Senior Editor Kirk Bell noted the discrepancy between the two engines, and we started to get the feeling that this could be a landslide victory.
"First of all, this isn't a fair fight in terms of power and dynamics. The 340-hp XE 35t Prestige would be better compared to the Audi S4. Nonetheless, the Jag comes in at $49,095 compared to $54,275. That makes the Jaguar a sport sedan value in my book."
But corner after corner, as the miles marched by, we became less occupied by the stellar ability to take a set and started to move to everything else.
Short font doors made for awkward elbow ergonomics for taller drivers. In fact, as we climbed behind the wheel time and time again we noticed that our heads were positioned behind the B-pillar. That’s not a huge inconvenience, but the chunky door divider stayed in our periphery nearly the entire time.
MORE: Read our 2017 Audi A4 review
“Stark cabin,” Padgett wrote.
Ganz was apparently reading over his shoulder, too: “Its interior is stark, its back seat tight, and its infotainment crashed for all of us (even though I actually like its menus and its navigation).”
That’s true. Despite a beautifully large 10-inch screen bezeled into the center stack, we hopped into the XE after a dash in the A4 and the screen went blank. Not a good start. The menu system is bright and sharp, good resolution and an honest-to-goodness intuitive layout that’s not called “Apple CarPlay.”
For the driver, the XE is eager to reward. If you’re a passenger in the experience, there are a few things left to be desired.
"What's up with some of the Jaguar's interior materials? The plastic over the IP is Chevy Spark quality, and there are some other hard plastics that fail to impress. The overall look of cabin is also almost painfully simple. There's no design flair here like there is on the exterior, but a lighter color upholstery does add some visual interest," Bell said.
The view from the rear seats isn’t entirely comfortable. We found the front chairs to be lacking enough scallop to wedge our knees in the back, and while we found that we could clone ourselves and ride in the back, we wouldn’t want to do it three abreast. The XE is a party of four.
The potent engine and exceptional thrust is hard to ignore, however, even our love affair with the powertrain waned.
“The start/stop is atrocious,” we wrote. “The V-6 sounds choked from the inside.”
“Car makes no qualms about being a BMW rival. I wish the engine were a little less cocky and vocal, though. Just as loud but not nearly as smooth to wind out as it wants to be,” Padgett wrote.
It’s beautiful in approach, but its details are better at arm’s length. Even the upstart can’t break from tradition, it seems.
Audi A4: the basics
“Guess how much that A4 is,” I said, staring at a short slab of Fat Matt’s ribs and a long ride ahead to Blue Ridge, Georgia.
“I don’t even want to know,” Ganz said. (Was he talking about the ribs and the ride, or the price? Maybe both?)
“Over $54,000,” I said.
The new A4 has grown up in size and price. While it’s only added half an inch in wheelbase from the last generation, the sharper lines and crisper hood hint at a more elegant mission than early sport compacts. The Audi A4’s cabin is so quiet on a highway slog, a stomach coming to grips with a rib sandwich sounds like thunder next door.