Jaguar XE Challenge-Courtesy of Harwoods Jaguar Chichester

The Jaguar XE Challenge
SADCASE webmaster Jamie Brown gets behind the wheel of three of the best compact execs, courtesy of Harwoods Jaguar Chichester. Which of these three does the author consider is better? Read on to find out.

You could say that the premium compact saloon segment is dominated by the German manufacturers, Audi and BMW are the firm favorites but can Jaguar elbow themselves into the competition?

The XE is the most important car Jaguar has made in recent times. It’s important because it takes the company into a new segment, bringing the idea of a more ‘affordable’ Jaguar to a multitude of new customers, as well as introducing a new range of diesel and eventual petrol engines.

Crucially, this new Jaguar must be every bit as engaging and fun to drive as its larger siblings, the XF the XJ and F-Type, while also delivering value for money. By any measure, it’s a tall order. Nonetheless Jaguars bold ‘XE Challenge’ event gives perspective owners the opportunity to test drive the competition first hand and let you see for yourself which car is best. Prospective Jaguar XE customers can test drive up to three of the compact executive saloon's main rivals under a new initiative launched by Jaguar dealers across the country have taken delivery of the three main rivals to the XE – which occupies the fiercely competitive compact executive saloon class – for potential XE customers to compare with the XE.

Unsurprisingly, the other cars in the group test are the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Harwoods Jaguar Chichester offered me the opportunity to drive the 3 Series and C-Class alongside of the XE, something I was more than happy to oblige to. I took each car on the same test routes which include some city driving, rural road driving and final a blat across local A roads. I must empahsie this is not a full road test and I have not gone into depth about MPG or how much room there is in the boot or how much depreciation you will see in 3 years. This is simply my views on how the car drove and performed on the same roads and how they made me feel, which is a very important factor I know for most perspective buyers. My thanks must go to Harwoods Jaguar Chichester and their sales team for allowing me this opportunity to drive these cars, please see Harwoods website for their Approved Used Stock:

Jaguar XE
The Polaris white model you see in the pictures is a mid-range R-Sport model, sitting between the lesser SE and Prestige trims, and the high-spec Portfolio and S models. Two diesel engines are avaliable with either 161 or 178 bhp. The latter of the two tunes is what I am testing here. Two turbocharged petrol versions are a 198bhp or 238bhp 2.0-litre which offer high levels of performance with good fuel economy, but the cherry on the cake is the supercharged 6-cylinder 338 bhp 3.0-litre which is the base engine in the F-Type and has a 0-60mph time of just 4.9 seconds. As I don’t cover a large amount of miles this would be my weapon of choice. But back to the R-Sport; it has a lot of equipment as standard including an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, R-Sport bodykit and sports suspension, chrome exterior trim, autonomous emergency braking, automatic headlights and wipers, rear parking sensors and keyless start.

Driving the XE around the back roads of Chichester shows how Jaguar have really nailed their ride set-up, it’s quiet, supple and feels settled even on harsh road surfaces, the handling is sublime the new electronically assisted power steering is an excellent system.  Torque Vectoring comes on the XE, so the car to feel controlled on the tight, twisty stuff and with Adaptive Surface Response and All Surface Progress Control as driving aids you can be sure of a safe drive on any given surface, even at low speeds.The ability to turn from relaxing executive cruiser into engaging sports saloon is something few of the XE’s rivals can manage — but it’s a feat Jaguar appears to have accomplished with ease.

My impressions of the XE are very good. Its cabin is comfortable and well appointed, if lacking the kind of technology that BMW and Mercedes-Benz offer. But I think the quality was very much up there with the German cars with a premium finish which is the equal f not better. As you might imagine, it’s snugger than an XF, particularly in the back, so it’ll be interesting to see how four adults would cope with a long journey, but if that’s an issue you can get the XF for around £20 a month more on PCP.
Finally there has been a lot written about the new Ingenium engines that Jaguar Land Rover use. Most reviewers say that although the engine offers strong pulling power, it’s loud and obtrusive. I have to agree up to a point. The noise softens as the engine reaches operating temperature, but from a cold start you notice it especially over my XF S’s 3.0 V6 diesel, which is super refined. It’s small issue on what has otherwise been a great first encounter.

BMW 3 Series
BMW’s offering comes in the form of their best-selling model the 3 Series which has been around since 1975.  Losing none of its sporty, coupe like design seen through each generation, the latest 3 series saloon is as aesthetically pleasing on the inside as it is on the outside especially in the test cars black paint M Sport option.
With high gloss blue and brushed aluminium inserts, a well-laid out instrument panel and a premium looking 6.5-inch Control Display screen which features navigation as standard, the cabin is very driver focussed and BMW have designed an interior to be as comfortable as possible if a bit bland compared to the Jaguar.

Its 2-litre turbodiesel engine is a thrummy old thing but it pumps out a useful 182bhp and 280lb ft and gives the 320d a respectable turn of speed. And when you offset its 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds and 146mph top speed with a combined-cycle figure of 61.4mpg, it’s very hard to grumble. Merge that grunt/efficiency ratio with typically brilliant BMW build quality, and it’s a tough cookie to beat.

When driving the BMW the handling, is as agile and sure-footed as you have come to expect from the 3-series. It displays a fine balance and has just the right amount of roll, pitch and dive to remind you that you are testing the chassis. I would say that it on balance the XE just pips it, with the XE benefiting from a lot of development on British roads.

The way BMW’s I drive works is very nifty, the satnav is superb and the ordinary-looking seats are actually supremely comfortable on a long haul. The BM holds 480-litres in the boot but like the XE any increases like split-folding seats, or a through loading system are optional.  It also comes with a nifty system that lets you open the boot lid by waving your foot under the bumper if you happen to have your hands full.
The 3-series still has the essential qualities that made it the car that everybody wanted back in the ’80s and ’90s, still an innate understanding of how a front-engine/rear-drive sports saloon should feel. But while the 3-series has become more refined over the years its absolute handling abilities haven’t quite kept pace. Is this 320d M-Sport a better all-round car than the XE? Perhaps. Is it more fun? I don’t think so. Can a diesel 3-series put you under its spell of soul like an XE? Sadly, not quite.

Mercedes C-Class
With a spacious and high-quality interior, a good standard specification and the option of some cutting edge safety equipment, Mercedes has left nothing to chance with this car and in theory it should be a tough contest.
It may come as surprise then if I were to say this was my least favourite of the three cars I drove. Sadly for me there is just something missing from the whole C-class package. The C-class feels agile to drive, with excellent steering and little lean in corners, but there is not the chassis finesse of the other two cars or the chuckability factor. The blue C200 diesel as tested is the best seller, and with good reason. It's got enough power to make the C-class feel brisk, but is also economical. With 168 bhp the engine is a bit noisy when you start it, which thanks to a very efficient stop/start system happens more often than you might expect. Once up to higher cruising speeds, however, the engine clatter fades into the background, although as with the other cars, there is some tyre roar on coarse road surfaces.
Thankfully, this car was pretty good at soaking up bumps. Even on 18-inch wheels there's enough cushioning to give a reasonably smooth ride. I would go for the 17-inch wheels and its better again, but for the best ride quality

The C-class is right up there with the best in its class, including the BMW 3-series but it’s not what I would drive out of choice. To be fair to the C-Class the high performance C63 AMG and C63 S versions of the car deliver the power of a supercar in a practical saloon body, and are a riot to drive - even more so, in fact, than the BMW M3 and Jaguar XE-S. But in this test if you don't require quite as much space and want something that is more desirable to look at and is more fun to drive the Jaguar is a much better bet.

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