BMW 320d, Jaguar XE 20d, Front view 27 Photos Zoom

Jaguar XE 20d and BMW 320d Test: First comparison of the premium saloons

It doesn't take long before Jaguar officials clarify that the took a very close look at the BMW 3 Series when developing the XE. We take the competitors out for a first drive.

Jag is back - Jaguar returns to the ambitious mid-size category: those authorised to drive company cars and private customers should find in the Jaguar XE a stimulating alternative to the usual suspects in the form of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-class. When the X-Type, the predecessor based largely on the Ford Mondeo, disappeared from the market in 2009 having posted thoroughly respectable sales figures, Jaguar was noticeably lacking within this market segment.

Saloon with a Coupé design

However, in the Summer the Jaguar XE will arrive into dealerships and, with its ambitious lightweight architecture, a new economical, and thanks to the addition of AdBlue cleaner generation of diesel engines, and light handling, it should score points. Not to be forgotten on the list of temptations: the thrilling design - extremely dynamic yet with great elegance.

Head designer Ian Callum has designed a saloon that for others would pass as a four-door coupé. Although just under two centimetres shorter and five centimetres longer than the BMW, the Jaguar XE seems much more stretched. The bonnet is long, with the striking elevation, which seems more sublime from the driver's viewpoint than it actually is.

The BMW, with its sinewy design and inherently beyond suspicion of being boring, appears less expressive. The same applies at the nose, for between the particularly flat XE headlights, which can be fitted with Bi-Xenon burners as well as cornnering and adaptive lights (1,500 Euros), lies an XXL cooling air inlet.

Jaguar XE with 178 HP

So its showtime on the photo run in Stuttgart city centre: whereas the BMW, as a familiar car, remains unnoticed, passers-by gaze upon the Jaguar curiously and favourably – and not just on account of the English number plate.

The current engine range includes three petrol engines ranging from 197 to 335 HP, diesel-lovers are catered to with a two-litre four-cylinder, whereby the weaker 162 HP engine shines at just 99 grams CO2/km (3.8 l/100 km). For the first driving impressions, the Jaguar XE is equipped with the equally expensive 178 HP 20d, which like the 320d – coincidence? – can be had from 36,500 Euros. The long-stroke engine delivers a generous 430 Newton metres to the crank shaft and thus easily makes up for the HP deficit compared to the BMW (181 HP, 380 Nm).

Driving. Both saloons get to the point equally energetically. The Jaguar XE hangs on the throttle without notable delay, revs fleet-footedly and is almost as free-revving as the BMW engine with its shorter strokes. Both are equipped with the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, which costs 2,500 Euros extra for the Jaguar and just 2,150 extra for the BMW.

F-Type chassis in the XE

Manual interventions using rocker switches are superfluous to requirement in both: the two systems glide accurately through the gears, shift softly down and spontaneously up. That's how it should be. The fact that the Jaguar engine sounds somewhat more raspy from the interior than the BMW diesel, which doesn't run fantastically smoothly either, should not be over-evaluated: a red emergency stop switch behind the Automatic rotary switch typical of the brand backs up the statement from Jaguar officials that this Jaguar XE doesn't yet embody the series standard, as there are still a few finishing touches to be made.

The chassis – the front wheel suspension essentially matches that of the F-Type, and to the rear there is a multi-link axle installed – no longer needs work as the Jaguar developers have come very close to realising goal of BMW-level agility. The rear-wheeler also responded to minor steering commands with incredible spontaneity and invites the driver to engage in slight cornering swing. In so doing, with its standard chassis the car rolls a little more than the BMW, which is fitted with adaptive dampers (at an extra cost of 1,100 Euros, as is the case in the Jaguar XE), but does provide a surprise when it comes to comfort

Jaguar XE 20d with a great deal of comfort

For the XE 20d absorbs transverse joints more softly than the 320d and is the best at dealing with long bumps. If the suspension has to see off really rough attacks, the chassis of the BMW also rattles around a lot more. The Jaguar XE enphasises this high comfort level with comfortable front seats and very good noise insulation: when driving quickly the wind blows much more quietly aroud the wing mirrors and A-pillars than in the BMW.

The challenger from the island doesn't quite reach the level of the 3 Series when it comes to space. The boot, which is stepped when the seat backs are folded down, holds one suitcase fewer, but the differences are even greater in the interior. The Jaguar XE seems less spacious both front and back due to the lower windows and the roof line that falls earlier towards the back of the car, and tall passengers won't have much room above their heads. But you may like that – key term: four-door coupé.

Objectively speaking, the BMW is therefore better suited as a four-seater for four adults than the Jaguar, which doesn't come out unscathed in terms of functionality either: the visibility is not as good on account of the more slanted A-pillars and the lower rear window, and operation also at times more complicated. Nonetheless: the Jaguar XE, which, in theauto motor and sportBest Cars reader vote was greeted with much premature praise, is an all-round success. The first comparison test facing off against the establishment should be exciting.



Achim Hartmann


30 June 2015
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