Jaguar XE vs. Audi A4: A luxury compact confrontation Page 3


In many respects, the A4 is a very different approach than the XE. Where the XE makes a promise in big ideas, the Audi starts with the details. About 100 pounds were lost in the overall structure with use of more lightweight steel; the grille is a little wider and lower than last go-round to look a little squarer on the road; the trunk floor is just a hint lower for easier cargo loading.

Hardly exciting stuff, unless you’re an engineer.

“So anonymous in styling. This is the company that did the TT and R8? Where's that kinship?” Padgett asked.

Its kinship begins and ends with the so-called virtual cockpit Audi planted in the A4. A gorgeous 12.3-inch high-resolution display in front of the driver relays information such as navigation, infotainment, and phone controls to the driver, sandwiched between speed and tach gauges.

Virtual cockpit is how good ideas are done better.

The difference between the R8 and TT’s application of virtual cockpit and the A4’s is in the redundant infotainment screen perched between driver and passenger. The A4 adds an 8.3-inch screen to display nearly the same information to passengers, including navigation and infotainment, but uses MMI’s click wheel to control the menus—even for Apple CarPlay. It's clunky and difficult to use without taking your eyes off the road.

2017 Audi A4 vs. 2017 Jaguar XE

2017 Audi A4 vs. 2017 Jaguar XE

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Fair enough.

Under the hood and between the wheels, we couldn’t ignore the obvious. The Audi’s 2.0-liter turbo-4 was no match for the Jag’s supercharged V-6 and nimble attitude. The engine has always been in the wrong place for the A4—over the front wheels for an all-wheel-drive car is less fun than vacation Bible school.

The Audi had plenty of hustle, and when coupled with optional adaptive dampers it made the most of its somewhat course direct-injection turbo-4. It’s 85 percent of the performance (of the XE) with 100 percent of the right attitude.

"Both engines are impressive. The Audi's 2.0-liter turbo is one of the strongest of its ilk, but the Jaguar's 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 is in another league," Bell wrote.

Long slogs and twisting corners didn’t confuse the Audi, even if it fell back when chasing the XE a couple times. But the best parts weren’t its outright capability, rather its composure and competence—and ability to get up off the stool and answer the bell even if it was outgunned on paper by nearly 100 hp.  

“The A4 offers better visibility, a transmission that felt more aligned with its engine, and a manageably high-tech cabin,” Ganz wrote.

The A4’s steering could be stiff, but its ride was firmly more confident.

“Hard to beat its taut ride and sport mode responsiveness. Gets busy on main road but cuts through curves with a clearer sense of duty than the XE,” Padgett wrote.

The A4’s better than the sum of its parts. The Jag? Let’s talk.

2017 Audi A4

2017 Audi A4

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2017 Audi A4

2017 Audi A4

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2017 Jaguar XE

2017 Jaguar XE

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2017 Jaguar XE

2017 Jaguar XE

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The conclusion

If you’re thinking it was a tight race, you’re right.

The Jaguar’s XE faults almost made the car more likeable, right down to its engine configuration that couldn’t be more hopelessly British if it tried; to make a V-6 from a V-8, engineers just filled up two cylinders.

But we found fewer flaws in the Audi and more attention to detail.

Perhaps Ganz said it best: “It's the A4 that I'd buy and the XE that I'd lease. One of these will be dutiful over the long run, while the other seems like a wild adventure. At least as far as compact sedans go.”

Put simply: The A4 had more polish, the XE had more potential.

For our money, today, the A4 is a better buy.


 
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