of the group, a great ride and great emissions. However, its driving dynamics lacked compared to the BMW and its S-Tronic gearbox was deemed unfit for highway use. The Volkswagen Passat Estate came in last, which we thought was going to happen. Yes, it’s the cheapest and has the largest cargo area, but it cannot match the Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series, in terms of quality, performance and handling. It’s just a class below the other two.

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So the BMW 3 Series wins, yet again, but the Audi A4 is inching ever closer to the famous Bavarian.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.