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Car group tests

BMW 3 Series vs Jaguar XE

BMW has revised its 3 Series in a bid to reclaim its class crown from Jaguar’s XE

Buyers of compact executive saloons have never had it so good. The latest generation of models is the best yet, combining unrivalled premium appeal with engaging driving dynamics and penny-pinching running costs.

Best executive cars

So this meeting between the BMW 3 Series and the Jaguar XE promises to be a true grudge match.

The stunning XE has already made its mark on the class. With its blend of sleek looks, luxurious interior and impeccable driving manners, the British saloon deservedly scooped compact executive honours at our 2015 New Car Awards.

In the process, it knocked the 3 Series off the top spot it had made its own since the sixth-generation car debuted in 2012.

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However, BMW hasn’t taken this defeat lying down, and has pulled the covers off a facelifted version of its evergreen saloon, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year.

By tweaking the car’s looks, revising its engine line-up, upgrading its suspension and adding more kit, BMW believes it has given the 3 Series all it needs to regain its place at the top of the class pecking order. 

So, which of our desirable executives has what it takes to succeed? In an exclusive test on UK roads, we name the winner in one of our hardest-hitting tests of the year.

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BMW 3 Series review

Jaguar XE review

Click the links above for individual reviews, and scroll down to see which fleet-favourite comes out on top...

Head-to-head

Benefit in kind

Low running costs are essential for fleet-targeted models like our duo. The Jag is the cheaper choice for business users – it’s more expensive to buy, but claims lower CO2 emissions. Drivers looking to save can go for a 161bhp 2.0 XE, at £29,775, which emits 99g/km. The 320d EfficientDynamics Plus has the same CO2, yet costs £30,485.

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Practicality

The Jag may be slightly bigger on the outside, but its cabin is a touch more cramped, while the boot is 25 litres smaller and awkwardly shaped. Not only is the 3 Series’ boot bigger, buyers wanting even more space can opt for the Touring estate that features a 495-litre capacity.

Performance

At the track, the BMW had a small advantage over the Jaguar, due to its superior power and lower kerbweight. But there’s little to separate the two in the real world. Both feel a great deal faster than their humble diesel underpinnings would suggest.

Verdict

1st place: Jaguar XE

This is the closest road test verdict of 2015, but the XE takes the victory by the very narrowest of margins. It’s not quite as good to drive as the refreshed BMW and it’s not quite as roomy, but the characterful Jaguar’s sleek looks, luxurious interior, top-notch refinement, long equipment list and lower running costs are hard to ignore.

2nd place: BMW 3 Series

If you’re a keen driver, then the 3 Series is still the pick of the compact executive class. All the improvements to the chassis and engines have made it faster and sharper to drive, plus they’ve boosted refinement, too. Yet it can’t match the Jaguar’s low running costs and standard kit list, plus it lacks its rival’s valuable safety aids. 

Is it worth waiting for the new Audi A4? 

Due: October Price: from £28,000 (est)Engine: 2.0 4cyl diesel, 148bhp

Underpinned by Audi’s lightweight MLB Evo platform, the handsome new A4 is fast, great fun to drive and frugal. It’s also beautifully finished and spacious inside. The Jaguar XE and BMW 3 Series need to watch their backs.

Key specs:

 Jaguar XE 2.0 (180) R Sport AutoBMW 320d M Sport Auto
On-the-road price/total as tested£34,775/£37,750£33,635/£40,120
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£17,144/49.3%£15,203/45.2%
Depreciation£17,631£18,432
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,319/£2,638£1,410/£2,821
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,356/£2,260£1,135/£1,892
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost27/£526/B/£2032/£579/C/£30
Servicing costs£475 (5yrs/50k)£475 (5yrs/50k)
   
Length/wheelbase4,672/2,835mm4,633/2,810mm
Height/width1,416/1,850mm1,416/1,811mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,999cc4cyl in-line/1,995cc
Peak power178/4,000 bhp/rpm187/4,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque430/1,750 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission8-spd auto/rwd8-spd auto/rwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel56 litres/£15057 litres/run-flats
Boot capacity455 litres480 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,565/585/1,800kg1,505/575/1,800kg
Turning circle12.0 metres11.3 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers21,000 miles (2yrs)/97Variable/153
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.2nd/3rd14th/23rd
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/starsN/A95/84/78/86/5*
   
0-60/30-70mph8.2/8.0 seconds7.1/6.8 seconds
30-50mph in 3rd/4th2.9/3.3seconds2.7/3.2 seconds
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th4.5/5.5/7.1/11.3 secs4.1/5.5/6.9/12.5 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph140mph/1,700rpm146mph/1,700rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph48.0/34.4/9.0m51.3/36.4/9.4m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph76/47/59/68dB67/47/58/68dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range44.7/9.8/551 miles53.4/11.8/670 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined55.4/76.4/67.3mpg56.5/74.3/67.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined12.4/16.8/14.8mpl12.4/16.3/14.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket169/111g/km/20%142/116g/km/21%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/rear/£530Six/yes/yes/£330
Auto box/stability/adaptive cruiseYes/yes/£1,500Yes/yes/£620
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/yesYes/yes/£325
Met paint/xenons/sunroof£620/yes/£1,000£645/£710 (LED)/£895
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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