Shootout: Mercedes E-Class vs BMW 5-Series vs Audi A6 vs Jaguar XF
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 57.09 lakhs (Mercedes E250 CDI), Rs. 60.48 lakhs (BMW 520d), Rs. 53.24 lakhs (Audi A6 2.0 TDI), Rs. 58.78 lakhs (Jaguar XF 2.2 D)
These luxury sedans are unique in their own way, yet so similar in some aspects.
The battle in the luxury car space is very intense, with the big three from Germany fighting it out, hard and vocally so. Among the leaders in this space, there is Jaguar which although the last to enter this competitive market, is almost on level playing field. The executive luxury segment sees high demand for 4-cylinder engined cars, as most buyers prefer to take the back seat while making a solid impression is also an important criteria for them. We bring together the entry-level diesel cars in this segment of cut-throat battles and fierce rivalry. The Mercedes E250 CDI, BMW 520d, Audi A6 2.0 TDI and the Jaguar XF 2.2, four cars which are highly regarded the world over for offering a whole lot in multiple ways. Achtung! This is one segment where the cars are updated quite so often.
Motor Quest: Mercedes-Benz updated the E-Class only last year with a facelift, while BMW did quite the same with the 5-Series which is the freshest of the lot. The Audi A6 and Jaguar XF haven’t received any update since launch in 2011 but a facelift is on the cards for the A6 next year.
Styling – All four cars look very appealing and exude a feeling of specialness in their appearance. These cars are large with generous dimensions, fantastic paint quality and good attention to detail. The Jaguar XF is the oldest here as it got a mid-life facelift in 2011, while in the same year, Audi launched the fourth generation A6. Thus the XF and A6 don’t look fresh although both cars have a striking identity of their own. While the design of the A6 can be confused with other Audis, mainly the A4, the XF stands apart as a Jaguar on the road. All cars come with 17-inch wheels with the BMW being the only exception, it rides on 18-inchers.
The fresh cars from this quartet are the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class, both getting a mid-life facelift only last year. BMW’s facelift is much tamer, with the difference between the old and new car not being immediately apparent. The E-Class on the other hand got a comprehensive facelift, even by a mid-life update standards. Not only did Mercedes update the complete front-end, it also made extensive sheet metal changes to the vehicle, which makes the E-Class the most striking car of the four here. The Benz also has the most attractive headlights, with the neatest LED integration, both at the front and rear. Little doubt then, the E-Class’ stately presence with that large grille and the three pointed star adorning it, makes it the most attractive car in this segment.
Interiors – All these luxury saloons possess extreme attention to detail on the inside as well. The cabins of all these vehicles are significantly different to each other but all carry a strong appeal of their own, with equipment levels being quite similar too (basic features expected at this price point are present in all these cars). The XF’s dashboard is the simplest here but has a striking visual identity. The rising gear knob, excessive used of wood on the centre console and the AC vents which pop open give this Jaguar a distinctive feel. The A6 too has a neatly laid out dash and the design of the centre console makes it feel very wide too. Audi’s cabin layout evokes a sense of luxury and sportiness and that makes the A6 a very good car to be in. It’s also the only car with a 4-zone climate control, while the Merc uses a 3-zone and the other two coming with a dual-zone system.
The 5-Series has a very driver focussed dashboard but somehow it ends up feeling a bit dated in front of the others although its changing LCD instrument cluster is the best here. It simply doesn’t pass on that rich feel you find in the E-Class, the car which by a small margin has the better cabin than the A6. The Merc feels luxurious the instant you step in and the design of the cabin evokes a sense of space and premiumness. But it’s the rear seat where most people would find themselves in these cars and the 5-Series fares the worst with the least rear legroom, with the XF coming in third and the A6 being the second most roomiest. The E-Class wins the rear seat battle, it has the most space and the seats are well cushioned too, offering terrific levels of comfort.
Performance – All these cars are powered by 4-cylinder diesel engines which have more than enough grunt to perform both city and highway duties. But that’s where the similarities end. The least powerful car here is the Audi A6, it produces 177 HP and 380 Nm but in spite of the lowest output of the group, it offers slick performance because the A6 is the only front-wheel drive car here, thus being the lightest. The engine of the A6 is terrifically refined but the 8-step CVT isn’t the best here as it does tend to become noisy when at high revs. The best gearbox is of course the one in the BMW, the 5-Series using a ZF sourced 8-speed automatic, which shifts gears with lightening speed and smoothness.
The 5-Series is the second least powerful car here, belting out 184 HP and 380 Nm. It’s not as quick off the line due to its heavier body but the Bimmer has the most rev happy motor, redlining at 5000 RPM without any uneasiness whatsoever. However the engine is audible inside the cabin and all those extra revs are futile as you really don’t make much progress once past 4000 RPM. While the BMW and Audi are 2.0-litre engines, the E-Class and XF use 2.2-litre units. The Jag is the second most powerful car here, generating 190 PS and 450 Nm, with the engine having spiky performance once you get past the turbolag. The XF’s motor is smooth with lot of grunt on offer but power delivery isn’t linear throughout the rev band.
The XF shares the 8-speed ZF autobox with the 520d but it’s not near as quick and responsive as the one on the BMW. Even the E-Class’ 7-speed automatic gearbox is no match for the BMW’s, with the Mercedes giving smoothness prime importance over responsiveness. However where the E-Class totally excels is in the way the power is delivered, it really gets going right from the outset and the motor feels strong throughout. The Benz isn’t the quietest (in the top-end) but is the fastest car here with the highest power and torque outputs (204 HP and 500 Nm). In terms of efficiency, the Audi A6 is the most frugal car here which is largely due to its front-wheel drive led lighter weight.
Driving Dynamics – Put a BMW car in any shootout and you know it’s going to sweep the handling crown, the situation is quite the same here. Without any second thought, it’s the 5-Series which has the best steering wheel which is rich with feedback and feels connected all the time. The 520d also handles brilliantly, being the only car here with Adaptive Dampers. The E-Class follows with the second best steering feel, a unit which has terrific feel at high speeds. Even the XF handles well but not good enough to match the aforementioned two. The A6 has its task cut out, it has to steer and power the front wheels and that does have its drawbacks. The steering isn’t as involving and the handling isn’t as sharp as the Merc, let alone the BMW.
Where the Audi A6 strongly pulls back is the ride quality. It absorbs almost everything on the road and that too with such precision, it almost makes you feel its gliding on the tarmac, being a close second to the Mercedes E-Class which is the best riding car here. The Benz has always been known for its ride quality and in its latest avatar (with Direct Control Suspension), the E-Class rides even better. It is extremely pliant and doesn’t let occupants feel a thing on the road. The XF has the highest profile tyres (55) but low speed ride isn’t the best, improving tremendously as you pile on speed.
The worst riding car is the 5-Series, it feels stiff and transfers a lot to the inside. What further spoils the comfort levels inside the 520d is the bounciness at high speed over bad roads, a trait not shown by any other car in this class. All cars are quite glued to the road at triple digit speeds with the E-Class feeling the most surefooted. These four luxury barges come with excellent stopping power and there is little to choose between them in terms of brakes. When it comes to NVH levels (road and wind noise included), the A6 easily out-does the others, with little decibel creeping inside the well insulated cabin.
Verdict – Each of these cars have something unique to offer and it’s not an easy task to pick a winner. The Audi A6 is the cheapest vehicle here, it’s also the least powerful and the only car which is front-wheel driven. The CVT gearbox isn’t the best either but if you look past these shortcomings, the Audi A6 is an extremely attractive package, it rides beautifully, has a well crafted cabin and the 2.0-litre TDI engine is a gem. It’s the car to buy if you want value and don’t care much about driver involvement. The XF on the other hand isn’t up to the levels of the Germans in terms of comfort but is the most striking car here with the design being the highlight, both inside-out. The Jag is the one to get for those who want to be different and unique, with emotional appeal being of prime importance to them.
The BMW 5-Series is the most expensive car here but it also comes with a lot of standard equipment on offer. It’s not really comfortable but makes a strong case for itself with its sharp handling and punchy engine. The 520d is the easy choice if driver involvement is what rocks your boat. However when it comes to doing things what most people in this segment want (to arrive in style and travel in comfort), the Mercedes E250 CDI emerges on top in the segment it has ruled almost always, yet again. The E-Class looks the business, rides amazingly well and has a back seat which is big, comfortable and luxurious. It’s the most powerful car here and is quite engaging to drive too. All this makes the verdict tilt in favour of the the E-Class, making it win our vote.
Ruling out either of these four cars is just impossible, all are so well engineered and have a load to offer, excelling in different ways. The Audi A6 runs the E-Class close for the top spot but the Mercedes emerges on top.
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