Car group tests

Mercedes E-Class vs Jaguar XF vs Audi A6

The hi-tech new Mercedes E-Class gets down to business as it takes on Jaguar and Audi rivals in its first test

Despite the ever increasing popularity of upmarket SUVs and crossovers, sales of premium executive saloons are still going strong. 

So the arrival of an all-new Mercedes E-Class to the market is big news. While its predecessor was solidly built, it lacked that wow factor. However, with its hi-tech kit and styling cues from the brand’s S-Class limousine, this latest car promises to set a new class benchmark. 

Under the sleek lines are totally overhauled engines, which, in combination with the slippery aerodynamics and nine-speed automatic gearbox, make the Mercedes one of the most efficient models in the class. At launch, there’s a choice of SE and sporty AMG Line trim levels, and it’s the latter we test here in £38,430 220d guise. 

But before Mercedes can start uncorking the champagne, the E-Class has to see off a pair of extremely talented rivals in the form of the Jaguar XF and Audi A6.

The Jaguar is our current class champ, thanks to its desirable blend of handsome styling, cosseting interior, composed driving dynamics and low running costs. 

The A6 is getting on a bit, but it scooped Executive Car honours at our 2015 New Car Awards, and blends an unrivalled image with impeccable quality. So which of our captains of industry will come out on top?

Head to head

Technology

These cars are packed with hi-tech additions, but the E-Class leads the way for gadgets. A highlight is the £1,695 Driving Assistance Plus, which includes the clever Drive Pilot. This neat piece of kit combines with the adaptive cruise to allow virtually hands-free progress on the motorway. It will even brake and accelerate the car in traffic.

Badge appeal

Our contenders ooze upmarket appeal, so it’s no surprise they’re closely matched on residuals. The Mercedes leads the way, retaining 45.7 per cent of its new value after three years according to our experts, while the A6 brings up the rear on 43.6 per cent. All three are fairly good.

Emissions

The Audi emits the least CO2 here, at 110g/km. However, if you’re looking to lower your Benefit in Kind bills, then the Mercedes E 220d in SE guise is the best bet. It emits just 102g/km, dropping it into the 20 per cent tax bracket.

Verdict

First place: Mercedes E-Class

Mercedes has hit the ground running with the E-Class. The newcomer is more stylish than its predecessor and features an interior that sets new standards for quality and design. Refinement is also top notch, while the S-Class-inspired technology makes it safer and easier to live with. It’s not quite as fun to drive as the XF, but it’s close enough in a class where comfort and composure count.

Second place: Jaguar XF

The margins are extremely tight, but the XF tastes defeat for the first time. Sleek looks, agile handling and a generous kit list make the Jag a desirable choice. It’s also a cost-effective company car and offers plenty of space. Yet it can’t match the Mercedes for refinement and cutting-edge kit, while the cabin just falls short in terms of class and quality. 

Third place: Audi A6

Third place is no disgrace for the A6. Despite its advancing years, it still looks good, drives well and makes plenty of financial sense for business users. And while the cabin is starting to show its age, there’s no doubting the quality of the finish and materials. However, it lacks the latest tech of its rivals, while the S tronic gearbox isn’t well suited to UK roads.

Other options in this category

BMW 520d M Sport Auto

BMW 520d front action

Price: £36,865Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 187bhp

The BMW is six years old, but it shows no signs of slowing down. Its balanced rear-wheel-drive chassis still sets the handling benchmark, plus the 520d is beautifully built. Its cabin is just a bit cramped and it’s not as efficient as the best.

Lexus GS 300h F Sport

Price: £40,995Engine: 2.5-litre 4cyl/electric, 220bhp

The impeccably finished Lexus goes its own way with an efficient petrol-electric powerplant. It can’t match its rivals here for driver engagement and the F Sport model is expensive, but the GS is loaded with kit and cheap to run for business users.

Figures

 Mercedes E 220d AMG Line autoJaguar XF R-Sport 2.0d 180 autoAudi A6 2.0 TDI S line S tronic
On-the-road price/total as tested£38,430/£49,795£36,850/£47,725£36,350/£36,350
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£17,551/45.7%£16,325/44.3%£15,849/43.6%
Depreciation£20,879£20,525£20,501
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,689/£3,377£1,619/£3,238£1,597/£3,194
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,183/£1,972£1,281/£2,134£1,362/£2,270
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost31/£654/C/£3027/£617/C/£3033/£865/B/£20
Servicing costs£37pm (3yrs)£525 (5yrs/50k)£1,029 (3yrs)/£18pm
    
Length/wheelbase4,923/2,939mm4,954/2,960mm4,933/2,912mm
Height/width1,468/1,852mm1,457/1,880mm1,455/1,874mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,950cc4cyl in-line/1,999cc4cyl in-line/1,968cc
Peak power 191/3,800 bhp/rpm178/4,000 bhp/rpm187/3,800 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 400/1,600 Nm/rpm430/1,750 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 9-spd auto/rwd8-spd auto/rwd7-spd auto/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel66 litres/run-flats66 litres/£18573 litres/space-saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 540 litres/N/A540/963 litres530/995 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,680/640/2,100kg1,595/655/2,000kg1,660/580/2,000kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.6 metres/0.23Cd11.6 metres/N/A11.9 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (unltd)/4yrs3yrs (unltd)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers15,500 miles (1yr)/13621,000 miles (2yrs)/97Variable/121
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.11th/21st (2015)2nd/3rd (2015)13th/25th (2015)
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/pointsN/A92/84/80/83/5 (2015)91/83/41/86/5 (2011)
    
0-60/30-70mph7.3/6.7 secs9.3/8.6 secs8.5/7.3 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 3.0/4.0 secs3.1/3.6 secs2.8/3.9 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th 6.0/7.3/9.6 secs/N/A5.1/6.4/8.2/15.0 secs6.0/10.1/30.3s/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 149mph/1,300rpm136mph/1,500rpm144mph/1,400rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 49.5/33.0/9.5m67.4/45.7/10.7m66.9/44.3/11.9m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph71/54/64/71dB75/52/63/69dB76/52/62/68dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range48.7/10.7/407 miles45.0/9.9/653 miles42.3/9.3/679 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 65.7/78.5/72.4mpg54.3/74.3/65.7mpg60.1/72.4/67.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 14.5/17.3/15.9mpl11.9/16.3/14.5mpl13.2/15.9/14.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket155/112g/km/22%168/114g/km/22%179/110g/km/22%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraNine/yes/yes/yesSix/yes/yes/£365Six/yes/yes/yes
Auto box/stability/cruise control/AEB*Yes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/no
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/£1,595/yesYes/yes/yesYes/yes/£320
Metallic paint/xenons/keyless go£645/LED/yes£690/yes/£510£675/LED/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes

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