Review: Audi A4 v BMW 3 Series v Jaguar XE triple test

Review: Audi A4 v BMW 3 Series v Jaguar XE triple test
Review: Audi A4 v BMW 3 Series v Jaguar XE triple test

Three junior execs with taxman-friendly emissions – but which is the most user-friendly to own and drive?

Here’s a tidy trio of junior execs that won’t blow a gaping hole in your pay packet. Each does it its own way, but all three dip under the 100g/km threshold – meaning the taxman will be gentle if you drive one as a company car.

We have the Audi A4, with a manual box and front-wheel drive; the Jaguar XE, with a manual and rear-wheel drive; and the BMW 3 Series, with an auto and rear-wheel drive.

Audi A4
Audi A4 2.0 TDI 150 Ultra Sport

Price £30,550
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 148bhp
Torque: 236lb/ft
0-60mph: 9.4sec
Top speed: 130mph
Fuel economy: 56.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 99g/km

What we have in each case is a 2.0-litre diesel engine and a real-world price on the right side of thirty grand.

Interior

We also have three classy cabins, but one which is clearly the best. The A4’s interior is both swish and solid as rock, with an excellent overall design and a winning combination of accommodation for people and luggage alike.

The 3 Series does score with BMW’s excellent iDrive infotainment system on its side, however, and here again build quality is exceptional. The XE doesn’t feel as well put together, and its media screen isn’t as quick to respond as the others’, but its seats are the most supportive when you’re hustling the car through corners.

BMW 3 Series
BMW 320d ED Plus auto

List price £32,220
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 161bhp
Torque: 295lb/ft
0-60mph: 7.6sec
Top speed: 143mph
Fuel economy: 49.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 99g/km

Driving experience

Hustling the Jag through corners is something you’ll enjoy doing, because its steering feels sweet as a nut. The BMW’s is slightly sharper, however, though the A4 is no mug either – and of the three, it has the best-controlled body movements.

It rides most comfortably of the three, too, though none will leave you feeling blue on the motorway. With optional acoustic glazing, our A4 was also the quietest – at £200, this is worth the money. The XE, on the other hand, suffers from road noise and an unbecoming engine note under acceleration; the 3 Series’ engine is quieter, but it too pipes up when worked.
The BMW is easily the fastest, though, out-sprinting the others by almost two full seconds. Not that they’re slow, though the XE’s gearing means it takes longer to get the idea.

Jaguar XE
Jaguar XE 2.0d 163 Prestige

Price: £30,775
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 161bhp
Torque: 280lb/ft
0-60mph: 9.5 sec
Top speed: 132mph
Fuel economy: 50.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 99g/km

Value for money

In other ways, however, it’s almost level-pegging between the A4 and 3 Series. Audi is least generous of the three manufacturers with its standard kit, and it has the poorest warranty, but all three give you cruise, climate, alloys, push-button start and dusk and rain sensors, and none falls short on safety provisions, so none are exactly mean.

The A4 may skimp on a luxury or two but it’s the cheapest to buy, both in terms of list price and what a dealer will take if you twist his arm. That means the lowest company car tax, too – and as well as returning the best fuel economy in the real world, it’ll be the cheapest to service. The XE costs least to insure, however, and should be the easiest of the three to sell on for a good price when your time with it is up.

That’s not enough to keep it out of third place here, though; beaten for performance, refinement and interior quality, it’s not up to the standards the others set in too many key areas.

That’s the easy bit. Separating the A4 and 3 Series is much harder, because each has so many strengths. Truth to tell, if either of them appeals to you ‘just because,’ that’s enough – but for what it’s worth, the A4’s comfort and refinement, coupled to a low price and even lower fuel consumption, are enough to gain our vote.

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