Review: Audi A7 Sportback v BMW 5 Series v Jaguar XF

Review: Audi A7 Sportback v BMW 5 Series v Jaguar XF
Review: Audi A7 Sportback v BMW 5 Series v Jaguar XF

Does the aged 5 Series still have enough to see off its younger rivals?

The current Jaguar XF is in the first flush of youth, but the BMW X5 is on its last knockings before a new model comes along. Can age wither her and custom stale her infinite variety after all?

We’re going to find out – with the aid of the Audi A7 Sportback, another prime candidate for consideration in the executive car market.

Looks, space and practicality

The A7’s swooping rear roofline puts it at an immediate disadvantage, because it means there’s less headroom in the back seats. Not to worry, though, we’re not in chauffeur-driven territory here so that’s someone else’s problem – whichever of these three you drive, you’ll do so from the comfort of a very generous front seat which makes it easy to get into your ideal position.

BMW 5 Series 530d M Sport auto

BMW 5 Series
★★★★★
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel
List price: £44,275
Power: 255bhp
Torque: 413lb/ft
0-60mph: 6.0sec
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 55.4mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 144g/km

The upside of the A7’s styling is that you get excellent access to the boot – which, if your back seat passengers tend to be the on-the-way-to-school variety, is surely a net gain. Talking of which, BMW will gain an extra £335 of your cash if you want your 5 Series to have that most exclusive of premium-car extras, a split-fold rear seat.

Equipment

Not that Audi is immune to a bit of rapacity itself. Would you consider your A7 complete without wi-fi, voice recognition, head-up display, a DVD player and an eight-inch touchscreen? Of course not. That’ll be £2345 for the Technology Pack, then.

Jaguar XF 3.0D V6 S

Jaguar XF
★★★★☆
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel
List price: £49,850
Power: 296bhp
Torque: 516lb/ft
0-60mph: 6.4sec
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 51.4mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 144g/km

To be fair on Audi, that’s a strong suite of gadgets right there. To be fair, but this time not on Audi, it’s still not as good as the iDrive system on the 5 Series.

Jag is getting its act together on the multimedia front these days too, though, and the system in the XF is very comprehensive. It includes a stonkingly good stereo, too. Overall, though, if you want a feeling of effortless built-in luxury you need to buy German.

Ride and handling

If you want great handling, however, look no further than the XF. It flows through curves with an action that’s at once firm but fluvial; its body is controlled, its steering natural, its ride smooth.

Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI 272 quattro SE Executive

Audi A7
★★★★☆
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel
List price: £51,205
Power: 268bhp @ 3500rpm
Torque: 428lb ft @ 1250-3250rpm
0-60mph: 5.7sec
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 54.3mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 138g/km

All of this is achieved on standard suspension, too, not to mention 20-inch rims and concomitantly dwarfish sidewalls. Which makes the XF’s mastery here all the more admirable, because the others both have optional sports suspension fitted. On 19-inch alloys, the 5 Series rides better than the A7 – which is also on 20-inchers, but unlike the XF unable to negotiate cruddy surfaces without a cruddy ride.

The roles are reversed when it comes to refinement, though. The 5 Series is supremely quiet in every way, and the A7 is not far behind. The XF almost seems raucous by contrast; a loud engine is backed up by intrusive road noise from the tyres.

Engine and performance

Talking of engines, we have a trio of 3.0-litre turbo-diesels and while the XF has more power than the others there’s nothing of significance between them in terms of acceleration where it really matters (when overtaking, lest you were wondering). The A7 blitzed the others in our 0-62 sprint tests, though – because the ground was damp and it’s the only one with four-wheel drive.

Verdict

It’s limpet-like grip is not enough to keep the Audi out of third place, however. Not that that’s any disgrace in this company – in the XF, it has a rival whose blend of handling and ride is almost like the result of some mysterious black magic, or a soul sold to the devil.

While Jag’s dynamics are on another plane, however, its refinement is too but in the other direction. Which is a real deal-breaker in an executive car the bulk of whose miles are spent idling around towns and cruising along motorways. It’s the driver’s choice for sure, but the BMW is the thrusting exec’s.

It might not drive as well as the XF but the 5 Series still drives very well indeed. It’s smooth and quiet, it’s classy and well made and it has the best multimedia.

Oh, and it’s the cheapest here to buy and own. By a long chalk. Old age means big discounts and these are responsible for that, but even without them it would still win. Turns out Enobarbus was right.

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