Jaguar XE S vs Rivals

Model Engine Power Torque 0-100kph Top speed Weight Value today
Mercedes C 450 AMG Sport V6, twin-turbo, 2996cc 367bhp @ 5500-6000rpm 384lb ft @ 2000-4200rpm 4.9secs 250kph 1690kg (217bhp/ton) $69,300
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Model Engine Power Torque 0-100kph Top speed Weight Value today
BMW 340i Inline 6cyl, Twinpower Turbo, 2998cc 326bhp @ 5500–6500rpm 332lb ft @ 1380–5000rpm 5.1secs 250kph 1605kg (203bhp/ton) $63,900

It’s familiar AMG(-lite) territory in the cabin, with red accenting and Affalterbach badges peppered across the cabin (there’s even a trailing red ‘V’ across the engine cover). If perhaps not as elegant as the Jaguar treatment, the C 450 offers a much broader scope in the damping range, making the Mercedes the most civilised highway cruiser, something we all relate to several hours later on heading back to Dubai. And yet, there’s something else…

Jameel’s right. The 3-litre twin-turbo V6 – the first to be included in a C-Class – is a peach. From the off, there’s an enormous wave of grunt as 367bhp is thrown at the rear axle. It doesn’t offer quite the explosive nature of AMG’s biturbo V8, but it’s an admirable alternative. Flick the right wrist and the upshift offers a similar, ‘almost violent’ lunge as the cogs shift swiftly, accompanied by the best sounding engine here today.

Such is the turn of speed that, since I haven’t looked down to check the speedometer, I enter the first corner too quickly, the front end ultimately unable to carry the momentum. I’m not juggling armfuls of opposite lock as I drift past the apex – the traction control has that covered – but still I ruin my exit speed, allowing the pursuing XE S to close the gap. The mistake is repeated into the next corner and the one after that. For a split second the red mist descends, though fortunately an oncoming straight means I don’t bury the nose in the rock walls with my ‘exuberance’.

 

The straight-line speed is beyond reproach and the driving position is bang on (if the driver focused cockpit itself is a little snug). But for me, the C 450 lacks the chuckable nature both the Volvo and Jaguar offer in spades. Even as I take a step back from ‘almost violent’ and adopt a more civilised approach more suited to the Merc’s dynamics, still I find it difficult to extract the full potential of the C 450, the 7G seven-speed denying me gear changes only partially to blame. True, there’s plenty of composure under turn thanks to steering that is meatier than its rivals, and the rear-biased 4MATIC sending power and torque to the rear means traction out of the corners is similarly impressive. But there lacks a certain finesse through the corners, as if the C 450 can’t wait to hit the straights again.

Jaguar XE S vs Volvo S60 Polestar vs Mercedes C 450 AMG Sport vs BMW 340i crankandpiston-31

Ultimately, despite that ferocious(-lite) engine and commendable traction, it’s the model that brings me the least satisfaction, an insight that none of my colleagues agree with. Though I personally haven’t gelled with the C 450, it’s picked up some big fans today. It’s especially ironic then that when I finally slide behind the wheel of the BMW, a model driven by both David and Jameel before me and roundly considered ‘too sensible’ by both, it’s an immediate contender in my eyes.

“Such is the turn of speed that I enter the first corner too quickly, the front end ultimately unable to carry the momentum”

Beneath the barely restyled exterior lies a 3-litre TwinPower six-cylinder, the first of a new EfficientDynamics family that produces 326bhp and 332lb ft – a step up over the outgoing 335i – and reduces fuel consumption. And while the six-cylinder may be the least powerful engine here today, it’s the manner in which the power is put down that impresses.

Good Lord, this thing can shift. Power response from the off is both responsive and smooth, with the assistance of Bimmer’s excellent eight-speed automatic. Mid-range pick-up is immense, thanks to a wide torque curve and no turbo lag. Although the sensation of speed is dampened by BMW’s typically excellent cabin insulation, a shot in the foot directly after the C 450’s muscular overtures.
The corners though are BMW terrain. For the 340i the ride height has been lowered by 10mm (apparently this makes all the difference) while the suspension mounts shake hands with the tarmac with greater alacrity, based on lessons learnt from the M235i. It’s not enough to weather the 3 Series’ ride quality, but it does throw in a degree more agility. Even into sharper corners, there’s less body roll to contend with (the 3 Series was hardly a double decker bus to begin with) thanks to a greater field of range between Comfort and Sport settings.

Jaguar XE S vs Volvo S60 Polestar vs Mercedes C 450 AMG Sport vs BMW 340i crankandpiston-26

Where perhaps the BMW does come unglued is with the new Variable Sport adaptive steering, which feeds weight in as the speed increases, akin to Audi’s Dynamic Sport setup. It’s not as noticeable as Ingolstadt’s system and doesn’t unduly affect our drive, but it doesn’t win all of us over either, adding a sense of alienation to the otherwise well-textured steering feedback. I can see the guys’ point of view: why opt for a 3 Series, even one as composed as this through the corners, if it’s not as involving? Ultimately the BMW can’t quite replicate the superb composure of the Volvo, but it’s equally the match of the Jaguar, a point proven when, photoshoot in the bag, our convoy makes its way back down the hill for some much needed refreshment. And an argument.

None of us are willing to budge. In the blue corner, for David, it’s an open and shut case: “how can it not be the Volvo? Yes, I love that the Mercedes can be driven quickly so effortlessly, but you cannot ignore the balance in the Polestar. The thing is superb.” Meanwhile Jameel admits that he can’t quite believe the rampant speed of the C 450 either, but it’s not quit the complete package: “it has to be the Jaguar. There’s no understeer, no body roll, it nails every corner you throw it at. Seriously, the XE S is amazing.” A rather knackered Abdulla meanwhile, a long time AMG fan, is sticking with his guns: “how can it not be the Mercedes? None of the other three is as fast as this in a straight-line. It’s a monster!” All valid thoughts, and yet somehow, despite the Volvo’s immense handling, the Jaguar’s charisma and the tempered ferocity of the Mercedes, still I find myself coming back to the dignified performance of the BMW, despite protestations from everyone that I’m off my nut.

“Photoshoot in the bag, our convoy makes its way back down the hill for some much needed refreshment. And an argument”

Ultimately I can’t quite win over m’learned colleagues, and the BMW is the first to hit the scrapheap. As a 3 Series it still harbours the same innate poise and almost effortless chuckability that has made it an industry favourite for decades. And yet against three opponents, the relative lack of engagement and it’s less emphatic sensation of speed mean it hasn’t quite proven itself against a sea of new contenders. Nor too has the S 60 Polestar. Utterly superb through the corners it might be, but the comparative lack of refinement compared with its rivals plus a tendency for the safety systems to interfere mean that, as a complete package, the Polestar is not quite there yet.

Jaguar XE S vs Volvo S60 Polestar vs Mercedes C 450 AMG Sport vs BMW 340i crankandpiston-118

But which gets the top prize? Which could be seen as a genuine segment headliner? If anything the argument hots up even more – “it’s a lunatic”; “have you seen the interior?”; “but that sound…”: “nothing in that price range can beat this through the corners” – and ultimately it’s the Jaguar that walks out victorious. Yes, the Mercedes offers a brutal-lite experience down the straights and into the corners that none of its rivals could match, and with AMG badges affixed and the cabin design to match, the C 450 hardly lacks character. It’s not quite enough though to out-do the Jaguar XE S. Yes, the power steering could use a bit more guts and it can’t quite corner as well as the Volvo, but pick-up from the supercharged V6 is immense, the balance mid-corner superb, and the design both inside and out difficult to better.

If all four of our contenders had something to prove today, it’s the Jaguar that got the job done.

Technical specifications available on page 3

Categories: Editor’s Picks,Road

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