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While large luxury European sedans are modest showroom performers Down Under, it’s been action stations at key carmakers’ product planning departments at their foreign HQs. BMW just unwrapped its forthcoming new-gen 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz recently launched its all-new E-Class, and there’s a newcomer – or, at least, a dramatically reinvented-comer – that’s just lobbed into a premium plus-sized four-door party near you: the Volvo S90.

The big, bold and brassy Swede arrives swinging a large enough stick to give the established Germans decent cause for concern while marking its territory in the grown-up sandpit with suitably High Street price tags within the range. This comparison, then, is to test if New Volvo can shake the luxo establishment with its S90 much in the way its XC90 has managed amongst the super-sized SUV set.

Also new on the uptown block is Audi’s MY17-spec A6 2.0TFSI quattro, a car that earned its stripes by dispatching the new E-Class (in 200 petrol form), the current-if-ageing BMW 5 Series (a 520d diesel example) and the new-for-2016 Jaguar XF (a 20d oiler) in our recent four-way mega-test.

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This time around, our three-way shootout is an all-diesel, four-cylinder affair, so defending Audi honour is the A6 2.0 TDI S tronic, part of the range launch 18 months ago and, as a result, not quite as fresh-from-the-oven. It’s reasonable to expect, though, the evergreen diesel is sprinkled with much the same fairy dust as its TFSI quattro twin.

Given that a diesel package can alter a vehicle’s complexion against a petrol version, the large-segment Benz returns to the fray in E220d form after the E200 was narrowly beaten to second place last time ’round.

Meanwhile, the S90 is so new to the local line-up there’s only one oiler available to fly the blue and yellow flag: the the D5 Inscription launch edition.

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Pricing and spec

Grouping the Audi, Benz and Volvo together in four-cylinder diesel forms does present a parity issue.

For a start, the D5 Inscription, as the flagship Volvo S90 variant, offers 173kW/480Nm, has on-demand all-wheel drive and wants for $96,900 (plus on-roads). Not yet available, but soon-to-launch, will be a more affordable entry-level D4 Momentum which, at $82,400 before on-roads, will arrive in front-driven 140kW/400Nm specification…

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Our A6 2.0 TDI lobs in at $82,355 before on-roads in 140kW/400Nm front-driven form and… you can begin to see where problems creep in.

Thing is, adjusting the fleet up to a high-spec A6 oiler with all-wheel drive lands you in 3.0 TDI quattro territory starting from $102,355 (before on-roads) and brings with it a rather lusty V6 diesel outside the spirit of this particular comparison test…

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At $92,900 plus on-roads, the Merc E220d is over 10 grand pricier than the Audi in bare un-optioned form and three grand more affordable than the Volvo, offering 143kW/400Nm – a nominal three-kilowatt advantage over the A6 – driven through the rear wheels.

In present company, the Benz looks pricey though, as with the S90, you pay a premium for a toy with that oh-so shiny with newness.

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Further still, the E220d takes the concept of base car standard equipment and knocks it out of the ballpark, more of which you can read here. However, it comes as little surprise that the pricier Volvo, as the top-shelf variant, covers off many of the Benz’s headlining appointments, and then some in certain areas. Consider that the Audi struggles to counter some of its rivals’ shinier bells and louder whistles and their respective price positioning starts to look about, well, ‘right’.

Each car covers the basics such as satellite navigation, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry with push-button start, electric folding mirrors and electric front seat adjustment. And all three come equipped with autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning systems.

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For airbags, the Volvo gets seven (dual front, driver knee airbag, front side and full-length curtain), the Audi gets eight (adds rear side airbags) and Benz is fitted with nine (adds driver knee airbag).

The S90’s unique provision of integrated child booster seats, which fold out of the second-row seat bases, is said to be the reason for the rear side airbag omission.

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If there’s an eye-raiser in the core gear, it’s that both the Audi and Volvo have leather seat trim, while the Benz gets Artico man-made leather material.

While the A6 is fitted with Xenon plus headlights and LED driving lights (our car gets $3500 optional LEDs), the E220d gets the full LED headlight/DLR/taillight treatment while the S90 ups the ante with active bending/active high-beam front LEDs.

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Cruise control? The Audi gets a passive design, while the Benz and Volvo both not only boast adaptive systems but offer semi-autonomous driving capabilities which, as you might expect, integrates active lane-keeping functionality and full auto braking.

That said, our A6 test car is fitted with a $5800 Technik package that adds the adaptive cruise/lane keeping/stop-and-go trickery together with parking assistance (standard on both E220d and S90), four-zone climate control (which the Volvo gets standard, the Benz get three-zone) and a 360-degree camera system (which the Benz loads in for free and the Volvo wants $1750 extra for).

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Suddenly the value quotient between the A6 and E220d looks fairly lineball… until you consider the Benz is the only car of the three present offering ‘selective’ – or variable – damper setting technology as standard.

The most conspicuous separator in the pack is the implementation of full digital driver and passenger displays inside the Benz (dual 12.3-inch screens) and the Volvo (nine-inch tablet-style infotainment and 12.3-inch driver’s screens) compared with the more conventional analogue instrumentation and 8.0-inch retractable monitor combination in the Audi.

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Further options? Metallic paint work ($2280) and aluminium trim inlays ($600) further lift the A6’s as-tested price to $94,535 before on-roads… representing the most affordable bottom line here by some measure.

The S-line sports appearance package is standard issue.

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Our Benz adds a number of big-ticket options that heightens its equipment levels and, thus, significantly clouds an otherwise unopened E220d’s luxury credentials.

So while something of a blind reviewing eye can be turned against the, erm, $4990 Vision package (semi-panoramic roof, head-up display, 13-speaker/590-watt Burmeister sound), it’s tough not to factor in the impact the $3900 Air Body Control adaptable air suspension and $6300 AMG Line package (20-inch wheels upsized from 18s, sports seats, leather trim, Artico trim surfacing, sports paddle-shifter steering wheel, AMG appearance addenda) has on this otherwise ‘entry’ model.

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On top of this are niceties such as metallic paint ($1990), front seat heating ($900) and a tyre pressure monitoring system ($650) lifting our test car to a formidable $111,630 before on-roads. That’s $17,095 pricier than our as-tested Audi!

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Digging even further into the hip pocket, our Volvo S90 D5 Inscription is $118,555 as tested. The Swede’s options include heated front seats ($600), a regular sunroof ($3000), head-up display ($1750), manual rear window blinds ($500), a 360-degree camera ($1750), a leather-trimmed instrument panel ($2500), 20-inch wheels (up from 19s, $2850), laminated side windows ($750) power folding rear backrests ($250), a single CD player ($160), Bowers and Wilkins sound ($4500), Apple CarPlay compatibility ($300).

There’s also power front seat cushion extension ($645) and, of course, metallic paint ($1900). The neat metal mesh trim inlays, though, are a no-cost option. (There is a Technology pack that saves dough by bundling in DAB+, a head-up display, a 360-degree camera and Apple CarPlay while adding an extra USB port, for $3000.)

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There’s more gear in these cars’ brimming specs lists though, clearly, the overbearing leveler here is that extra investment brings added equipment. That said, while the Audi looks a bit slim on gear and its pricing is relatively seductive, its circa-$95k price point remains serious coin.

Ditto the Volvo: no digital radio; an extra cost for smartphone interface and CD player; a sting for heated seats – all of this gear should be standard for flagship variants of the top-flight range. And while this entry Merc looks to want-for-nothing, it certainly asks for plenty extra to bolster its goodies bag.

Deciding an ultimate winner, then, may well come down to a measure of substance over flash…

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Design

Drowned in Volvo’s ‘new style’, the S90 certainly polarises opinion, though among the CarAdvice crew the ‘fors’ far outnumber the ‘againsts’. In the metal, it’s instantly arresting, commands attention from a distance, looks supremely muscular and, importantly, appears fittingly flagship premium.

As statements go, it’s the boldest of the three, even if perhaps because of newness and how far it departs from its maker’s convention.

If the S90 is the boldest, the E220d is perhaps the classiest. That its styling is thoroughly conventional doesn’t rob its handsomeness, though you do pay extra for that AMG effect.

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The A6 is easily the most conservative and its standard S-line addenda doesn’t exactly raise the heart rate, which is fine: Audi will drop yours on 20s and sport suspension and add racier accouterments inside and out with an S-Line Sport pack that wants for an extra $9900.

As it sits, though, the A6 2.0 TDI certainly looks like a larger A4 if not necessarily the more premium model.

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The quality and presentation of Audi’s cabins, particularly in upmarket models, has long garnered high praise. Not a lot separates the A6’s interior design with, say, the latest Q7. But even with its slightly more technical design, there’s not a lot different here ‘in effect’ compared with, say, a basic A3.

The retractable infotainment screen, the software fonts, the button clutter on the centre stack – it looks low-effort and last-generation compared with the leap forward the Audi’s two rivals present in E-Class and S90…even if, to touch, the Ingolstadt machine is an utterly classy act. For the most part…

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The Audi’s seats look plain, offer relaxed comfort and adequate support, and the quality of the leather is decent if a little short of being luxurious. That’s a bit of a theme in Audi’s cheapest large sedan. Some touch points, such as the armrests, are a little too firm.

And, cosmetically, the alloy effect inlays aren’t nearly as genuinely upmarket as Benz’s richer metal detailing or the gorgeous Metal Mesh feature work inside the more flamboyant Volvo.

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Mercedes-Benz has copped flak in past reviews for biscuit-cutting its cabin designs a little too frequently in certain models and grades, but this new E-Class treatment, aesthetically at least, is a real gob-smacker in the most positive ways.

It’s not just in conspicuous areas such as the monstrous dual 12.3-inch screen eye candy, but equally in the details: for instance, how the curvaceous black ash wood trim flows through from the dash fascia into the door trims.

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Some of the trinkets are a little superfluous – there are some 64 colours of ambient lighting to choose from.

Others, such as those steering wheel thumb sliders that control the dual screen displays, are decent stabs at innovation. But the net effect is utterly five-star – if cost-optioned somewhat to get there – offering the kind of fresh and convincingly premium goodness we hope will trickle down into lesser Cs, GLCs, CLAs and the like that suffer a bit of old-Benz homogenisation.

The E220d’s beautifully presented (AMG optional) front seats look and feel a couple of rungs more upmarket than the Audi’s, but those huge bolsters are really form-fitting and mightn’t provide long-haul comfort for some plus-sized owners.

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What’s immediately apparent is how low-slung the S90’s driving position is compared with its rivals. The front buckets balance sporty support with comfort quite faithfully and drew high praise from most CarAdvice colleagues who tried them – everyone raved about the suppleness of the leather.

And while the Benz gets adjustable lumbar support, the Volvo offers more comprehensive electric lumbar and cushion front seat adjustment.

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The concept of the minimalist design, as debuted on the XC90, streamlines much of the car’s controls in a single touchscreen tablet. It feels absolutely forward thinking, though, in practice, the tap-and-swipe interface drew mixed appraisal from the CA crew.

Without a separate console controller, bar audio shortcut buttons, it demands familiarity to navigate quickly and can be a little clunky and distracting to use.

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In fact, none of the three infotainment systems on test dominated another for user-friendliness. Each requires multi-step processes or certain setting changes and each has usability quirks. The advice is: have a thorough dig through any of these cars’ systems before parting with cash to avoid significant frustration in the ownership experience.

As for the 360-degree camera systems, both the Volvo and Benz benefit from quite different, if equally high-resolution, clearly displayed camera perspectives, while the Audi system is grainier and lower rent in appearance.

The Volvo certainly feels special, substantial and opulent. Whether you’re talking the styling of those ‘art deco’ air vents of the combination of mostly satin-finish materials and textures, it’s unabashedly flagship-like in visual and tangible effect. While the digitisation on the dual displays isn’t quite as slick as the achingly techy Benz showcase, there’s a neatness, legibility and clarity throughout the S90 cabin that’s utterly satisfying.

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In the second row, the Volvo is superior to its rivals for legroom, imparting a real limousine air, though it has the most limited headroom – the S90’s rear bench base is noticeably higher than its German rivals.

For all-round rear space, the Audi offers the best practical volume, though the lack of a sunroof (as in the S90) or panoramic roof (as with the Benz) is the major benefactor as a trade-off for the lack of on-demand sunlight.

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The A6 also gets the most comprehensive climate control: a four-zone system with individual temperature, ventilation and airflow controls, though the S90 matches the Audi sans separate vent adjustment. The Benz, meanwhile, makes do with a more basic three-zone system.

For rear seat comfort, the Volvo takes the advantage, not merely due to the neat child booster base functionality but because the outboard seat backs are more shapely and adult friendly than either German. Despite having the most shapely front seating, the Benz’s rear base and back are fairly flat and not terribly supportive.

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All three have large boot spaces of smartly packaged dimensions able to swallow bulky objects, though in term of outright volume the Benz’s 540 litres pips the Audi’s 530L with the Volvo the smallest of the trio, with 500L neat.

Both the E220d and the S90 have electric boot lids, a feature the Audi misses out on.

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If there’s one interior design agenda both the Benz and Volvo seem to champion, it’s the suggestion the days of the tacked-on or ‘floating’ infotainment screen – the dash wart – could thankfully be well and truly numbered.

Frankly, the newer pair makes the ageing Audi’s cabin seem a generation older by making large enough strides forward.

Of the two, the Benz has the slight edge in substance, while it’s Volvo that lays on the style most heavily and convincingly. Strange days indeed…

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Engine and driveline

It’s fair to say Australia’s embrace of 2.0-litre diesel four-cylinder power of large luxury sedans isn’t as warm as it has been in other global markets, perhaps impacted in no small way by relative vehicle and fuel pricing. But even in the slow, creeping acceptance of downsizing powertrains, it’s easy to presume that any small oiler would be barely adequate for the task, and that such luxury cars must surely drive similarly and unsatisfactorily. This trio proves that presumption wrong.

For a start, there are key difference in powertrain. The Audi channels torque through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox to the front wheels. The Benz is rear-wheel driven, adopting a nine-speed conventional automatic transmission. Meanwhile, the Volvo adopts an eight-speed auto via all-wheel-drive, albeit an on-demand system that defaults to front-drive much of the time.

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While the 140kW/400Nm Audi and 143kW/400Nm Benz are separated by a marginal difference in output, the A6’s is a well established unit whereas the E220d’s is brand-spanking new. Both are entry diesel engines in their respective ranges, leaving larger six-cylinder oilers to power the more highly specified A6 (3.0 TDI/3.0 TDI Biturbo) and E-Class (350d) variants.

Volvo, though, offers two tunes of its four-cylinder diesel depending on model variant and, as mentioned above, our high-spec Inscription lifts the base Momentum car’s 140kW/400Nm ‘D4’ unit to a top-flight ‘D5’ designation with a 173kW/480Nm state of tune.

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The Audi’s diesel is most polite of the three. It’s unobtrusive at start-up/restart, quiet at idle, and a smooth and near silent operator on the move. At a claimed 4.4L/100kms combined, it’s the most frugal model in the entire A6 (and S6/RS6) line-up though it comes as no surprise that it’s the tardiest when called to action.

Its maker claims a leisurely 8.5sec for the 0-100km/h sprint and it certainly doesn’t feel any swifter, even with Dynamic drive mode providing a powertrain tickle and the S tronic transmission tapped into Sport. Granted, the throttle does sharpen and it holds onto forward ratios more vigorously, but either way there’s not much shove beyond 4000rpm and it’s not all that eager to march despite feeling quite light on its rubber feet. ‘Dynamic’ does frustrate the around-town driveability a little, too, upsetting the otherwise smooth gearbox action and forcing the consumption figure north of six litres per hundred.

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Practicably, the A6 TDI isn’t left short of modest purpose: the engine’s torquey nature sees to that. There’s just not anything genuinely premium about the powertrain outside of its quiet, innocuous operation.

The Benz has a touch more bite and character, though resplendent in its optional AMG-a-like stylisms and offering a progression through Sport and Sport+ modes, it’d really want to.

The 0-100km/h claim for the E220d is, at 7.3sec, significantly quicker than the Audi’s 8.5, though the difference in seat of the pants pace doesn’t seem quite as pronounced.

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This new 2.0-litre engine seems smoother, quieter and more flexible than the older 2.1L diesel much of the Benz range still endures. Apparently much effort went into calibrating the nine-speed auto to suit, and the result is a powertrain that’s refined, amply gutsy and immensely driveable while remaining impressively frugal.

For a heavy car with more fruit than a grocery store, mid to high fives for average fuel consumption is truly impressive, though its maker does claim a combined cycle figure of a more ambitious 4.1L/100km. Perhaps on the highway, with a tail wind…

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The Volvo’s engine is the thirstiest of the pack, returning mid to high sevens off the back of a 5.1L/100km combined claim. But what’s lost in economy is returned in sheer thrust: this 2.0-litre unit feels every part the extra 33kW and 80Nm over its contemporaries. I’ll go further out on a limb in that it’s the only engine of the trio that feels fittingly energetic enough to fulfill the prestige large car persona each of this trio promises.

The D5 uses an electric compressor on the exhaust side of the turbocharger to minimise low-rpm engine lag and heighten response. That’s the theory. The practice is that the Volvo’s 2.0-litre harnesses torque harder, quicker and lower in the rev range than either the Audi or Benz. It feels more effortless, as if it’s a larger capacity unit.

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While patently more satisfying under the right foot, the powertrain isn’t perfect. There’s no real ‘sport’ drive mode other than a confusingly named ‘Eco Sport’ setting hidden in a submenu that relinquishes stability control – not the sort of mode you’d sensibly opt for on public roads, then.

The upshot is that ultimate drivability is dictated by an eight-speed auto with a reasonably assertive, if slightly relaxed, shift calibration and, off the mark, the transmission can take a moment to catch up with the engine. More powertrain than engine lag, then, though it was noted by every CA staffer who drove the S90.

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In the corners

Should you show the S90 a twisty country road, the slightly dulled transmission response does inhibit kickdown exiting corners, and given there are no paddle-shifters and the transmission selector’s manual gate is incorrectly oriented (forward for upshifts) you’re at the mercy of a self-shifting calibration that’s handy but not stellar.

Beyond that, the Volvo’s ability to cover twisty ground at a rate of knots is fantastic. It’s quite simply the quickest and most driver engaging device of this pack.

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Sat on its so-called Dynamic Chassis suspension spec and wide 255mm Pirelli P Zeros, the S90 corners flatter, bites into the hotmix more aggressively and points more assertively than either the Audi or the Benz. From behind the wheel, the sedan’s heft is evident, though the degree of handling reserve it keeps in its pocket is truly impressive.

Enter a closing-radius corner a little too hot and the front end responds immediately to steering correction, and it’s a more accurate and easy to place backroad bomber than its sheer size might have you believe. There are no issue with sheer drive, either – when and where the system converts torque from front- to full all-paw traction is tough to detect by the seat of the pant, but it seems to transmit all of the engine’s thrust all of the time. And its brakes, though patently not as heroic in hardware as the Benz, offer the most progression and, seemingly at least, stopping power.

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The Benz adopts narrower 245mm front Pirellis but is graced with humongous 275mm rears, and yet it struggles to put its power down and drive out of corners with the eagerness of the Volvo.

And while the Airmatic suspension certainly firms up and provides a noticeable ‘edge’ in the E220’s dynamic package, it’s more prone to a loss of front end grip, where understeer is trickier to recover from, and rear-end traction, as wheelspin tends to hamper progress and trigger traction control quite easy.

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The 220d is quite responsive yet runs out of poise, is agile for its size while remaining slightly aloof. The steering, too, is strangely artificial compared with the Volvo’s genuine connection, particularly in the increasingly heftier ‘feel’ in its Sport and Sport+ drive modes.

So while the Swede is the innately dynamic being without modal intervention, the German can’t escape its big, luxury nature even with a gamut of electronic trickery intervening.

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The Audi feels the most lightweight of the trio for good and not-so-good reasons. The steering is the easiest to use though lacks similar engagement. Its weight is less substantial, yet the A6 floats across the road rather than digging into it. It can be guided to a brisk clip but it doesn’t like to be manhandled.

The 245mm Bridgestone Turanza tyres – on 18-inch rims all round – mightn’t play to whatever inherent chassis goodness that lies beneath the A6’s skin. Further, we’re certain that the aforementioned ($9900 optional) S line sport package’s more focused suspension and 20-inch rolling stock might provide a closer dynamic match to the optionally AMG-enhanced Benz.

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As our A6 test car sits, though, it’s no sports car nor does it pretend to be. However, despite being armed with Dynamic settings aplenty, it won’t transition into a convincingly satisfying driver’s car. In this company, it lacks the shove, the traction and overall engagement.

Characteristically, it’s the one you’d choose if you want a leisurely cruise through the countryside without attempting to raise your heart rate.

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At a cruise

Given its lack of sporting pretension, the big surprise was that, for ride quality, the Audi is the most unsettling and downright fidgety over rough road surfaces. Even at a decent clip where large cars tend to tame smaller road irregularities, its jittery nature transmits most wheel movement into in-cabin vibrations.

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That said, the A6 is a quiet operator: tyre noise across coarse chip surfaces is minimal and there’s little in the way of environmental sound penetration into the cabin. As mentioned, the engine is close to being silent on the move at a constant and moderate throttle.

The fat-rubbered Volvo, by comparison, would seem to be more susceptible to tyre roar to the ears, though using a decibel meter there’s a scant one dB average difference between the A6 (92dB) and its S90 and E220d rivals (93dB apiece). So, scientifically, there’s nothing in it.

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The Volvo’s non-changeable, sport focused suspension errs on the firm side, but it is more multifaceted than the fairly one-dimensional Audi tune.

Carrying speed over large undulations, the S90 has impressive poise, retaining composure in both bump and rebound that’s more resolved than the terse Audi or the floaty-in-Comfort-mode Benz.

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Yes, in its softest settings, the Benz’s air suspension irons out the fiercest blacktop wrinkles, but there is a trade off: at a fair clip, the E220d tends to float along the road like a vessel in rough seas, though its ability to absorb any manner of bump or road join at slower urban speeds is truly impressive.

That said, the Benz is susceptible to noticeable slap over catseyes and square-edged hits.

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If there’s an area where all three cars could benefit from improvement it’s with the calibration of their various active safety and convenience systems. Though, to be fair, the annoyances aren’t limited to the luxury large car segment.

In short, many of the safeguard systems are too conservatively tuned for the degree of close proximity driving typical of urban Sydney or Melbourne.

None of the three are immune to supplying some overzealous misinformation, annoyingly so with warning systems, alarming so with active mitigation and avoidance.

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The more active safety the better, right? Perhaps when they help, but perhaps not when they hinder.

On test, both the Benz and the Volvo demonstrated unwarranted frontal collision alarms and automated braking intervention, which hardly instills confidence and trust in the so-called semi-autonomous driving functionality each car boasts.

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Ownership

All three premium sedans are covered by three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranties with free road-side assist throughout.

Audi’s Service Plan is available at $1810 for the A6 TDI sedan and covers three years or 45,000 kilometres, with annual/15,000km service intervals.

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Service intervals for the E220d are every 12 months or 25,000 kilometres, whichever comes first, with a cost of $556 for the first service and $1112 for each subsequent service, a total of $2780 over three years/75,000kms.

The S90 comes with a three-year service plan totaling $2930 for the period. Stick with Volvo servicing and there are one-year extensions of its road-side assist program out to a total of six years.

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Verdict

Perhaps the biggest struggle the A6 2.0 TDI sedan has isn’t its two rivals here but its positioning within its own and, crucially, ageing range. This variant sits on a lowly rung beneath the lustier 3.0 TDI quattro version, itself plugged underneath the properly spirited ‘Biturbo’ six-powered A6 flagship. And beyond lies the S and RS gear, each fruitier, faster, pricier and ultimately more luxuriously equipped.

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Essentially, the A6 2.0 TDI is smothered in its own hierarchy though, outside of that, it’s simply not endowed enough with equipment, newness and an innate upmarket feel to rival the new status quo outside the brand. A nice car, for sure, though not quite nice enough when sat a stone’s throw away from a six-figure price tag. In ways the petrol quattro A6 “swept our judges off their feet” in recent comparison, the diesel front driver version, in this test, patently didn’t…

In many ways, the Mercedes-Benz E220d feels the most comprehensive and lavishly adorned of the three. That said, it really leans hard on two optional crutches – its air suspension and its AMG line fruitiness – and the extra $10,200 they command on which to build its premium credentials. We suspect removing both would create much stronger parity against the Audi, while still being a pricier prospect.

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But, there’s a holistic, prestigious goodness to this new-gen E-Class that feels higher class than the Audi. For sophistication and convincingly well-integrated tech, it’s the pick of the bunch. As an all-round driving experience, it shines in some areas (general ride comfort) but falls short in others (sea-sickening body control).

But it’s really the Volvo that gets the basic package right in so many good places. Despite a few glaring omissions in standard spec (such as DAB+ and Apple CarPlay), you could strip away its options and be left with a vehicle that still typifies forward-thinking, large luxury motoring in style, panache, substance and the user experience for either the driver or the passengers.

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Those of the CA Sydney crew who drove the Volvo would suffix their respective opinions with “… but in a good way.” It’s certainly hefty “but in a good way.” It’s quite heavy and meaty “but in a good way.” It rides fairly firm “but in a good way.”

And the right sorts of good in all the right areas – rather than value for money or the number of trinkets – was how the Volvo nailed the bona-fide prestige experience a little more assertively than its German rivals.

MORE: Audi A6 news, reviews, comparisons and videos
MORE: Mercedes-Benz E-Class news, reviews, comparisons and videos
MORE: Volvo S90 news, reviews, comparisons and videos
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