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
- Smooth everything
- Good equipment
- Understated looks
- Twin clutch transmission a bit dithery
- Soft ride means un-involving drive
- Dull steering
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|
Audi gamely continues to sell their 5 Series competitor, the A6. The high-rider A6 Allroad takes most of the attention, but if you keep an eye out, you'll see an A6 sedan every now and again.
Look even closer – really close – and you'll see that there's been a recent upgrade.
|Engine Type||1.8L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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?
In many ways, the A6 1.8 is the very epitome of the Audi experience - quiet, composed and very stylish, it doesn't shout about itself. It's hardly a big seller but it does give those who wish for a big executive sedan from Ingolstadt everything they could need.
Would an A6 tempt you away from a 520i? Tell us what you think in the comments 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.
The A6 is one of Audi's subtlest pieces. It's a fine looking car but it doesn't really stand out in this base-spec, which is of course perfectly fine if that's what you're after.
Rolling on 18-inch alloys, it's a classy-looking thing, with Audi's trademark design language of creased sheetmetal, prominent front grille and distinctive daytime running lights. The new twin LED DRLs are more distinctive still, marking out the A6 from the rest of the range.
Inside is also very standard Audi, with a clean dashboard design and a screen that disappears into the depths of the dash when you lock up or if you want it out of the way.
Inside there's tons of room and it's a very comfortable cabin to spend time in. The driver gets plenty of adjustment and you sit reasonably low, snug between door and high-set console. The dashboard is the usual model of clarity although the optimistic speedo raised a few smiles. Despite it being tightly packed, it doesn't matter as the updated central screen can show a digital speed readout.
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.
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.
Standard is cruise control, parking sensors front and rear with reversing camera, blind spot sensor and rear sensor for cross traffic, xenon headlights, keyless entry and start, climate control, electric front seats, leather trim, DAB radio and satnav.
There's a tremendously lengthy options list but as is the Audi custom, you can get the greatest hits in a couple of packages. Our test car had the Technik package ($5800) which added park assist, around-view camera, adaptive cruise with stop and go, autonomous emergency braking and four-zone climate control.
It also adds Audi Connect, which puts Google Earth overlays on the sat-nav maps, lets you search Google for points of interest and act as a wifi hotspot in the car (which needs its own SIM card; it doesn't like most smartphones).
Metallic paint is a supremely cheeky $2280 bringing our test car to $87,980.
The ten speaker stereo has the usual bluetooth and USB ports and is run from an 8.0-inch motorised retractable screen. Audi's MMI controls the show and there's the added bonus of DAB to go with it. The A6 actually has two USB ports, with a high-power port for faster phone charging. The big news is this upgraded A6 doesn't need the silly proprietary cable that the A4 still needs.
The MMI interface is very good and has gotten better and better over the years as Audi's designers have played with the mix of rotary and shortcut buttons.
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.
Behind the A6's mildly modified snout is the 1.8-litre TFSI mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Basically, it's the same setup as some A3s and A4s. In the A6, it produces 140kW and 320Nm.
At 1645kg, you'd imagine fairly weedy performance but a 0-100km/h time of 7.9 seconds says otherwise. Fuel economy is a claimed 5.7L/100km on the combined cycle, but expect somewhere around 8.0L/100km in the real world. Which is still reasonable going for a petrol-powered car this big.
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.
Settling in behind the wheel of a big car with a small engine, even by today's standards, rarely promises much. The A6 is a relaxed kind of car to punt around, especially in Eco and Comfort modes.
The steering is quite remote, with artificial-feeling weight when you pile on some speed.
The idea, it seems, is to isolate occupants from the outside world and this is very successful. The ride is supple and the handling competent with mild, controlled body roll and a natural tendency to eventual understeer.
The seven-speed dual-clutch is perhaps not the the most obvious choice and seemed a little unsettled when you ask for a rapid clutch take-up from standstill. BMW's choice of eight-speed ZF auto would have been preferable, but it's no deal breaker.
Rear passengers have plenty of space to lounge around and it's also very quiet back there. Acres of shoulder and leg room give a good feeling of space and it almost feels as good as an A8.
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.
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 (!).