RAC Cars News


Making an executive decision

By raccars Published

Jaguar XF

Could you make an executive decision between the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF?

The executive saloon sector is extremely competitive. Cars in this segment are chosen for their cosseting comfort, generous equipment levels, impressive performance, fuel economy which makes them an attractive company car option and, of course, their classy image.

Three of the most talented rivals aiming for the top spot are the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the BMW 5 Series and the Jaguar XF.

In each case, there's a rear wheel drive four cylinder 2.0 litre diesel with automatic transmission in the line-up, pulling in big sales. These aren't the most powerful or impressive models within the respective ranges but are hugely important to their manufacturers and to fleet buyers.


The recently updated Mercedes-Benz E-Class is hoping to upset the apple cart, building upon the strengths of the previous generation model and resolving some weaknesses. The E 220d produces 192bhp compared to the BMW 520d's 187bhp and the Jaguar XF 2.0d's 178bhp. The Merc demonstrates its manufacturer's new 2.0 litre aluminium block engine which is lighter and more compact than the outdated 2.1 litre unit previously used.

It's also more powerful and efficient and arguably the smoothest and most refined performer out of the three options given here. Official manufacturers' statistics put fuel economy at 72.2mpg but of course we know better than to expect that in the real world. The Merc is also a little quicker than the BMW and the Jag.

The BMW 5 Series is known for its driver focus while the Jaguar XF is a taut and perfectly balanced machine, so while the E-Class feels smarter and more luxurious from the driver's seat, it can't match the driving dynamics of the other two. The XF is minimally slower than the others but its sharp handling, agility and stability give it a sporty feel. It feels lighter and in fact is lighter than the other two, although there's only about 100kg in it.

The cabin

Space-wise there's not a lot of difference between the three but each offers a highly individual driving experience. The Merc is dignified with an elevated driving position and great visibility compared to the sportier and more involving XF. The BMW neatly straddles the fine line between comfort and performance, with cocooning sports seats.

However as the newest of the three, the E-Class has the benefit of generous equipment levels, including up-to-the-minute technology. It features the latest version of Mercedes-Benz's Comand infotainment system, controlled by touch sensitive pads on the steering wheel and the option of two 12.3 inch LCD screens. There's an unmistakeable air of quality to the Merc's cabin that sets it slightly above the other two, plus lots of comfort and convenience features, a state of the art sound system and plenty of safety equipment.

How to make an executive decision

The E-Class offers the most traditional definition of a luxury saloon but the BMW and the Jaguar are both sportier and more entertaining. The XF strikes a nice balance between the Merc's plush opulence and the BMW's racy performance - and it looks great too.

The Mercedes is the cheapest of the three, followed by the Jag while the Beamer is the more expensive model, but only slightly. You wouldn't choose between them on the basis of price difference, which is less than £1,000 from top to bottom. Your executive decision will come down to your individual requirements and how you feel at the wheel - unless brand loyalty pulls you very strongly in one direction, you seriously need to test drive all three of these executive saloons.

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