Jaguar XE VS Volkswagen Passat
- Outstanding ride and handling
- Great horsepower for your buck
- Though, good looks
- Rear seats are tight
- Small boot
- Optional safety tech
- Sensibly-priced trim levels
- Strong 162 TSI engine
- Attractive and practical
- Not the soft-roader it could be
- Touch panel controls
- Price won't tempt people out of SUVs
Mercedes-Benz has the C-Class, BMW has the 3 Series, Audi has the A4 and Jaguar has the one people in Australia seem to forget – the XE.
Yep, the default setting we seem to have when it comes to buying a prestige car is as strong as buying the same brand of milk every week.
There’s a decent choice of milk, but it can sometimes seem that there are only three brands and we tend to zero in on the same one again and again. Same with prestige cars.
But all milk is the same, I hear you say. And I’m inclined to agree, and that’s the difference, cars vary greatly despite them having the same purpose.
The latest version of Jaguar XE has arrived in Australia and while it’s very similar in size and shape to its German rivals there are some big differences, and some compelling reasons to add it to your shopping list.
I promise, there are no more mentions of milk.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It seems almost quaint to review a bona fide station wagon in 2021.
Nevertheless, the humble wagon has so many endearing and often-overlooked attributes which make it such an ideal product for the majority of buyers, so all the more power to Volkswagen which persists in offering the Passat here in both regular wagon and lifted Alltrack forms.
The Alltrack is the latest arrival as part of a refreshed Passat lineup for 2021, and we’ve sampled a top spec 162TSI Premium at its Australian launch. Is it the perfect anti-SUV for the left-of-field buyer? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Jaguar XE is a dynamic, prestige mid-sized premium sedan, for those who are more concerned with engaging driving than cargo space and rear legroom.
The sweet spot in the range is the entry R-Dynamic SE. Buy that one and option the handling pack, and you'll still come in under the costs of the HSE.
Would you pick a Jaguar over a Mercedes-Benz, Audi or BMW? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
I like the Passat Alltrack. It’s my kind of car and it certainly got a nod or two from passing VW drivers and wagon appreciators. It’s a shame more people will look straight past this and to the also fantastic but arguably less interesting (or practical) Tiguan in showrooms.
The Alltrack is good value falling between its wagon rivals while offering full safety, excellent multimedia and stellar practicality. But in the world of raised wagons, the Alltrack could still be a little further removed from its regular Passat wagon siblings to really stand out.
This freshen up of the XE sees a sharper, wider look for the mid-sized sedan with sleeker headlights and tail-lights, plus redesigned front and rear bumpers.
From front-on the XE looks low, broad and planted, a black mesh grille and the way it’s flanked by much larger air intakes is tough, and the signature Jaguar long bonnet curving down towards it looks magnificent.
The rear of the car has benefited greatly, too. Gone are those overly simple tail-lights, replaced by more refined units with a strong resemblance to the F-Type's.
How much smaller is the XE than its big sister the XF? Well, here are the dimensions. The XE is a mid-sized car at 4678mm long (276mm shorter than the XF), 1416mm tall (41mm shorter in height) and 13mm narrower at 2075mm wide (including the mirrors).
The XE’s cabin has been updated, too. There’s the new steering wheel which has a more minimalist and cleaner design than the previous tiller, the rotary gear shifter has been replaced with an upright trigger-grip device (another functional improvement), and there’s the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
New materials and trims are used throughout the interior. Both grades have premium carpet mats, and aluminium trim around the centre console.
In the SE four types of two-tone leather upholstery can be specified as non-cost options, while another four which are $1170 options in the base grade are available free in the HSE.
The standard cabins of both grades feel luxurious and premium.
A gentle retouch resulting in a quietly elegant execution of VW’s current design pillars defines the Passat wagon. It’s attractive but subtle, not the kind of car which turns heads, but one which is pleasant on the eye anyway from any angle.
It’s a classic wagon profile, complete with blocky rear three-quarter, but the Alltrack touches like the plastic cladding running down this car’s side profile help give it an element of toughness without overdoing it. The chrome garnish and LED matrix headlights on our test car round things out nicely for a stately, mature design. The Aquamarine Blue on our test Alltrack looks the business, too.
It contrasts the interior trim at any rate which in our test car was the optional “Mistral” pale coloured Vienna leather. This looks great now and makes the interior feel huge, but I can’t help but feel like it won’t age quite as well as the standard black leather trim on Premium cars.
The rest of the inside follows VW’s sensible interior approach with lots of squared off stoic elements alongside more impressive touches like integrated air vent design which runs the length of the dash. It’s not an amazing design statement generally, but like this car’s exterior appearance, it’s quietly attractive. VW’s new wheel is a lovely touchpoint, and the digital dash cluster (still one of the best on the market) adds a bit of a wow factor in our top spec car. Compared to newer entries in the brand’s range like the updated Tiguan and incoming Golf 8, the Passat’s interior does seem to be aging, if just a little. Some would say it suits its mature personality.
The Alltrack’s interior doesn’t vary from the standard Passat at all, so this is really a sensible, subtle car for a sensible buyer who doesn’t want attention, perhaps apart from knowing nods from other wagon enthusiasts.
Mid-sized sedans have a tough job on their hands when it comes to practicality – they need to be small enough to park and pilot in the city but big enough to carry at least four adults comfortably along with their luggage.
I’m 191cm tall and while space up front for me is plentiful, space behind my diving position is limited. Headroom in the second row is getting tight, too.
The small rear doors also made entry and exit a bit of a challenge for me.
Boot space is also not the best in the class at 410 litres. I’m being kind. See, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has a cargo capacity of 434 litres, while the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 have 480 litres volumes.
Up front you’ll find a USB and a 12-volt outlet, but if you want the wireless charger for your iPhone or Android device you’ll need to option it for $180.
Why buy an SUV when you can have a wagon? The Passat Alltrack continues to put forward a compelling argument for team wagon, with a huge boot capacity, as well as ride height and angles which rival many SUVs.
Even the cabin feels cavernous, with large but supportive front seats, excellent adjustability, and a lovely blend of the extra ride height but the low-down seating position of a passenger car instead of an SUV. Feels sporty but comfortable and capable behind the delicate VW wheel, exactly how it should.
Storage options are also good with two large cupholders in the centre console with a sliding cover, a small bay under the climate unit with a helpful rubberised surface, a wide but shallow console box armrest clad in soft-touch materials, and big bottle holders in the doors with additional wide and deep storage bins. The only downside I could find for the ergonomics was a lack of any tactile dials for volume or climate adjustment, with both having been replaced by touch panels.
The back seat builds on this car’s excellent practicality with its very own climate zone, dual adjustable air vents and dual USB outlets on the back of the centre console, huge rear doors for easy access, pockets on the backs of the front seats, and big bottle holders in the doors. The excellent seat trim persists with the leather even wrapped around the very edge of the bulkhead, and there is a rather absurd distance between my knees and my own (182cm tall) driving position in front. This will seat four adults of any height in relative luxury, or five in well above average comfort. The only downside is the high transmission tunnel to facilitate the all-wheel drive impeding centre seat legroom.
Wagons, of course, offer the superior luggage hauling experience to both sedans and SUVs, combining a low loading lip with a flat floor and truly massive 650-litre (VDA) capacity which is far larger than a mid-size SUV. The top-spec Premium adds a tie-down luggage net, and there are practical stowage bays behind the rear wheel arches for securing smaller objects. It’s worth reminding you here wagons are often the ideal vehicle to keep your dog out of the cabin.
A massive boon for those travelling for extended periods or frequently on unsealed surfaces, the Alltrack sports a rare full-size alloy spare wheel under the floor.
Price and features
There are two members of the Jaguar XE family: the R-Dynamic SE which lists for $65,670, before on-road costs, and the R-Dynamic HSE for $71,940. Both have the same engine, but the HSE has more in the way of standard features.
Coming standard on both cars is a 10.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED headlights with auto high beam and direction indicators, metal treadplates with R-Dynamic branding, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, digital radio, sat nav, proximity key with push button ignition, reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity and power front seats.
The R-Dynamic HSE grade adds more standard features such as a second touchscreen below the 10.0-inch display for climate control, swaps the 125W six-speaker stereo in the SE for an 11-speaker 380W Meridian system, also adding adaptive cruise control, and an electrically adjustable steering column.
The only other difference is that the SE has 18-inch alloy wheels while the HSE has 19-inch rims.
It’s not incredibly good value as far as standard features go and you’ll have to option privacy glass, wireless charging, the head-up display and a 360-degree camera on both grades.
The Alltrack is available now with just one petrol engine option, the 2.0-litre turbo 162TSI in two trim levels. The standard Alltrack wears a before-on-road cost (MSRP) of $46,990, while the full-fat Alltrack Premium as sampled for this review comes at a significant price hike to $58,790.
The lifted wagon scene has largely given way to SUVs these days, but a few stalwart competitors remain, most famously in the form of the Subaru Outback (the most equivalent spec being the top Touring at $47,790), Volvo V60 (currently only as a wagon from $57,990, but a lifted Cross Country version is imminent), and the Skoda Superb Scout (really just a variation on this tried and tested VW wagon formula, $63,990).
As is frequently becoming the case with these more niche old-world models, even the base specification is well equipped as standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, full LED exterior lighting, 8.0-inch multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity (both wired or wireless), a 7.0-inch multifunction display in the dash cluster, cloth interior trim with a leatherbound steering wheel (in the latest VW style) and shifter, tri-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-start ignition and the full active safety suite, which we’ll touch on later.
Adding to this, the 162 TSI Premium justifies its much higher price with 19-inch alloy wheels, a 9.2-inch multimedia system with built-in navigation and a 360-degree camera suite, a fully digitised instrument cluster, more advanced ‘matrix’ LED headlight clusters, full leather interior trim with heating and cooling for the front two seats, electric adjust for the front seats with message function, a panoramic sunroof, electric tailgate, tinted rear windows, and a Harmon Kardon premium audio system. It also scores some interior tweaks like ambient lighting with 30 selectable colours, stainless steel sports pedals, and aluminium-brush dash inserts. The only thing notably missing, especially given the wireless CarPlay connectivity, is a wireless phone charger. There’s even a perfect spot for it under the climate unit.
Suffice to say it’s all you could really ask for in today’s market, with the only option on Alltrack variants being premium paint (all colours except white) at an additional $800.
Engine & trans
There’s one engine for both the R-Dynamic SE and R-Dynamic HSE – a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four cylinder making 221kW/400Nm. Drive is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The four-cylinder felt strong and all that torque arrives low in the rev range (1500rpm) for good off-the-line acceleration. The transmission is also excellent, shifting smoothly and decisively.
It’s a shame the V6 isn’t offered anymore, but 221kW is a lot more power than you’ll get for this money in a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class
There is just one engine in the Passat Alltrack range for 2021, the 162 TSI 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, which produces the namesake 162kW and 320Nm of torque. This is a tried and tested engine used extensively in other VW group products, and pairs nicely to the brand’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The Alltrack also makes use of VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive system which pairs to the taller ride height for some extra off-road capability over the standard low-riding range and many of its competitors. There are also some off-road modes cooked into the car’s transmission software, although without low-range functionality and relatively slim profile tyres we’d stay away from any truly rough stuff.
Jaguar says that the XE will use 6.9L/100km of premium unleaded petrol when driven on a combination of open and urban roads.
After my time with it the trip computer was reporting an average of 8.7L/100km. Not bad considering the test drive would have been thirsty work for the four-cylinder turbo engine.
The Passat Alltrack’s official/combined fuel consumption comes in at 8.1L/100km which seems pretty good for an upper mid-size wagon with all-wheel drive. On our launch loan we produced a computer-reported figure of 9.7L/100km which involved a mix of urban and freeway driving, which lands it nicely between this car’s official combined and ‘urban’ figure of 10.1L/100km. It’s likely a more reasonable indicator of what this car will get in the day-to-day.
162 TSI Alltrack variants require mid-shelf 95 RON unleaded fuel and have relatively large 66-litre fuel tanks.
The launch took place on twisty country roads snaking away from the coast in Northern NSW, but I was only a few corners in before it became darn clear the R-Dynamic HSE was talented dynamically. Impressively so.
The HSE I tested was fitted with the $2090 'Dynamic Handling Pack', which adds bigger front brakes (350mm), adaptive dampers and configurable settings for throttle, transmission, chassis and steering.
Steering which felt a tad heavy in town became the XE's secret weapon as the roads curled through the hills. The confidence the steering, delivering great feedback and accuracy, gives the driver can’t be overstated.
This combined with the XE’s excellent handling and powerful four-cylinder engine makes it a clear dynamic standout among its competitors.
A comfortable ride even, on potholed roads, but flat handling regardless of how hard it was pushed through corners amazed me.
Sure, optional adaptive dampers were fitted to our test car, but considering the work out they were getting without skipping a beat, their response was impressive.
Following this I dropped into the seat of the red R-Dynamic SE you can see in the images. While this wasn’t fitted with the handling package the HSE had, the only real difference I could feel was in the comfort – the adaptive dampers were able to produce a more composed and cushioned ride.
Handling, however, felt sharp, sure and the steering gave me the same confidence I experienced in the HSE.
The Alltrack possesses a lot of the kinds of positive driving attributes which VWs have become known for, like excellent road holding and a strong turbocharged follow-through on its higher-torque 2.0-litre engines.
Indeed, the Passat can be a hoot in a straight line once a brief moment of turbo lag has been overcome, and our usual dual-clutch woes of jerkiness and hesitation at low-speed are much less noticeable with the 162 TSI engine than they are with lesser powerplants.
It still feels connected to the road via light but appropriate steering, and grip levels granted by the Alltrack’s relatively long wheelbase and all-wheel drive system are superb.
One issue we’ll point out from the outset is how this car is still geared perhaps a little too much toward driving on tarmac. Giant alloys, low-profile tyres, and suspension which seems to favour body control over flexibility might be nice in the every day around Sydney and carving up a curvy but well-sealed countryside road, but the Alltrack claims to be a bit more all-purpose on unsealed surfaces, and I hate to say it still seems a bit firm for extended periods on gravel.
Part of my testing included a gravel track or two, and while our Alltrack Premium did an admirable job of dealing with the road texture despite huge 19-inch alloys (suggesting compliant dampers), it was larger corrugations and potholes which lead to a few moments best classified as “sharp” with shudders sent through the cabin.
I would like to try this car in the standard 162 TSI trim to see if a smaller wheel and larger tyre helps this at all. As a former daily driver of a mid-noughties Volvo XC70, one of the things which was most appealing about the chunky all-wheel drive Swede was its soft suspension and ample tyre, fit for purpose for those unsealed weekend adventures. I still think Subaru’s Outback will be a more robust choice in todays market if you mean to spend much time on gravel tracks.
I don’t mean to be misunderstood. The Passat Alltrack is a lovely car to drive, and on tarmac, possibly even a 9/10. However it’s the whole branding purpose of this car to be a bit more adventurous, and while the extra ride height gives you the confidence to go a bit beyond the capability of a low-riding wagon, it wouldn’t have been hard to make the suspension softer and the tyre larger for a truly transformative ‘Alltrack’ experience.
For those looking for a long-distance tourer, though? Look no further, the Alltrack is lovely even after hours behind the wheel, and the 162 TSI engine leaves a good amount in reserve for overtaking on the freeway.
The Jaguar XE was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2015. Both the R-Dynamic SE and R-Dynamic HSE come with AEB, lane keeping assistance, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and automatic parking.
The HSE adds blind spot assist which will steer you back into your lane if you’re about to change lanes on top of somebody else; and adaptive cruise control.
The lowish score is due to the need to option safety equipment – it’s becoming the norm for advanced technology to be included as standard.
The full array of active safety items are becoming standard across VW’s range, with even the base Alltrack scoring items like auto emergency braking (works to freeway speed, detects pedestrians), lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, driver attention alert, adaptive high beams, and adaptive cruise control.
Combine those with the standard all-wheel drive and expected stability, brake, and traction control systems and you end up with a safe wagon. The Passat range carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from its original pre-facelift launch in 2015.
The Jaguar XE is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty. Servicing is condition-based (your XE will let you know when it needs a check-up) and there’s a five-year/130,000km service plan which costs $1750.
Again a low score here, but that’s because of the short warranty compared to the five-year coverage which has become an industry expectation and while there is a service plan there’s no service-by-service price guide.
VW continues to offer its competitive five year and unlimited kilometre warranty promise which puts it ahead of many euro offerings, and on-par with its Japanese and Korean rivals. It also includes one year of roadside assist.
Servicing is also far better than it used to be, with VW offering three- or five-year service packs which can be bundled in at the time of purchase at a significant discount.
Pricing will carry over from the current 162 TSI, with three years setting you back an additional $1300 while five years (claimed to be the best value) comes in at $2400 or $480 per yearly or 15,000km visit.
Not the cheapest generally, but not bad considering its niche. Expect roughly the same costs for Skoda’s mechanically similar Superb, while Subaru and Volvo are hardly paragons of low service pricing in recent years.