Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

We thought it was about time we put our XE S long-term test car up against its arch rival, the 340i. But can you really recommend a Jaguar over a BMW?
Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

I suppose it was inevitable, really. Of course we had to get these cars together. Of course we had to put our Jaguar XE S longtermer through its toughest test yet. Of course we had to put it through the 3-series test.

Few other cars are quite so established as the benchmark of their class as the BMW 3-series is, so to see if the top-of-the-line XE passes muster, it could really do with giving the 3er a damn good hiding, or at least give it something to think about. And after a surprisingly difficult time locating a 340i (in the end, the nice ladies and gents at Sytner High Wycombe were able to assist), we were at last able to stage our reasonably sporty compact exec showdown.

Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

Even in M Sport trim with some arch-filling 19-inch rims, the 340i looks a little ordinary parked up next to the XE. Certainly, the presence of the crisis-inducing 20-inch ‘Propellor’ rims (a £700 option that’s well worth ticking) on the Jaguar and the fact you still don’t see many XEs on the road makes a difference. But there’s no question the XE and its curvaceous flanks and big, meshy snout brings with it a lot more visual drama.

That theme continues on the inside, where the XE has a ridge just below the window line which encircles the cabin. It’s called a ‘Riva Hoop’ as it’s supposed to be reminiscent of a luxury boat - which sounds like the sort of wanky PR nonsense we’d mock, but dammit, it’s an effective design feature.

Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

The heavily sculpted doors are ace too, and it’s always nice to have the steering wheel of an F-Type staring at you when you jump in a car. Certainly makes up for the lashings of naff, scratchy piano black plastic around the centre console.

Once you get moving, the XE is relaxing, quiet and cosseting. Until you prod the drive select button to the left, however, and engage Dynamic Mode. It’s not a night and day transformation, but instead a load of small changes that add up to a sizeable difference in how the XE S feels.

Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

The suspension firms up, the steering gets heavier and faster, the supercharged V6 up front a little louder, and the throttle pedal wickedly sharp. There’s nothing to learn for me here, as after four months of driving the XE I’ve become used to the way it handles being chucked about: very well, very well indeed. There’s a slight hint of understeer when you go over the limit, but it’s not hard to push past that and get the rear moving around.

Despite weighing over 1600kg it’s able to change direction ruthlessly fast, and while there’s always a little body roll to contend with, this isn’t a car that flops around.

Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

It may only give a modest amount of feedback from the road, but I’ve become a fan of the XE’s steering: the weight in dynamic mode is bang on, and it’s deliciously quick.

What I’m still in two minds about is the V6. In the F-Type it sounds great, but that’s because the F-Type has a pair of drainpipe-sized exhausts that sound like a drive-by shooting every time you lift off the throttle. In the understandable absence of that, the AJ-V6 is lacking in character. The supercharger whine does add to proceedings though, and there’s no doubt this is a very quick car: 335bhp gives a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds, and it’s very easy to get carried away and get it up to silly speeds with minimal effort.

Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

After moving over to the 3-series, it didn’t take me long to find an aspect of the car that’s far superior to the Jag: the infotainment system. It really is the XE’s Achilles Heel (it’s worth noting that the vastly superior and genuinely very good InControl Pro system can be optioned now, though), and seems even more third-rate when compared to BMW’s iDrive system.

Yep, that same once hopeless iDrive system we all poked fun at when it first arrived has since been transformed by BMW into pretty much the best infotainment system out there. And call me weird, but there’s something thoroughly satisfying about the how the main iDrive control wheel feels as you twist it round.

It’s a lot better built in here too. I do think the XE has suffered by being the first car in the range to be built on Jaguar’s all-new architecture. The XF that came later feels much better screwed together, and the F-Pace better still.

Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

The 3-series is the compact exec to beat in pretty much every area, but its trump card has always been the way it drives. So, I was fascinated to see if it’s better to drive than the XE. The answer isn’t a simple one, however.

The first thing that hits you is just how much faster it feels. There’s just 1lb ft of torque and 13bhp between the two (the Jag being the torquier and more powerful car) and both will do 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds, but the XE’s supercharged lump is a linear old thing. The 340i on the other hand - with its twin-scroll turbocharged ‘b58’ straight-six - has a mighty mid-range that gives you a jolly great shove in the back every time you put your foot flat to the floor.

And the sound? Well, there is a moderately interesting straight-six fizz if you listen carefully, but the engine note seems even quieter here than in the Jaguar, being reduced to an apologetic hum.

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What I’ve no complains about is the gearbox. It’s the same slick eight-speed ZF automatic as in the Jaguar (there is a stick version available, but given that BMW manuals tend to be rubbery we’d avoid that), and although in the XE it does feel ever so slightly more urgent, it’s more on the ball in auto mode in the 340i.

The BMW feels slightly tidier in the corners - it’s on the whole a lot more neutral and doesn’t roll as much. Even in the wet grip is excellent, and with that flexible mid-range and eight gear ratios to exploit it’s an easy car in which to cover ground at a devastating rate.

Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

The steering’s not as satisfying as the XE’s and has that odd mushy artificial weight to it we’ve experienced in other BMWs, and once you start driving around town you realise how it’s able to roll a little less in the corners: it doesn’t ride anywhere near as smoothly as the Jaguar.

A lot of that will be down to the suspension set-up. The XE gets double wishbone front suspension with an integral-link rear where the 3-series makes do with a more common MacPherson strut/multi-link combo. The Jaguar pays a weight penalty for the posher suspension - despite all the aluminium that’s gone into its construction it’s actually heavier than the 3-series - but it’s worth it.

"I’m just not drawn to the 3-series in the same way I am to the XE"

Even with an extra inch of wheel the XE is the more comfortable car, and yet can be flung along a bendy road while keeping up with the best of them. It’s also the more fun car here. The 340i feels awfully business-like about going fast, whereas the XE’s chassis is that little bit more playful and adjustable.

Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

However, jumping back into the British car, the dip in quality is immediately noticeable. The fit and finish just isn’t as good as in the BMW, which is a shame when the Jaguar’s interior is a lot more interesting to look at and sit in than the plain cabin you call home in the 340i.

For a car costing £44,995, you do expect more. And on the subject of price, it’s the more expensive car here: even when you option up the 340i to the same generous standard kit levels as the XE, you’re looking at £43,625.

Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

All this leads to a spectacularly difficult conclusion to make. If we’re looking at this in a purely pragmatic way, the 3-series is the better overall car here. It’s almost as entertaining to drive as the Jaguar, is much better built and has an infotainment system that won’t make you throw a massive hissy fit every time you want to perform a simple task. And yet, I’m not drawn to the 340i in the same way I am to the XE S.

It’s not an object of lust like the Jaguar is; even four months after taking the keys I still do the ‘look back’ every time I walk away from the damn thing, which I just don’t think I would do with the 3-series. After all, the 340i just looks like any other M Sport 3er. If you want an XE that looks like this, you’ve got to get the shouty S version, and I like that.

Jaguar XE S Vs BMW 340i: Has The 3-Series Finally Been Beaten?

It’s definitely a case of the 340i being a ‘head’ car and the XE S being a ‘heart’ car. Only this time, following your heart and getting the Jaguar isn’t a daft, irrational choice, as the XE does a damn good job of keeping the 3-series honest. A few tweaks by the time of its mid-life update - plus the ditching of the naff nav system - and it might just be the ‘head’ choice too.


🎺🎺thank mr skeltal

Great review! I’m wondering how the XE performs in comparison to the Cadillac ATS.

04/21/2016 - 17:36 |
12 | 0

Can you get the ATS in Europe?

04/21/2016 - 18:21 |
0 | 0

We’d love to know, but getting hold of one in the UK isn’t easy…

04/21/2016 - 22:22 |
2 | 0

İ still love bmw

04/21/2016 - 17:45 |
46 | 10


04/21/2016 - 17:47 |
0 | 0

Should make an edit. The 340i does not have the n55, it has the new modular platform, the b58.

04/21/2016 - 18:01 |
26 | 0
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

In reply to by zoppp

You are correct sir! Have some Internet points

04/21/2016 - 23:19 |
20 | 0
Aaron 15

But then there’s the new Audi S4

04/21/2016 - 19:03 |
4 | 6

That’ll just understeer into a ditch :P

04/21/2016 - 20:20 |
14 | 4
Ben Verlooy

I drove this XE for a weekend and i would pick it over any german competitor it’s just sooooo good looking and it really makes you feel speacial!

04/21/2016 - 19:43 |
16 | 6

BMW’s interior looks better

04/21/2016 - 20:59 |
6 | 10
FT Car ~ (Iftikhar)

But but I prefer Lexus

04/21/2016 - 21:50 |
4 | 2

Nice review!
And if Audi don’t screw up with pricing, S4 is going to be even better than these two :)

04/21/2016 - 22:02 |
0 | 2

Agree feels faster,
When tested the 340i have speed in only 4.6 seconds to 4.8 seconds for the 0 -100km or 0 - 62Mph.
When Dyno tested all have pulled higher numbers that 240kw and 450kw, have not seen what the Jag does so I cant compare.
Agree Jag is more noticed, but lack of goodies, like DAB radio extra - LED adaptive Headlights - Also in Australia Jag not in Manual and I just can’t be driven by a car, I want to drive it.

04/22/2016 - 02:38 |
0 | 0



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