Jaguar XF VS Audi A6
- Beautiful to look at
- Fantastic drivetrain
- Properly luxurious
- The cost
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Not really a five seater for long trips
- Clinical personality
- Steering feel
If a Jaguar owner fell through a wormhole from 2003, the company they bought their car from would be almost unrecognisable. Back then, it was a bewildering mess making an odd assortment of cars, yet to emerge into the light after Ford's confused and debilitating period of ownership.
Why 2003? Fifteen years is a nice round number and pre-dates the arrival of the brand-saving XF.
Today, Jaguar has three SUVs, and the gorgeous F-Type, the XE, its second-generation XF and the big XJ. It has three SUVs (the F-Pace, E-Pace and I-Pace) because without them Jaguar would be a niche manufacturer before long, because big sedans, formerly the brand's trademark, are continuing their gentle decline. Oddly enough, one of the market segments contracting even faster than sedans is wagons.
So what better time to launch into a draining pool from the three-metre board than now? Jaguar has bravely taken that risk and brought us the puzzlingly named XF Sportbrake.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
As its name implies, Audi's A6 lives in the luxury sedan zone between the brand's volume-selling, mid-size A4 and limo-length A8.
Although it sits in the same size, price and performance ballpark as BMW's evergreen 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, traditionally it hasn't been able to lay a glove on the other German 'Big Three' competitors in terms of sales in the Australian new car market. Although it does manage to topple the seemingly unloved Jaguar XF and Lexus GS.
So, what to do? After seven years in market, the fourth generation (C7) A6 departed the local market in June this year, and the fresh metal designed to push Audi up the leader board stands before you.
Revealed in Germany early in 2018, the fifth-gen (C8) A6 brings new engines, leading edge safety, upgraded media tech, and an evolution of the brand's distinctive design language.
We scored an early, preview drive to see if the A6 has what it takes to challenge the '5' and 'E'.
|Fuel Type||95 Ron Premium Unleaded|
With that iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove wrapped in bubble wrap engine, excellent ride and gorgeous looks, the XF Sportbrake ticks all the boxes. Apart from the entry price and options prices, there are few objective reasons not to buy the car. It's just as good as any of its German competition and arguably the prettiest of the lot.
Should Jaguar have taken the dive? Given the XF Sportbrake is a luxury wagon done right, yes.
So you've decided you want a prestige wagon? Is it the Jaguar for you, or do you need a German machine to lug your load?
The new Audi A6 55 TFSI quattro S line is a composed, rapid, top-shelf luxury sedan. It's comprehensively equipped, with safety tech a stand-out, and priced to chip away at BMW and Merc's segment dominance. Owners in this part of the market tend to be rusted on loyal to their preferred brand, though, and it will be interesting to see of this impressive newcomer can shake a few of them loose.
Could this new A6 tempt you out of your 5 Series or E-Class? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The second-generation XF is a very pretty car. A few carmakers have a had a crack at that four-door coupe idea, but Jaguar's Ian Callum got it right first go. You might expect the wagon to be a bit dumpy but it's far from it. That's not to say wagons can't be good looking - many are better-looking than the car they're based on (the weirdly proportioned Golf wagon being the exception to the rule). The XF sedan just looks right.
Anyway, the Sportbrake is basically the same until behind the B-pillar, with the roof continuing on to steeply raked tailgate glass. Obviously the lights are different back there but it's a nicely integrated job, it doesn't look like a dodgy extension. Rolling on the optional 20-inch wheels it looks amazing - low, long and well-proportioned. Unfortunately, it's more than vaguely hearse-like in black (the only First Edition colour).
Inside is standard XF, with the obvious exception of the rear seats and the big open load area. With this First Edition's glass roof the cabin seems infinite. Either way it's big and comfortable, although fit and finish could be a bit tighter.
In recent years Audi has shown impressive commitment to design consistency, with signature elements like the 'Singleframe grille', crisp, angular lines and tightly wrapped surfaces obvious unifying factors.
But the line between consistency and sameness is a thin one, and you could argue a strong case that, scale aside, all Audis from the last decade look much the same. And while this all-new design sharpens and tweaks the brand formula it's hardly a clean-sheet revolution.
Our test car's mega (optional) 21-inch alloys are further proof that Audi is currently playing a strong wheel design game. They fill the wheelarches to capacity and arm wrestle with the massive grille for visual prominence.
The standard S line exterior package incorporates specific front and rear bumpers with honeycomb inserts, side air inlet grilles in 'matt titanium black' with inserts in 'platinum grey', rear diffuser in the same black, this time with chrome trim, side sill trims, and illuminated aluminium door sill trims with S logo at the front.
The strongly curved roofline accentuates the car's steeply raked C-pillars, giving it a close to fastback style. Short overhangs accentuate the carefully sculpted, muscular look.
The interior is a model of design quality mixed with Teutonic restraint, the dash and instrument cluster layout showcasing the three digital screens covering instruments, media as well as heating and ventilation.
Long, horizontal vents are an Audi design favourite, the seats look and feel superb and the entire cabin reeks of quality and attention to detail.
Front and rear passengers enjoy plenty of space. Storage includes a not-quite-big-enough-for-a-phone tray ahead of the rotary dial gear selector and a pair of cupholders. Those in the rear have plenty of space, except for the middle seat occupant who must straddle a stout transmission tunnel. The rear armrest holds a pair of cupholders and the doors have slim pockets.
The boot holds 565 litres with the seats in place and "up to" 1700 litres with the seats down - that latter figure does not feel like a VDA number.
At just over 4.9m long, close to 1.9m wide, and a little under 1.5m high the new A6 is marginally longer and wider, yet fractionally lower overall than its predecessor. And each of those key measures are within millimetres of its core competitors.
So, large rather than huge, yet while the wheelbase has stretched 12mm, Audi says it has eked out an extra 21mm of interior length.
Room for the driver and front passenger is generous, with ample storage provided, including dual (covered) cupholders in the centre console (also incorporating a 12-volt outlet and key holder slot), a decent glove box, and door bins allowing easy bottle storage)
The lidded storage box/armrest between the front seats is relatively shallow but includes a wireless Qi (chee) charging mat (for compatible devices), plus SIM and SD ports, as well as a pair of (Type-A) USB sockets.
Those in the back are in equally good shape. I was able to sit behind the driver's seat set for my 183cm position with heaps of head and legroom on offer.
The fold-down centre armrest features a lidded storage tray and twin pop-out cupholders. There are netted pockets on the back of each front seat and the door bins are big enough for large drink bottles.
Three adults across the rear is definitely do-able, but not a realistic long-distance option.
Ventilation, connectivity and power are also well buttoned down for back-seaters with the standard spec including climate control adjustment for the rear, plus two USB ports and a 12-volt socket.
For the record, our test example was upgraded with the 'Rear Seat Comfort Package' ($2500) consisting of four-zone climate control, heating for the two outer positions and 'extended upholstery' for the door armrest and centre console. The two central vents are also supplemented by additional adjustable outlets in the B-pillars.
Boot capacity is around the average for the class at 530 litres, and the A6 swallowed our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres) with masses of room to spare, as it did the jumbo size CarsGuide pram.
In fact, it was able to take the biggest case as well as the pram at the same time, which is pretty impressive. Drop the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat to liberate even more volume.
There are pop-up tie-down anchors at each corner of the boot floor, a netted storage cavity behind the passenger side wheel tub, a 12-volt outlet on the driver's side, a handy fold down shopping bag hook, an elasticised net is included, and a space-saver spare sits under the boot floor.
Price and features
Over the years the XF has edged its way upmarket and is now playing with the Germans in the big luxury segment. And as is now customary for Jaguar, the Sportbrake is available in First Edition guise. First Editions are available for a model's first year of production and are usually based on the top-spec (in the Sportbrake's case, that's the 30d S) with a few extra bits and pieces to make things interesting.
While the 30d S retails for $123,450, the FE weighs in at $137,300. For that you'll waft out of the showroom with 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, a huge panoramic glass roof with gesture-activated roof blind, around-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, 11-speaker Meridian-branded stereo with DAB, sat nav, head-up display, electric gesture-activated tailgate, keyless entry and start, rear air suspension, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, leather trim and a space-saver spare.
Jaguar Land Rover's 'InControl' media system is presented on a whopping 12.3-inch screen and, as ever, is steadily improving but goes without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The sound is, as you might expect, pretty good.
Our car had a few options fitted. 'Active Safety Pack' (see below), carbon-fibre trim ($3470), driver and passenger memory pack ($3210, including perforated leather trim), 20-inch wheels upgrade ($2790), cold-climate pack ($2540), illuminated metal treadplates ($2110), privacy glass ($950), 'InControl Protect' ($630), configurable interior lighting ($540), nets and rails ($390 and $320 respectively), extra power socket ($240) and 'InControl Apps' ($100). Most of it is cosmetic and/or unnecessary and took us to $158,950.
And there is still a plethora of boxes to tick.
The $100K barrier is a substantial one, and the Audi A6 55 TFSI quattro S line well and truly vaults over it, landing at a price of $116,000, before on-road costs.
For context, BMW's 530i Luxury Line weighs in at $111,900, Jag's XF 35t S will set you back $128,528, the Mercedes-Benz E300 sits at $111,642, and the Lexus GS350 Sport Luxury will lighten your wallet by $106,312.
So, you'd expect this top of the three model A6 range to be packed with standard features as part of the pitch to win market share from BMW, Merc and Co. And sure enough this car is laden down with enough fruit to satisfy Carmen Miranda's milliner.
Included are 20-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension (with electronically controlled adaptive dampers), matrix LED headlights (with LED DRLs, dynamic cornering lights, auto headlight range control and rear dynamic indicators), keyless entry and start including a sensor controlled (leg swish) boot release, electric heated sports seats for the driver and front passenger (including memories for the driver), 'Valcona' leather upholstery (door trim inserts in Alcantara), three-zone climate control air, a flat-bottom leather-trimmed sports steering wheel (with manual gearshift paddles), 'aluminium fragment' interior inlays, ambient lighting, and aluminium illuminated front door sill trims (in S design).
Plus, there's Audi's smartphone interface providing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, 'Qi' wireless charging, 10-speaker/180-watt audio driven by a six-channel amp and featuring digital radio, the 12.3-inch configurable 'Audi Virtual Cockpit' digital instrument cluster, a head-up display (colour, with speed, nav and assistance info), 10.1-inch high-res colour media touchscreen, 'Navigation Plus' (with 3D map display including places of interest and city models), and a third 8.6-inch colour display for the climate control system (with handwriting recognition and a favourites list).
The recently introduced 'myAudi' app also allows you to connect to the car and access real-time info on everything from how much fuel's in the tank, to maintenance milestones, and service warnings. You can remotely lock and unlock the car, plan journeys (at home) and send destinations and routes directly to the car.
On top of that lot, our test car featured a quartet of options starting with air suspension ($2000), stepping through metallic paint ($2200), to the 'Rear seat comfort package' described in the practicality section above ($2500), and 'Premium plus package 1' ($9800) which tips in Bang & Olufsen's '3D Sound System' (16 speakers, 15-channel amp, and 705-watt output), HD matrix LED headlights, panoramic glass sunroof, privacy glass (rear and rear side windows), LED interior lighting package (30 selectable colours and six colour profiles), electric opening and closing boot lid, electric steering column adjust, S line interior package (S line embossing on the front seats, perforated leather steering wheel grips, inlays in dark matt brushed aluminium and stainless steel pedal and footrest faces), plus 21-inch alloys. The final price, before on-road costs, totting up to $132,500.
Engine & trans
With all that power and torque, the XF Sportbrake cracks 100km/h from rest in 6.6 seconds.
The air suspension means you can tow up to 2000kg with a braked trailer.
The VW Group (EA839) engine used in the A6 55 TFSI is a 90-degree, 3.0-litre, all-alloy, single (twin-scroll) turbo V6 featuring direct-injection, variable camshaft adjustment (intake and exhaust side) and variable valve timing on the inlet side.
It produces peak power of 250kW from 5000-6400rpm, and maximum torque of 500Nm between 1370rpm and 4500rpm.
A 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system recovers regenerative braking energy to power the stop/start system and enable coasting (for up to 40 seconds) between 55-160km/h.
It consists of a 10 Ah lithium-ion battery under the boot floor, a water-cooled belt alternator starter (BAS) mounted to the engine's front end, with a V-belt connecting it to the crankshaft.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 7.2L/100km, the A6 55 TFSI emitting 164g/km of CO2 in the process.
Over five days of city, suburban and freeway running we recorded a figure of 8.8L/100km, courtesy of the on-board computer. Pretty impressive for a close to 1.8-tonne luxury sedan.
Stop/start is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 72 litres of it to fill the tank.
There's no getting away from the size and heft of the Sportbrake. Where a four-cylinder sedan comes in under 1600kg - not bad for an almost five-metre-long car - up here at the top it's well over 1800kg. With big wheels and a long wheelbase it's not going to win any wards for manoeuvrability, with a big turning circle and a length that's challenging to shopping centre car parks.
The 3.0 V6 twin-turbo is a fantastic unit. It can be a bit noisy when cold but it's super smooth and with all that torque it crushes overtaking with little need for advanced planning. The Sportbrake wafts along, lazily turning over in traffic and keeping the vibe calm.
Despite those big wheels, the ride is excellent. Even when in Sport mode, it's a rare bump or surface that will cause drama. It's very comfortable and very quiet, almost to the level of the XJ limo.
If you do fancy a bit of amusement, the V6 and well-sorted chassis are ready to play. In reality, Sport mode is where both myself and my wife left the car the whole time we had it. Both of us found the steering a little too light and preferred the more lively throttle response. The XF features torque vectoring using the brakes and coupled with a well-judged stability and traction control system, it delivers a good impression of a sporty sedan.
But the XF is best when you keep it relaxed. Both in town and in the cruise, it's a lovely, quiet place to be and a relaxing, undemanding drive.
Only a couple of things were annoying - the light steering we've already covered. The heated windscreen was more reflection-prone so the head-up display could be hard to see in some lighting conditions. And sometimes it beeped for no apparent reason, which I eventually traced to the blind-spot warning.
The A6 55 TFSI's S line tag infers sporty performance, and there's no doubt 0-100km/h acceleration in a claimed 5.1sec is rapid.
As is increasingly the norm with Vee engines from the 'Big Three' German brands this one has its single, twin-scroll turbo located in the V6's 'hot V' to shorten gas paths from the exhaust to the turbo, and from the turbo into the inlet side.
The aim is to sharpen throttle response and deliver power in a smooth, linear flow. And with maximum torque available from just 1370rpm all the way to 4500rpm, that's exactly the way it feels.
Select Sport mode, squeeze the right-hand pedal, and the V6 delivers a firm, consistent shove in the back. Keep pushing and peak power arrives at 5000rpm, remaining on tap all the way up to 6400rpm, on the cusp of the engine's rev ceiling.
But don't expect a brash, macho personality. The A6 is quietly quick, remaining composed and relatively quiet as speed rises.
Low noise acoustic glass is a key factor here, as is a comprehensive sound absorption package throughout the cabin. Some may find the drive experience too low-key, even sterile, while others will embrace the cool sophistication.
The seven-speed 'S tronic' dual-clutch auto transmission is beautifully executed, delivering ultra-smooth shifts at around-town cruising speeds and crisp, positive changes in manual mode.
A self-locking centre differential sits at the heart of the 'quattro' all-wheel drive system, normally distributing torque in a 40/60 front to rear ratio. Up to 70 per cent of drive can be sent to the front axle and a maximum 85 per cent to the rear.
On top of that, in aggressive cornering torque vectoring by braking (Audi calls it 'Wheel-Selective Torque Control') retards the near-side wheels before they slip.
Suspension is a five-link set-up front and rear, with much of the hardware made from aluminium to fine tune response and reduce unsprung weight. Electronically controlled adaptive dampers are standard, with the switch between dynamic and comfort settings swift and pronounced.
Flick the 'Audi Drive Select' system into its softest setting and the ride smooths out to an ultra-complaint mode. Never floaty or unwieldy, just refined and well damped, despite our test car's optional 21-inch rims shod with 255/35 Pirelli P Zero rubber. But it's important to note optional air suspension was also on-board.
Tweak things up to the sportier end of the spectrum and the ride height drops by 10mm, the suspension firms up appreciably, and steering weight toughens up a few notches. Hustling the big Audi along a favourite backroad it remained balanced and predictable. But even in this context, Comfort's the better option.
Speaking of steering, the A6's electro-mechanical system supplies speed-dependent power assistance, and while it points accurately the assistance is overdone and road feel isn't a strong suit.
Brakes are 375mm ventilated discs at the front, clamped by six-piston alloy calipers, with 350mm rotors at the rear. In some enthusiastic, 'long-way-home' driving they inspired confidence with progressive feel and more than enough bite to calmly bring the 1.8-tonne A6 to heel.
Need to hitch up a boat, float or van? You're all clear up to 2.0 tonnes for a braked trailer and 750kg unbraked.
For child seats you've a choice of three top-tether anchors or two ISOFIX points.
Our car had the $4360 Active Safety Pack, which adds blind-spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise and driver-attention detection. If you were to ask me, this little lot should be standard at this level.
Despite that, the XF scored a maximum five ANCAP stars following assessment in 2015.
Up front we mentioned this new A6 features leading-edge safety, and the crash test dummies in Ingolstadt must have been working overtime because this car leaves nothing on the table.
The usual active safety suspects are all present and accounted for, namely ESC (with electronic wheel-selective torque control), ABS, ASR, EDL and 'Brake Assist'.
But from there the list of standard tech reads like a who's who of recent innovations, including 'Adaptive Drive Assist' (adaptive cruise control with 'Stop&Go', distance indicator, traffic jam assist and lane guidance assist), AEB (5.0km/h to 85km/h for pedestrians and cyclists, and up to 250 km/h for vehicles), 'Collision Avoidance Assist' (additional steering torque in critical evasive situations), rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, and lane departure warning.
The 360-degree camera set-up includes a kerb view function, with four wide-angle cameras covering the entire area immediately around the vehicle for improved visibility during low speed manoeuvres.
There's also an exit warning system (detects vehicles and cyclists when opening doors, triggering a warning light and delaying door opening), 'Attention Assist', tyre pressure monitoring, 'Audi Parking System Plus' (front and rear with visual display), and 'Intersection Crossing Assist'.
That last one operates at speeds up to 30km/h, monitoring the area in front and at the side of the car, detecting “oncoming objects” at junctions and exit roads. If the situation is critical the system triggers a visual and acoustic warning as well as a quick jolt on the brakes (at speeds up to 10km/h).
But it's not over yet, with auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers and 'Turn Assist' included. Turn Assist monitors oncoming traffic when you're turning right at speeds up to 10km/h and applies the brakes if necessary.
If all those measures aren't enough to avoid an impact passive safety leads off with front airbags for driver and passenger, side airbags for front and rear side passengers, plus curtain airbags covering both rows.
Also included is 'Audi Pre-Sense Rear' (tensioning of front seat belts, closing of windows and sunroof and flashing hazards on detection of an impending rear collision), the standard active bonnet helps to minimise pedestrian impact injuries and there's a first-aid kit as well as a warning triangle and high-vis vests in the boot.
No surprise the new A6 scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, the assessment done in 2018 and the score applicable from August 2019 onwards.
Jaguars are offered with a three-year/100,000km warranty with a matching roadside-assist package. You can purchase a five-year/130,000km service plan for an oddly reasonable $2200. Even more reasonable are the service intervals - 12 months or 26,000km (!).
Audi covers the A6 with a three year/unlimited km warranty, which is in line with BMW and Merc, but lags the mainstream market where five years/unlimited km is the norm, with Kia and SsangYong at seven years.
That said, body cover runs to three years for paint defects and 12 years for corrosion (perforation).
Recommended service interval is 12 months/15,000km, and 'Audi Genuine Care Service Plans' offer capped price servicing options over three years ($1700) and five years ($2630).
In making the call between the two plans it's worth noting the four year/60,000km service is a big one including filters, a timing belt replacement, transmission fluid and spark plugs.