Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI 272 quattro SE Executive
List price £51,205
Target Price £43,582
The A7 offers strong performance and stylish looks without the practicality penalities of a saloon
BMW 5 Series 530d M Sport auto
List price £44,275
Target Price £34,223
For many years, the 5 Series has been the definitive large executive car, but it's nearing the end of its life
Jaguar XF 3.0D V6 S
List price £49,850
Target Price £45,806
The newest model here. Does it offer the comfort, refinement and quality buyers expect?
Jaguar has had a busy couple of years, introducing the BMW 3 Series-rivalling XE and its first SUV, the F-Pace. But it was the launch of the original XF in 2007 that paved the way for the brand's revival, and there's now an all-new version of this large executive saloon.
The new XF is actually slightly shorter than its predecessor, yet it provides more room for those on board. And because it's made from aluminium rather than steel there are weight savings and efficiency gains across the range.
To see just how good it is, we're lining it up against Audi's A7 Sportback, which is similarly priced and combines a high-quality interior and eye-catching looks with a convenient hatchback boot.
And the XF also has to beat the BMW 5 Series, which is considerably cheaper, even in range-topping M Sport trim. However, it's nearing the end of it's life, so is it still competitive?
What are they like to drive?
Each of the cars in this test features a powerful 3.0-litre diesel engine, but while the XF's V6 is the most impressive on paper, on our damp test track it was the A7 with its quattro four-wheel-drive system that transferred its power to the road most effectively and posted the best 0-60mph time. That said, all three cars will whisk you from 30-70mph similarly briskly.
There are greater differences in the way they handle. The XF's steering is lighter than the 5 Series', but quicker to respond and every bit as precise, giving it the greater sense of agility. The 5 Series is certainly no slouch, providing an entertaining and unflustered companion along meandering B-roads, but the XF's better body control makes it the most entertaining of the two rear-wheel-drive cars.
Audi's four-wheel-drive system enhances the A7's traction, and it works brilliantly on wet and slippery roads, but it's a shame the car's steering is a little vague around the straight-ahead position.
Our XF test car rode on large, optional (£1200) 20in alloy wheels, but did an impressive job of smoothing out challenging broken surfaces. There's a firmness to the way it rides, sure, but it's compliant enough, never allowing its body to bob about, or the suspension to thump too uncomfortably.
The 5 Series isn't far behind. On its optional (£1230) 19in wheels and lower, stiffer M Sport suspension, though, it doesn't smother bumps quite as effectively as the XF.
Our A7 test car was fitted with optional (£410) sports suspension which, combined with its larger 20in wheels, meant the ride was abrupt over expansion joints and cracked surfaces, sending more of a jolt through the interior than in the other two cars. On this evidence, we would recommend sticking with the standard suspension.
The A7 is pleasingly refined, however; its slippery shape helps minimise wind noise at speed, even if there is still some road noise from its large tyres. It's the 5 Series that's ultimately the quietest, though, keeping engine noise at bay the best, while also shutting out road noise better than the other two cars.
The XF, by contrast, is worst for refinement. There's plenty of road noise from its tyres, and it also transmits the most vibration through the wheel and pedals. On top of that the engine is the noisiest of the three, being especially gruff at low speed.
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