Feature

New Volkswagen Arteon vs Jaguar XE

Volkswagen has given the Passat a stylish new outfit to create the Arteon executive car. Can it beat the badge cache of a Jaguar XE, though?

Words ByWhat Car? team

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New Volkswagen Arteon vs Jaguar XE

The contenders

Jaguar XE 20t 200 auto Portfolio

List price Β£31,695

Target Price Β£28,912

Recognised as the best-handling car in the class and has strong badge appeal


Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TSI 190 DSG R-Line

List price Β£34,290

Target Price Β£32,833

VW’s new flagship model puts a suave coupΓ© body over proven Passat mechanicals


When making an entrance, don’t most of us yearn to effect some dash, swagger and panache? So, when it comes to motoring haute couture, you might not dream of a Volkswagen, but is that all about to change?

Say hello to the Arteon. It’s based on the Passat, a fine car but one you might describe as the automotive equivalent of a hardwearing, off-the-peg suit. VW has torn that off and gifted it some Armani evening wear pizzazz. It still has two rear doors, a big boot and sensible engines – in this case, a 2.0-litre petrol with 187bhp – so can the Arteon carry it off?

No need to introduce Jaguar as a builder of elegant cars. The XE is a regular saloon, but it has the badge and swooping lines to stand out, plus a new engine that so happens to be a 2.0-litre petrol with 197bhp. A near-perfect fit, then, so time to pick the belle of the ball.


Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Neither car will give Grandma the willies with its straight-line pace, but both are agreeably brisk, allowing you to hit the motorway or nip past a dawdling Sunday driver without any drama.

The Arteon is quicker when you want it to be, though, building speed with more urgency when you put your foot down. With the XE having the more powerful engine, one can only assume that’s down to its ponderous eight-speed automatic gearbox, which slurs through gears and hesitates when pulling out of junctions and on to roundabouts, leading to the occasional blasphemous outburst. The Arteon’s seven-speed dual-clutch auto ’box is jerkier in stop-start traffic but responds more promptly when pulling away and pings up and down through the gears more energetically.

Both engines transmit a little vibration through to the steering wheel at idle; that disappears when you’re under way in the XE but lingers until around 1500rpm in the Arteon. The engines are relatively hushed when worked harder, but they sound different; the XE’s emits a higher-pitched rasp compared with the Arteon’s more gravelly tone.

At a 70mph cruise, both engines settle into the background, leaving just a bit of wind noise in the XE. The Arteon has a touch less gusty fl utter (its frameless doors were fitted with Β£535 laminated sound-insulating glass) but more road and suspension noise.

Both cars ride well, but the Arteon is more comfortable – in the main. With optional DCC adaptive dampers (Β£820) fitted, it smooths over ripples better than the XE on motorways and irons out patches of broken asphalt more effectively around town. However, the XE is more composed over potholes that the Arteon slams into.

The Passat is a surefooted car around corners, but it’s hardly engaging. Bearing in mind that the same mechanicals underpin the Arteon, there’s been a heck of a transformation. With our car’s suspension in Normal mode (the second of three settings), it tucks into corners neatly with minimal body lean, and the steering is nicely weighted and precise.

That said, if you live for driving pleasure alone, the XE will tickle you pink. You can stroke it along intuitively. It leans a little more, but its steering is more feelsome. And if the road is wet, the XE’s rear-wheel drive layout delivers greater traction under acceleration than the front-wheel-drive Arteon, which scrabbles for grip out of tighter turns.

Next: Behind the wheel >

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