BMW’s 3 Series has lost a bit of its luster. The previously undisputed king of the executive sports car segment is more vulnerable than ever before. With new competitors from Cadillac, Jaguar and Alfa Romeo, the BMW 3 Series can now be challenged as to whether or not it’s still the king. So Road & Track put the best non-M variant of the 3 Series, the 340i, up against its most fierce rival, the Jaguar XE.
In Bavaria’s corner, the BMW 340i M Sport packs a 3.0 liter turbocharged I6 engine (dubbed B58) that makes 320 hp and is paired with a six-speed manual, powering just the rear wheels. So it’s basically the perfect variant of the 3 Series: I6 engine? Check. Rear-wheel drive? Check. Manual gearbox? Double check.
Fighting for Britain is the Jagaur XE 35t AWD R-Sport. That means it has a 340 hp 3.0 liter supercharged V6, an eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive. It’s currently the fastest variant of the Jaguar XE in America and the XE is considered to be the only car capable of taking down the 3 Series. So, this is a seriously good car.
In terms of looks, the Jaguar XE is definitely the more better looking car. While the 340i is a handsome car, especially with the M Sport package, the Jag is downright sexy. It looks far better on the inside too, with a much more interesting and premium looking design. However, the 340i’s cabin is more ergonomic, packed with far better technology and made with better materials. The BMW 340i is clearly an exercise in substance over style and the Jag leans more in the opposite direction.
But where it really matters is in how these two cars drive. Much has been said about the impressive driving dynamics of the new Jaguar XE and deservedly so. It’s a sensational sport sedan with best-in-class steering and really sharp handling. However, the XE is an entirely brand-new model, a fresh effort. So it doesn’t have the dynamic refinement of the BMW 340i.
Whereas the Jaguar is exciting and fun but can be a bit nervous, the 340i is also exciting and fun but completely buttoned down. The two R&T drivers took both cars down many twisty back roads of New York State (whose roads are incredibly underrated, by the way) and both found the 340i to be the far more confidence inspiring car. It’s sharp and easy to throw around with superb chassis dynamics and a suspension that feels planted even over harsh and uneven tarmac. In the Jag, it’s just as fun, but feels considerably wider and more difficult to place on narrow roads. Its chassis was also more upset by sloppy pavement, causing hesitation from the drivers to push it, whereas the BMW took the same roads with confidence and ease.
In the end, the BMW 340i is the winner of the test. While it didn’t have the exciting styling or pure steering feel of the Jaguar, it was simply better at everything else. It’s the experienced veteran to the young-buck Jaguar. While the Jaguar XE is a superb sport sedan, one that anyone would absolutely adore if owned, it needs some time to mature and grow up. Great first effort, but the old dog still has enough tricks to beat the rookie.[Source: Road & Track]