The BMW 3 Series created a segment and has been dominant in that segment ever since. It always seemed as if it would never lose. Car makers around the world were taking shots at it, most notably being Mercedes-Benz and Audi. With the 3 Series continued beating of Benz and Audi, other companies decided to start taking shots. Infiniti, Lexus, Cadillac and Jaguar have all taken their shot at dethroning the king with mostly little success. You can argue that the Cadillac ATS is the better car, and it might be a tad sharper, but as an all-rounder, the ATS simply can’t match the breadth of the 3 Series’ ability. However, it seems as if Jaguar, the angry British cat, might have been able to beat BMW at its own game.
Motor Trend posted a video to their regular Head2Head Series, in which they pit two similar cars against each other, of the BMW 335i M Sport taking on the all-new Jaguar XE S. Spoiler Alert: They liked the Jag better. I’m getting this out of the way now because I’m not here to argue their conclusion. In fact, I’m here to beg the question, might BMW actually be beat?
For 2016, Jaguar has developed an entirely new vehicle, based on an all-new aluminum extensive chassis that shares no other nameplates, called the XE. We’ve discussed the XE at length before, and we even saw it at the NYIAS, where it proved to be a better looker than the 3 Series. The Jag XE has a distinct advantage over the 3 Series, in that it’s quite a bit newer. The current F30 3 Series was first launched in 2012, Jaguar has had 3 years to benchmark the F30 when making the XE. Now, I’m not making excuses for BMW, as the 3 Series should last more than 3 years at the top if it wants to sit in the good company of its predecessors. However, the XE shows that Jaguar truly used those 3 years wisely when developing it.
From the spec sheet, the XE looks like a pretty standard Jaguar affair. It’s got the typical Jaguar looks, both inside and out (which is a very good thing), has a typical Jaguar 3.0 Supercharged V6 engine, a typical Jaguar eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox and is rear-wheel drive. But it’s specs are only half of the story. See, Jaguar has used extensive amounts of aluminum, magnesium and other lightweight and exotic materials when developing the chassis. While the XE will probably still be heavier than the 3 Series by a bit, because it seems that Jags just weight more than German cars, it’s lightweight where it counts, like in the front and rear ends, keeping all the weight between the axles and low down. And it’s also heavy where it counts, and that might just be the dagger used to kill the 3 Series.
Allow me to explain. The BMW 3 Series uses a, typical for the segment, McPherson front strut setup and a 5-Link Independent rear suspension setup. This type of setup works very well, is inexpensive, easy to package and lightweight. It’s also essentially the same setup as every other 3 Series competitor. Jaguar, on the other hand, decided to go a completely different route and give the XE Double Front-Wishbone and an Integral Link rear suspension. This is quite a bit heavier than the McPherson/5-Link setup, is more expensive and takes up more space. However, it allows the XE to have superior body control, traction and agility. It mitigates vertical motion in the suspension, creates better grip on corner exit and even creates a more compliant ride. This allows the XE S to actually feel like a superior driver’s car to the already fantastic 335i M Sport. It’s very impressive stuff, actually.
Combine this new-fangled suspension setup with superior looks (sorry, BMW, but the XE has best-in-class looks), more powerful engine and a killer soundtrack and the XE S very well could be the new segment leader. Despite what people may say, I never really felt that the ATS was a better car than the 3 Series and that the 3er’s crown was never really in any danger. However, this new XE has me thinking that it might just have what it takes to crown itself king. I’m crazy anxious to drive it and find out.