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Used test: BMW 5 Series vs Jaguar XF

Two luxury saloons with a sporting bent, but can the Jaguar XF cut it against the BMW 5 Series when you're buying used? Read on to find out...

Used test: BMW 5 Series vs Jaguar XF

The Contenders

BMW 5 Series 530d xDrive M Sport

  • List price when new £49,265
  • Price today £31,000
  • Available from 2017-present

The 520d might win all the plaudits for its economy, but the 530d is a super-quick executive express, and well worth a look

Jaguar XF 3.0 V6 Diesel S

  • List price when new £49,995
  • Price today £28,000
  • Available from 2015-present

Can the Jag's agile handling and sporting pretensions win buyers over from the BMW's sophisticated charms?

*Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

If you’re in the market for a luxury saloon and you’ve decided that used is the way to go, then many people will consider quite rightly that the BMW 520d is the best 2.0-litre diesel car you can buy. It’s classy and competent, and bought this way you’ll save quite a bit of dosh over a new one.

But what if you’re looking for a bit more oomph? Well, for a small premium, the 530d packs a 3.0-litre engine with an extra couple of cylinders (six in total) to give it crushing pace combined with surprisingly reasonable running costs.

It sounds very compelling, but if you’re looking for a fast diesel saloon, would Jaguar’s V6 diesel XF be an even better used buy? With its almost sports car-like handling and potent engine, could a two-year-old example of this creamiest of big cats actually be a match for its German rival? Read on to find out.

BMW 5 Series

What are they like to drive?

New, for the price of a V6 diesel XF, you could have had a 530d with optional four-wheel drive (xDrive). This helps make the car less of a handful than the standard rear-wheel-drive version in slippery conditions, and it’s on the car we’re testing here.

This extra traction largely explains why the 5 Series was faster away from the mark in our tests. Plant your right foot and it surges to 30mph with no drama at all, whereas the rear-wheel-drive-only XF tends to spin its rear wheels as it struggles to transfer its power to the road – especially in the damp. Once you’re on the move, though, both saloons accelerate similarly briskly, so only a gentle squeeze of your right foot is needed to blast past slower-moving traffic.

Chances are you’ll want your luxury car to pamper you rather than goading you to drive faster all the time. But when a snaking stretch of empty road does open up in front of you, the XF will definitely put the bigger smile on your face.

Its steering is quick, precise and sends plenty of feel to your fingers, while the nose responds instantly to even the tiniest steering inputs.

Jaguar XF

The 5 Series feels bigger and altogether more grown-up. It doesn’t react as eagerly when you turn the wheel – even if you find a car that’s had the integral active steering option added, a feature that allows the rear wheels to turn slightly to improve agility. The 5 Series never involves you in the experience of going round corners quite as well as the XF, but its steering is far from numb.

What’s more, the 5 Series can actually corner at faster speeds than the XF, because it grips the road better. It feels more planted at high speeds when going in a straight line, too, and isolates you far better from engine, wind and road noise. These are all things you’ll really appreciate if you do lots of motorway miles, because it means you’ll always arrive at your destination feeling more relaxed.

Ride comfort is arguably the most important trait of a luxury car, and the 5 Series doesn’t disappoint. True, our test car benefited from yet another option – the Variable Damper Control suspension – but with this, it rides the worst of British roads like it’s floating on a magic carpet, smothering potholes and staying beautifully controlled on the motorway. The XF is by no means uncomfortable, but you feel more of the bumps when driving over them, no matter what the speed.

Next: What are they like inside? >

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