The Jaguar XE executive luxury saloon delivers a slickly executed take on the compact executive genre, offering something different to the usual German suspects. There's now a decent range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, plus a choice of front and four-wheel drive options. The entry-level diesel boasts a sub-100g/km emissions and the flagship supercharged petrol S version now packs a 380PS punch. Plus, there's the option of cutting-edge connectivity. In short, in the best top 10 executive car marketplace, this is a strong package.
When you compete in the same class as the BMW 3 Series, it's a measure of real confidence to bill your contender as "the driver's car in the global mid-size saloon segment". Yet that's exactly what Jaguar has done and a closer look at the XE reveals the reasons behind their bullishness. The chassis is a 75% aluminium monocoque, light but immensely strong. The clean sheet design utilises a classically correct longitudinal engine and rear-wheel drive architecture. More of the right stuff comes with a slick double wishbone front suspension with room for an extra set of drive shafts when the inevitable all-wheel drive versions appear. Jaguar promises the best electric power steering in class and plenty of chassis goodies like torque vectoring by braking. It's what you'd want to see in a machine that wants to challenge the best executive cars out there.
Most buyers choose one of the 2.0-litre four cylinder 'Ingenium' engines, with the majority of sales focused on diesel power. Most popular are the single-turbo diesels, developing either 163 or 180PS. There's also a pokier twin turbo 240PS version of this unit and, provided you avoid the base 163PS model, you'll be offered the option of AWD. The key more recent change to the XE line-up though, has centred on the introduction of Ingenium 2.0-litre petrol power, buyers offered either 200PS or 250PS versions of this relatively efficient power plant. With the 250PS version, there's an AWD option.
The flagship power plant is the all-aluminium supercharged 3.0-litre V6 from the F-TYPE sports car. Now rated at 380PS, this engine provides the XE S with some senior acceleration, 62mph arriving in around 5 seconds, while top speed is electronically-limited to 155mph. Six-speed manual gearboxes are standard for diesels, while petrol models get an excellent ZF eight-speed auto, which can be optioned onto the diesel variants of this executive car.
The XE conforms to much the same design language forged by the XF in 2007. This bold step freed the company up to move forward confidently, spawning the magnificent XJ and F-TYPE shapes. In many respects, the XE does look like a Russian doll miniature of the XF, a tactic already profitably exploited by its key German rivals in this executive car segment. That means an aggressive grille, a strongly-sculpted bonnet, a steeply raked windscreen and a fluid window line. The result is a car that cleaves the air like no Jaguar before, registering a phenomenally low 0.26 drag coefficient.
The interior is more spacious than the coupe-like profile would suggest. There's that typically Jaguar enveloping feel to the front of the cabin, with an eight-inch touchscreen taking pride of place and the option of an even more sophisticated 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro screen if you want it. This can be ordered with 'Dual View' technology allowing driver and front seat passenger to view different things at the same time. Also, optional in this luxury executive car is a 12.3-inch TFT virtual instrument cluster. Automatic cars get the brand's trademark rotary controller. The rear seats can be optionally heated and offer a 40:20:40 split-fold - a first for Jaguar - and a through-loading feature.
The Jaguar XE has proved to be everything the X-TYPE wasn't; bold, innovative, forward-thinking and able to level with the class best. The British brand's on a roll right now and this compact executive saloon is continuing that form line.
What's most encouraging about the XE is that despite chasing some bigger sales, the executive car hasn't sold out on Jaguar's design philosophy. If anything, it just serves to reinforce the fact that lithe, taut and progressive looks can indeed work in a more truncated body. BMW, Mercedes and Audi have had it too easy for too long as the best executive, luxury car out there. With the XE, Jaguar is gate crashing the party in style.Click here to find out more about our Jaguar XE range
This fifth-generation Audi A4 executive car is very much a thorough evolution of its predecessor and now claims to be class-leading in nearly all the areas that really matter to business buyers in the compact executive segment. That means efficiency, cabin quality, practicality and technology. As a result, it'll be hard to ignore if you're looking for one of the top 10 executive cars on the market.
The A4 executive saloon car has always struck an appealing balance between handling and comfort and with this MK5 model, the Ingolstadt engineers have sought to improve its credentials still further by developing a new five-link suspension system. Optional adjustable shock absorbers with 'sports' and 'comfort' modes will enable owners to get the most from this and a dynamic steering system is another extra cost feature that'll reward those you like their driving. Both features can be controlled through the standard Audi drive select driving-dynamics system, which alters throttle response and auto gearshift timings in its most basic form. Talking of auto gearshifts, the old CVT automatic gearbox has gone, replaced by a seven-speed dual clutch 'S tronic' unit that claims to be able to improve both performance and fuel consumption, a nice touch in producing an economic executive car.
As before, the A4 differs from its BMW 3 Series rival in the luxury saloon car segment in its use of front wheel drive for most models. Also, as before though, quattro 4WD is optional - and standard on the top V6 variants. The most powerful of these models even has the option of a sports differential for the rear axle to maximise traction. Refreshingly in a segment dominated by cars fuelling themselves from the black pump, TFSI petrol models are still very much part of the mainstream A4 range, a 150PS 1.4-litre unit offered alongside a pokey 2.0-litre power plant offering either 190PS or 252PS. There's also a 354PS 3.0-litre TFSI sporting S4 model at the top of the range. Most A4 buyers though, will continue to want a diesel, probably the 2.0 TDI 150PS variant, which gets to 62mph from rest in a brisk 8.6s. If you want more diesel power, then a 190PS version of this unit is also available, plus there's a 218PS 3.0 TDI V6 model further up the range.
This time round, this version of the Audi A4 executive car is lighter - significantly so in fact. A hi-tech 'MLB' platform uses high strength steel and aluminium to reduce weight by up to 120kg compared to the old model, despite this MK5 design growing in all areas except height. As for styling, well saloon and Avant estate versions of this fifth-generation model offers a clear evolution on what the executive saloon that went before, with all features sharpened and defined. Special attention has been paid to aerodynamics, this A4 boasting the lowest drag coefficient in its class. As usual, there's a choice of either saloon or Avant estate body styles, the latter offering 505-litre boot - or 1,510-litres with the rear seats folded.
The interior is typically Audi and a very classy, luxury, even executive place to be. Everything is well laid out with high grade materials in all areas you'll interact with regularly. There's the option of getting an 8.3" touchscreen mounted on top of the dashboard but even if you stick with the standard centre dash infotainment screen, you'll get an up-to-the-minute set-up able to support the latest Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Overall, you wouldn't call the appearance of this A4's executive saloon cabin exciting but it would certainly be a soothing environment for long journeys. It's surely clever, a key option being the neat 'Audi virtual cockpit' we first saw on the TT sportscar. This replaces all the dials in front of the driver with a 12.3" high resolution LCD screen. As for practicality, well there's more luggage space this time round, the Avant estate variant now offering a class-leading 505-litre boot, extendable to 1,510-litres if you wish.
Audi has spent nearly a quarter of a century perfecting its popular executive saloon car, the A4 - and that really shows in this fifth-generation model. It's a spacious, classy car that's very composed to drive and is fully conversant with the kind of hi-tech design and faultless cabin quality that its target junior executive market likes to expect. So, it stacks up in the showroom just as well as it does on the balance sheet, with running cost returns that with most engines will make it your company accountant's go-to choice.
Even more than before, this A4 feels like an executive car that's been lovingly and very carefully considered. The depth of engineering and the thought that's gone into the tiniest details combine to further enhance the warm fuzzy feeling that's charmed Audi customers for years. If you're one of those people, then you'll like this executive saloon very much. And even if you're not, you'll find it hard not to be impressed by way it systematically ticks almost every box on the compact executive car market wish list. It's very thorough. And very Audi.Click here to find out more about our Audi A4 range
BMW 3 Series
The BMW executive car, the 3 Series features a whole stack of changes under the bonnet, including a four-cylinder 330i and a three-cylinder entry-level 316i, as well as new diesel engines. From the outside, it looks much as before, with only a few very subtle styling tweaks. But it's still likely to represent the top 10 executive car benchmark.
If you're of a generation who remembers the badge on the back of a 3 Series denoting its engine size, you might be a bit confused by the latest line-up. The 330i, for example, no longer packs a six-cylinder lump, instead squeezing 252PS from its turbo four, replacing the old 328i in the process. If you do want a six-cylinder petrol engine, BMW will sell you the 340i, a new variant that wings in with 326PS (the same as the old 'E36' M3 Evo super-coupe) and will take a blink over five seconds to get to 62mph. At the other end of the petrol engine range is - and you might want to take a seat for this - a 136PS three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine that's been pinched from the MINI line.
Most of the diesel engines are heavily modified or new. At the base of the range is the 116PS 316d trim and the 150PS 318d, but the most attractive models will likely be the 320d and 320d Efficient Dynamics. The regular 320d weighs in with a gutsy 190PS, for a 0-62mph time of 7.2sec in automatic trim. The aforementioned 320d ED wields a more modest 163PS but retains the same 400Nm torque, so it's not much slower but it is a whole lot more economical. The 258PS 330d is automatic only and scuttles to 62mph in 5.6sec, while there's a 313PS 335d at the top of the tree with a huge 630Nm. BMW will continue to offer their 3 Series executive saloon car with its xDrive four-wheel drive system. It's available as an option on the 320i, 320d and 330d and is standard on the 335d. Munich has also made big advances with the latest eight-speed Steptronic transmission.
One thing that hasn't changed all that much is BMW's low-key approach to mid-life styling updates. Blink and you'll miss them. Stand looking at this executive saloon car for fifteen minutes and you might still miss them. The key design theme seems to be to make the car look wider and lower than before, so BMW has revised the front and rear bumper assemblies with broader horizontal elements. The headlights have also been tinkered with, LED indicators now acting as eyebrows across the top of the light units. At the rear, the tail lamps are full-LED units with more heavily curved light bars. There is also a revised range of wheels, with rims up to 19 inches in diameter available as an option - and 20-inch wheels can be selected from the BMW accessories range.
The cabins have had a similarly light touch applied to them, with a splash of chrome here and a high-gloss surface there. Other updates include cup holders in the centre console with a sliding cover and an additional practical storage area for items such as a smartphone, positioned forward of the cup holders. There's a respectable amount of rear legroom for what remains a manageably-sized car. The executive saloon's luggage bay still measures 480-litres - or there's the Touring estate version with 495-litres.
'More where you need more and less where you want less - otherwise leave well alone' seems to be the mantra of this latest BMW executive car 3 Series. If BMW wanted to build a model that would convert those who didn't previously fancy a 3 Series, then this revised MK6 design isn't that car. Its appeal is largely the same. If, on the other hand, you're crunching hard numbers, then it's hard to see this Munich maker's much improved compact executive model coming off second best to anything in its division. The class-leading rear-wheel drive driving dynamics are merely the icing on the cake.
Beneath the low-key styling changes and modest interior meddling are some serious engineering updates. A new family of petrol engines and big changes to the diesel power plants comes winging in, delivering unprecedented performance/economy combinations. The 3 Series executive car has changed a lot about the way we buy cars in this class, continually forcing its rivals to play catch up. This best executive luxury car is no different. As you were, people.Click here to find out more about our BMW 3 Series range