Car group tests

Jaguar XF vs Audi A6 vs BMW 5 Series

Can Jaguar’s new XF go straight to the top of the exec class? We test the new 2.0-litre diesel against the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series

Jaguar's range of upmarket saloons just keeps getting better and better. The XE junior exec has already beaten the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 this year, while the larger XF shrugged off the challenge of the Audi A6 when we tested them head-to-head last month. But those two cars featured 3.0-litre V6 diesels, which aren’t as popular as the more efficient 2.0-litre diesel trio we’ve lined up here.

These cars are the bread and butter of company car fleets, so if the XF wants to reign supreme in this hotly contested executive heartland it will have to beat its very strong German rivals once again.

Best executive cars to buy right now

The BMW 520d is a tough opponent, thanks to its blend of strong performance, frugality and upmarket looks. Plus, there’s a good amount of space on offer for the family.

Audi’s A6 Ultra maximises what you can get from a full tank, too, and teams this with usability, power and a sharp design. It reigned supreme in our 2015 New Car Awards, taking the Best Executive Car crown, so the Jag’s got a fight on its hands. 

But with fresher styling and the British brand’s latest 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel, does it have the firepower to pull off the win? 

Head-to-head 

Lights

Lights are a big part of car design, as manufacturers explore new technologies. All three cars here boast smart headlamps and tail-lights so you know exactly what car you’re following in the dark. But clever LED headlights also help improve visibility and safety, so there’s a practical benefit to these design-led developments, too. 

Driving modes

All our cars feature adjustable driving modes to tailor throttle response and steering weight for sportier driving or comfortable long-distance cruising. The systems impact on every model’s character, but the biggest differences come in the Jaguar, where Dynamic, Normal and Eco offer a broad change. 

Rear access

Exec saloons need to cope with modern family life. The old XF struggled when it came to rear access, but the larger doors on the new car have addressed that issue. The BMW and Audi are just as flexible – the A6’s standard powered tailgate helps a lot. 

Verdict

1st place: Jaguar XF

The XF beat the A6 in our V6 diesels test, and it’s conquered the BMW and Audi here in a battle of the more popular 2.0-litre engines. It’s slightly more expensive, but with all running costs considered, the Jag is a real competitor. Plus, it’s fun to drive and boasts superb agility for a car this size. The XF has really improved its usability, while modern styling completes its evolution. 

2nd place: Audi A6

Our 2015 Best Executive Car has been toppled. The A6 is cheaper than the XF, but it can’t match it for overall appeal. Although quality is good, it feels a generation behind the Jag inside, while the A6’s chassis can’t compete in this company. It’s more efficient on paper, but savings for company car buyers will be offset at the pumps, where the XF beats it. 

3rd place: BMW 5 Series

The 5 Series is still great to drive, yet while it’s just got the edge on the Jaguar for ride and handling, the XF is a more appealing package. Here, practicality, kit and efficiency are more important than performance. The A6 Ultra nearly matches the 520d for performance, and offers more kit at a cheaper price, with lower running costs. So the BMW takes the wooden spoon. 

Coming soon

Mercedes E-Class 

Due: Mid 2016  Price: £35,000 (est.)Engine: 2.1-litre 4cyl, 180bhp (est.)

Mercedes E-Class 2016 exclusive image - front

Mercedes’ new E-Class, coming next year, promises to be a big improvement, with lots of technology borrowed from the luxurious S-Class. With four-cylinder diesel power and plenty of passenger and luggage space, the E-Class could give the XF a run for its money.

Figures

 Jaguar XF Prestige 20d 180 AutoAudi A6 2.0 TDI Ultra SE S tronicBMW 520d SE Auto
On-the-road price/total as tested£34,550/£46,520£33,825/£44,525£33,915/£39,250
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£15,271/44.2%£14,332/42.4%£15,899/46.9%
Depreciation£19,279£19,493£18,016
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,380/£2,760£1,283/£2,567£1,287/£2,573
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,335/£2,225£1,420/£2,367£1,683/£2,805
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost27/£557/C/£3031/£591/B/£2034/£651/B/£20
Servicing costs£525 (5yrs/50k)£1,029 (3yrs)/£18 p/m£525 (5yrs/50k)
    
Length/wheelbase4,954/2,960mm4,933/2,912mm4,907/2,968mm
Height/width1,457/1,880mm1,455/1,874mm1,464/1,860mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,999cc4cyl in-line/1,968cc4cyl in-line/1,995cc
Peak power 178/4,000 bhp/rpm187/3,800 bhp/rpm187/4,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 430/1,750 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 8-spd auto/rwd7-spd auto/fwd8-spd auto/rwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel66 litres/repair kit73 litres/space-saver70 litres/run-flat
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 540/963 litres530/995 litres520/N/A litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,595/655/2,000kg1,660/580/2,000kg1,705/610/2,000kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.6 metres/N/A11.9 metres/N/A12.0 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (unltd)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers21,000 miles (2yrs)/97Variable/12136,000 miles (2yrs)/153
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.2nd/3rd13th/25th14th/23rd
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars92/84/80/83/5 (2015)91/83/41/86/5 (2011)95/83/78/100/5 (2010)
    
0-60/30-70mph9.3/8.6 secs 8.5/7.3 secs8.4/7.6 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 3.1/3.6secs2.8/3.9 secs2.9/3.4 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th 5.1/6.4/8.2/15.0 secs6.0/10.1/30.3/N/A secs4.8/6.2/7.9/14.8 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 136mph/1,700rpm144mph/1,400rpm145mph/1,700rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 67.4/45.7/10.7m66.9/44.3/11.9m67.9/51.2/11.3m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph75/52/63/69dB76/52/62/68dB76/52/63/69dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range45.0/9.9/653 miles42.3/9.3/679 miles35.7/7.9/550 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 54.3/74.3/65.7mpg60.1/72.4/67.3mpg57.6/76.3/68.9mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 11.9/16.3/14.5mpl13.2/15.9/14.8mpl12.7/16.8/15.2mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket168/114g/km/20%179/109g/km/19%212/109g/km/19%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/yes/£355Six/yes/yes/£810*Six/yes/yes/£375
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise controlYes/yes/yesYes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/yesYes/yes/£320Yes/yes/yes
Metallic paint/xenons/keyless go£675/yes/£500£675/yes/£1,180**£675/yes/£695
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/MP3Yes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes

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