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The three newest compact executive sedans in the market look to make their case for being the smart buyer's choice.

05 Nov 2020


Buyers in the compact executive sedan segment have never been more spoilt for choice. With at least eight different choices, trying to figure out which is best couldn't be more difficult.

But, we're having a go anyway, pitting the three newest entries to the market - the recently facelifted Audi A4, the facelifted Jaguar XE, and the new-but-not-as-new Volvo S60.

Look and feel

These are the three newest offerings within a highly competitive segment
When it comes to exterior design, it's hard to deny that the S60 sports the most handsome, interesting and progressive looking design. It looks sturdy and muscular, with its squarish design accentuating the car's overall size and girth.

The Jaguar also sports a rather muscular design that exudes a sense of motion. And, if you close your eyes and imagine what a 'typical' compact executive sedan to look like, the image you conjure up won't be far off from what the A4 looks like. Its relatively modest and more traditional design will appeal to buyers that don't want to rock the sartorial boat.

Easy win here for the S60 (and it's not even that close).

Luxury within

The Audi's infotainment interface is the most accessible and simple to use
The interiors of the three different cars share certain similarities - they all feel expectedly premium and high quality, all have fully digital dashboards, and all have infotainment systems that are operated solely via the touchscreen.

Differences also abound. The XE is distinct from the other two for having a much more substantial and heavier-feeling cabin - it's more cocoon-like, and there's also a more complex-looking centre console. It's got more gizmos, including the ClearSight rear view mirror and wireless phone charging. It's also the only car with an auto tailgate.

The S60 impresses with the overall sensation of lightness and airiness, helped significantly by the sunroof. With its clean, sleek, vertically-aligned Scandinavian interior design, it's a pleasant and comfortable place to be in.

The Jaguar's cabin delivers a sense of heft and weightiness 
It's also the most spacious, with more legroom in the rear compared to the other two. And, it has the most plush, comfortable seats. Notably, the S60 is the only one with a more 'traditional' gear lever, where the gear selector actually shifts into distinct and different positions for Park, Reverse, Drive and so on. 

The Audi is a familiar space. It has the cleanest and easiest to operate infotainment interface, the simplest air-con controls, and a clinically well-rounded interior. It also has the largest boot, at 460 litres. Of note, I found the Audi's touchscreen the most difficult to operate while on the move - while driving, I found it just beyond one arm's reach, and I had to lean forward slightly to press the screen (maybe I just have short arms). The other two are more ergonomically convenient to operate.

As far as the interiors go, it really comes down to preference.

The cool pull

With the ability to coast with the engine shut off, the Audi can deliver superior fuel efficiency
And out on the road? The experiences are similar. These are all cars that deliver a measured balance of comfort and sporty dynamism.

All three cars are powered by 2.0-litre engines, but power outputs are different. The XE, with 247bhp and 365Nm of torque, accelerates hardest once you overcome the turbo lag. The engine note isn't great when pushed hard, and it also has the busiest ride of the three. The rear-wheel drive setup does mean that it has the most alert and sharpest front end, though not by much.

The A4 packs 188bhp and 320Nm of torque, and the engine uses mild hybrid technology to deliver improved fuel economy (about 2km/L more than the other two). While it may be down on power, it doesn't feel notably slower at light loads. The car is also light on its feet, and is the easiest to manoeuvre as it feels like the car with the smallest footprint. The overall drive is smooth, comfortable and thoroughly effortless. 

The Volvo possesses the smoothest and most refined engine 
The S60, on the other hand, delivers the creamiest overall drive. The 2.0-litre engine, with 251bhp and 350Nm of torque, is buttery smooth. The all-wheel drive setup does mean the car feels heavier and will have poorer fuel economy, and the car does feel longer and bigger than the other two. But, it delivers a level of overall refinement and comfort that's very impressive.

It's close, but we reckon the A4 and S60 set themselves slightly apart from the XE in terms of the driving experience.

Tough choices

The Jaguar packs ample equipment, including the useful ClearSight rear view mirror
So, which is the best compact executive sedan of the three? There isn't a simple answer here, because all three cars deliver different experiences that will appeal to different crowds.

Overall, the XE has the greatest sense of heft and substance. It has a slightly more old-fashioned take on luxury (cocooning cabin, slight equipment overload), and we reckon will appeal to a slightly older crowd.

The A4 is a more middle of the road option. It's a little on the plain side as far as design and equipment goes, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Audi delivers a sense of overall competence, high build quality and long-term assurance that the other two cannot immediately do. In many ways, it's the safe, dependable choice.

All three cars will cater to buyers of distinct profiles
The S60 is probably a younger, more avant garde choice. The exterior design is bold and eye-catching. The cabin is decidedly sleek and minimalist, though that aesthetic may not be to everyone's taste, and who knows if it'll age well over time. And the drive is quite impressive, though we did wish it didn't have four-wheel drive.

Price-wise, the A4's $192,490 pricetag and the S60 T5's $194,000 pricetag are pretty much on par. This R-Dynamic variant of the XE is priced at $206,999, but you can have the standard variant for $194,999 (prices as of 21 October 2020).

For my money, I'd have the S60 over the A4 by a hair. But then, I'm probably the sort of young, slightly more adventurous individual that the S60 will naturally appeal to. The A4 feels like the safer, more traditional choice. The XE falls slightly behind the other two.

Facelift articles

A timely upgrade for the Audi A4

19 Aug 2020

With a refreshed design, new cabin equipment and a mild-hybrid drivetrain, the updated Audi A4 takes key steps to keep it abreast of the competit...
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Car Information

spacer
Audi A4 Sedan Mild Hybrid 2.0 TFSI S tronic Advanced (A)
Rate it
Promotion
There's a promotion for Audi A4 Sedan Mild Hybrid

Price

: $192,490

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1984cc

Horsepower

:

140kW (188 bhp) / 6000 rpm

Torque

:

320 Nm / 4200 rpm

Transmission

:

7-speed (A) S tronic

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

7.3sec

Top Speed

:

240km/h

Fuel consumption

:

15.9 km/L

spacer
Promotion
There's a promotion for Jaguar XE

Price

: $206,999

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1997cc

Horsepower

:

184kW (247 bhp) / 5500 rpm

Torque

:

365 Nm / 4500 rpm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A) Jaguar Sequential Shift

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

6.5sec

Top Speed

:

250km/h

Fuel consumption

:

13.9 km/L

spacer
Promotion
There's a promotion for Volvo S60

Price

: $194,000

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1969cc

Horsepower

:

187kW (251 bhp) / 5500 rpm

Torque

:

350 Nm / 4800 rpm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A)

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

6.4sec

Top Speed

:

240km/h

Fuel consumption

:

13.7 km/L

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comparison  audi a4  a4  volvo s60  s60  jaguar xe  xe