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BMW 335i M Sport vs. Jaguar XE S Head 2 Head Comparison

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/8/2015 Jonny Lieberman, Steffan Jahn

Mercedes-Benz S-Class. That's all I need to say and you know exactly what class of car I'm talking about. Sure, there's the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, Lexus LS, and even Jaguar's XJ. But not only does the S-Class outclass and outsell all of them, it also defines the segment. Are there other cars as prominent or dominant? Maybe the Ford F-150, America's best-selling vehicle for 17 million years in a row? Thing is, if you add up Chevy and GMC sales, they usually outsell the F-150. Ram is coming on strong, too. Toyota Camry? Naw, the Honda Accord is right there. Same story for Civic versus Corolla. Hey, what about the BMW 3 Series?

These cars are shockingly alike. But the Jaguar's form is better. Sexier even. There's a little wiggle in the metal. A little curve.

The BMW is damn good. But the sporting feel of the Jag is better than the BMW's.

Oh yes, that's a benchmark, a yardstick, a segment definer. Even more than the S-Class, the 3 Series drives around with a huge target on its back. Everyone eventually takes a swing at the 3 Series. When I say everyone, I mean Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50, Cadillac ATS, and Volvo with its S60. Jaguar once tried to step into the ring with the 3 Series and gave the world the comically inept and totally forgettable X-Type. You remember, don't you? The dwarfed XJ-looking thing with a Ford Mondeo drivetrain and a Mercury Mystique chassis. The X-Type was a complete failure, and Jag never even bothered with a sophomore effort. Until now. Meet the all-new XE.

FAIR FIGHT Although the Jaguar XE feels faster from behind the wheel, it still can't shake the BMW 335i on a good road.© Provided by MotorTrend FAIR FIGHT Although the Jaguar XE feels faster from behind the wheel, it still can't shake the BMW 335i on a good road. I first drove the new XE S late last year in Portugal and wrote, "A year from now if you're buying the Jaguar XE S [], pat yourself on the back, as you've made a truly inspired decision." Meaning that given all of the choices available in this segment at this price point, the 340-horsepower XE S separates itself from the packed pack. At least it seemed to. Hang around long enough in this business and the one truism you learn is that unless you drive the two cars back to back on the same road on the same day, saying one is better than the other is mere speculation. You need to get the two vehicles lined up head to head and learn which one is actually best.

To that end, my counterpart Scott Evans met up with videographer Jim Gleason in Munich, Germany, and drove a brand-spanking-new (2 miles on the odo) candy red BMW 335i M Sport 1,142 miles across France to Elciego, Spain, and the striking, over-the-top Frank Gehry-designed Marqus de Riscal hotel and winery to meet up with yours truly, our German photographer Steffen, videographer Corey Ulrich, and a deep blue Jaguar XE S. The time had come to settle this.

2015-BMW-335i-M-Sport-2017-Jaguar-XE-S-front-end-in-motion-02© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-BMW-335i-M-Sport-2017-Jaguar-XE-S-front-end-in-motion-02 "These cars couldn't be more similar if Jaguar had literally taken a sheet of tracing paper to the 3 Series," Evans says. "Visually, they're the same car, from the dimensions to the proportions to the packaging to even the Hofmeister kink! Frankly, it's shameless of Jaguar." The cars are shockingly alike in appearance. But aside from the very obvious difference—no kidney grilles on the Jag—after a few hours of staring you do start to notice just how they differ. The daylight opening, essentially the glass-to-metal ratio of the car, on the BMW is much larger. The XE is much sleeker looking, much more bunkerlike. Examine the front corners of both cars where the fender, hood, and fascia meet, and you'll notice the cars are once again very similar. But keep looking and you'll notice the Jaguar's form is better. Sexier even. There's a little wiggle in the metal, a little curve, where BMW just used a straight edge. As Evans says, "Jag did it better."

Jaguar XE S© Provided by MotorTrend Jaguar XE S Inside, you notice that if nothing else Jaguar is trying. At first glance, the 335i seems more inviting. Says Evans, "Though the interiors are very similar in size and packaging, the BMW's feels larger thanks to its big windows, which lends it an airiness the Jag simply doesn't have." Also, even though the XE's nav/entertainment screen is now full color, it's still a generation behind BMW's iDrive. Once a laughingstock, iDrive is now nearly the best in the industry. I've already sat in the new Jaguar XF that sports a center stack with much more processing power and an even larger screen. Hopefully that trickles down eventually. It takes time to fully appreciate the XE's innards. Says Evans: "I didn't appreciate the Jag's interior at all when I first saw it, but once I spent time in there, it quickly won me over. The design is far more intricate and mature than it looks in pictures. I continually found new details I hadn't previously noticed. It also feels richer with its leather-wrapped and French-stitched dash compared with the BMW's gummy plastic." The Jag has better seats, whereas the BMW has a better steering wheel and better pedals. Though the XE S' aluminum shift paddles are fabulous.

BMW 335i M Sport© Provided by MotorTrend BMW 335i M Sport On paper Jaguar swiftly wins the battle of the two engines. After all, the 335i's 3.0-liter, turbocharged inline-six makes just 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Compare that with the XE S' 340-hp, 332 lb-ft of torque, supercharged V-6. But reality is more than a collection of numbers on a stat sheet. To wit, BMW is notorious for underrating the actual power of its engines—this red guy might very well be producing 300/300 at the wheels. The last time we tested a 335i was in 2012. It hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, ran the quarter mile in 13.3 seconds at 103.9 mph, stopped from 60 mph in 109 feet, and ran around our figure eight in 25.7 seconds. Decent numbers all around. We don't know what the XE S does, because even if we had dragged our test equipment out to Basque Country, we had nowhere to test the car. So the actual numbers will have to wait until the XE comes Stateside next winter. I'd guess the Jaguar will be about as quick as the 335i in a straight line and a bit more capable in the corners. Here's why:

BMW 335i M Sport vs. Jaguar XE S Head 2 Head Comparison

"The biggest differentiator is the way the Jaguar drives," Evans says. "The Jag feels lighter and considerably more nimble than the BMW. The steering is lighter and more precise, and the chassis feels more responsive, all of which lets me put the car exactly where I want it on the road with total confidence. More than that, though, the Jag is more fun and playful. It's a looser car, and though it's quite controlled, there's always the sense it would be happy to rotate if you asked." I concur. I'll also add that the BMW is damn good. Would I say the XE S is in another class than the Bimmer? No. We're talking 5, 10 percent better, tops. But the sporting feel of the Jag is better than that of the BMW.

2015-BMW-335i-M-Sport-2017-Jaguar-XE-S-rear-end-in-motion-02© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-BMW-335i-M-Sport-2017-Jaguar-XE-S-rear-end-in-motion-02 You have to climb underneath the XE to see where Jaguar spent the money. It's all in the suspension. The BMW uses the familiar MacPherson strut setup in the front. That's great in terms of expense and packaging (they take up very little horizontal space), not so great at keeping the front tires squarely in contact with the pavement while cornering. The XE uses a more space-eating and expensive double A-arm setup. Aside from cost and complexity, double A-arms can keep the front tires better connected to the road in turns. Jaguar even manages to make the ride comfortable; Scott and I preferred the ride of the XE to the 335i.

The real money is spent at the rear of the Jag. Climb under the Bimmer, and you see a stamped steel five-link setup, typical for the segment. True, Mercedes pioneered this sort of rear end on a sports sedan, but it's been massively copied. The Jaguar is much different. The first difference you'll spot is that the big pieces are made from forged aluminum. The second difference is what Jaguar is calling an Integral Link. It consists of a cast aluminum upper control arm and a forged lower A-arm, only the lower piece has been split at the frontmost bottom leg of the "A." The vestigial leg is tied into the knuckle, with a drop link connecting it back to the upper arm. The result is that the XE is supposed to be better able to control its rear wheels over bumps in both the longitudinal and lateral axes. Scott and I think they're on to something. The Jaguar was one and done over road imperfections, whereas the BMW took about three movements before the dampers were settled.

How is Jaguar able to fit such a sophisticated suspension compared with the similarly segmented 3 Series? Platform sharing. The basic bones in the F30 3 Series don't travel up the BMW product line. Sure, you can get a wagon, coupe, four-door coupe (4 Series Gran Coupe), convertible, a couple SUVs (X3, X4), and whatever on Earth the 3 Series Gran Turismo is supposed to be. But the 5, 6, and 7 Series (and Rolls-Royce Ghost/Wraith) all ride on a different platform. While unique to the XE for now, Jaguar will be using this platform on the upcoming F-Pace SUV, the new XF, an eventual XJ replacement, and if they decide to do it, an XK replacement. The downside is that the XE is probably heavier than it needs to be (sadly, we couldn't weigh it), but its aluminum- and magnesium-intensive construction (probably) mitigates that. Put another way, from behind the wheel, the XE feels lighter than the 3 Series.

GUN SLITS The two cars' interiors are about the same size, but the Jaguar's feels smaller owing to its narrower, higher window sills. They also make it slightly harder to see out of.© Provided by MotorTrend GUN SLITS The two cars' interiors are about the same size, but the Jaguar's feels smaller owing to its narrower, higher window sills. They also make it slightly harder to see out of. There is something to be said, though, for the solidity inherent to the 335i. Evans explains: "The BMW, by contrast, is very serious. There's no playfulness from the rear end. It hooks up and it goes, no drama. The car feels pressed hard into the pavement at all times. It doesn't want to rotate. It doesn't threaten to bite in any way. This confidence has long been an asset of the 3 Series." Agreed. Also, the brake pedal feel is much better in the BMW. Evans continues, "But next to the Jag, the 335i feels a bit stuffy and restrained." Remember, too, that this is the M Sport version of the 335i. Not, say, the Luxury version. Do customers want a buttoned-down, "restrained" sports sedan? If they do, wouldn't they be better served by a baby S-Class, the new, luxury-first Mercedes C-Class?

2017-Jaguar-XE-S-center-stack© Provided by MotorTrend 2017-Jaguar-XE-S-center-stack DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES Both cars use the same ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic, but Jaguar's tuning is far more aggressive and rewarding in Sport mode.© Provided by MotorTrend DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES Both cars use the same ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic, but Jaguar's tuning is far more aggressive and rewarding in Sport mode. LOOK CLOSER It doesn't come across well in photographs, but the Jaguar's interior, while similar, is richer and more interesting than the BMW's.

The Jaguar XE S just seemed to be more sporting everywhere. It sounds better (superchargers almost always sonically whip the pants off exhaust-muffling turbochargers) for one. For another, the XE S and 335i literally have the same ZF eight-speed transmission. Only Jaguar has done a better job of programming its version for sport. Crank the 335i up into Sport+ and jam the brakes hard into a corner, and the automatic will never drop more than one gear. When Dynamic mode is activated, the XE S' slushbox is all too happy to drop two gears, and sometimes even three. It's a bad recipe in the BMW, especially when you factor in the slight amount of lag inherent to turboed mills, and unless you're really planning ahead, you'll hit the apex powerless. True, you can get around all this by left-foot braking and using the 335i's paddles, but it's more work. The Jag just effortlessly zips along.

So the Jaguar XE S is our winner. Sadly, Jaguar refuses to release U.S. prices, but we suspect it will be competitive with the 335i. The XE S just doesn't have any noticeable flaws. To keep on quoting Evans: "I came away from this comparison struck by how similar and yet how different these two cars are. Both are top-shelf sports sedans, but they go about it in such different ways. I appreciate the BMW's solid, confident, and accommodating persona that has kept it at the top with customers and journalists for decades. But to me, sportiness is key. The Jaguar XE S is every bit as good as the BMW 335i while being more fun to drive." All I can add is, "Amen."

2015 BMW 335i M Sport 2017 Jaguar XE S
BASE PRICE $44,700$48,000 (est)
PRICE AS TESTED $57,075$59,000 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 3.0L/300-hp/300-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 24-valve I-63.0L/340-hp/332-lb-ft supercharged DOHC, 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 3,600 lb (mfr)3,700 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 110.6 in111.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 182.2 x 71.3 x 56.3 in183.9 x 72.8 x 55.7 in
0-60 MPH 5.1 sec (mfr est)4.9 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 21/32/25 mpg19/30/23 mpg (est)
ENERGY CONS,CITY/HWY 160/105 kW-hrs/100 miles177/112 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.78 lb/mile0.85 lb/mile (est)
ON SALE IN U.S CurrentlySpring 2016

MotorTend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTend Image

Rematch? Say Hello to the 340i

MotorTend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTend Image Barely more than a week after we finished this comparison test, the press release came across the wire, as if BMW felt a great disturbance in the Force. The all-new 340i, a more powerful 3, would answer the latest challenges.

The 335i-replacing 340i comes equipped with an all-aluminum inline-six engine producing 320 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. Transmission options include a standard eight-speed auto and a six-speed manual available as a no-cost option for most trim levels. With the automatic, the 340i sedan sprints to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds with two-wheel drive or 4.6 seconds with all-wheel drive, according to BMW. We suspect those numbers are a bit modest; we tested a 2013 BMW 335i xDrive at 4.4 seconds to 60.

BMW promises improved handling and overall driving dynamics. The chassis bears new front struts with five-bolt upper anchor points, redesigned electric power steering, and new rear damper technology. The six-speed manual has been revised with an optional rev-matching function and dual-mass flywheel on the 340i for smoother gearshifts.

A close inspection reveals some key visual changes. The "eyes" have moved farther apart to give the car a wider appearance, and broader side air intakes in the front apron contribute to the new look.

MotorTend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTend Image New chrome accents and high-gloss surfaces provide subtle cabin changes. The glove box features new ambient lighting, and cupholders in the center console have a sliding cover. The content of the previous Sport Line is now standard on 328i, 328d, and 340i models. That brings along a sport steering wheel, larger alloy wheels, and blacked-out exterior details. An M Sport package features more options than before, and its list of equipment includes special M-branded aerodynamics, a leather steering wheel, and sport suspension. The new and related optional Track Handling package, designed for driving enthusiasts, brings a sport steering system, an adaptive M suspension, and M sport brakes. Equipment from the Premium package—including LED headlights, lumbar support, a moonroof, and Sirius satellite radio—is now standard equipment on the range-topping model.

BMW's nav responsiveness has been a bit of a sore point, but the automaker says new tech is coming, and maps wil be updated over the air. Other available features on the 3 Series include a head-up display and a parking assist mode that helps drivers navigate into both perpendicular and parallel spots.

The 2016 BMW 3 Series lineup will continue on with both sedan and wagon variants. We expect it will arrive in dealerships later this year. -- Kelly Pleskot

2016 BMW 3 Series
Base Price Range* $34,000-$49,000 (est)
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, RWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan and wagon
Engines* 2.0L/180-hp/200-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4, 2.0L/240-hp/255-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4, 2.0L/180-hp/280-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve I-4, 3.0L/320-hp/330-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 24-valve I-6
Transmissions 6-speed manual, 8-speed automatic
Curb Weight 3,300-3,850 lb (est)
Wheelbase 110.6 in L x W x H 182.2 x 71.3 x 56.3 in
0-60 MPH 4.6-7.4 sec (mfr est)
Epa City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ* 22-32/33-45/26-37 mpg (est)
Energy Cons, City/Hwy* 118-153/84-102 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 Emissions, Comb* 0.60-0.75 lb/mile (est)
On Sale in U.S. Currently
*Excludes 330e Plug-In Hybrid

2015-BMW-335i-M-Sport-2017-Jaguar-XE-S-promo© Provided by MotorTrend 2015-BMW-335i-M-Sport-2017-Jaguar-XE-S-promo


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