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Used test: Jaguar XE vs Volkswagen Arteon
Buy either of these two suave executive cars used and you'll save a packet on the cost of a new one, but should you go Jaguar or Volkswagen? We have the answer...
Jaguar XE 2.0t 200 Portfolio auto
List price when new £31,695
Price today £20,000*
Available from 2015-present
Still recognised as one of the best handling cars in the class and has strong badge appeal.
Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TSI 190 DSG R-Line
List price when new £34,290
Price today £21,000*
Available from 2017-present
VW’s take on the executive car puts a suave coupé body over proven Passat mechanicals.
*Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at the time of writing
Years ago, executive cars could be rather leaden-looking things, bereft of style and designed only to complete the tasks such buyers asked of them. Times move on, luckily, and today's executive express is just as likely to make styling a high priority as cars belonging to other more obviously fashion-led classes, such as SUVs and the like.
Jaguar has long recognised the importance of making cars that look desirable. The XE even predates the Arteon by two years, having been launched in 2015, and although it may well be to all intents and purposes a regular compact executive saloon it's always looked good enough to eat.
But beauty is more than skin-deep. A good executive car must still fulfil all the other functions a buyer expects.
Here, we're pitching the Arteon against the XE, and just to make it really interesting both cars are used - buy either of them at around four years old you'll save yourself enough on the price of a new one to buy a new Dacia Duster to run around in.
Both cars tested here come with 2.0-litre petrol engines, and both cost roughly the same to buy. But which one will cut more of a dash on your driveway? Read on to find out.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Neither car will set the Tarmac alight for its straight-line pace, but both are agreeably brisk, allowing you to hit the motorway or nip past a dawdling 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 flutter but more road and suspension noise.
Both cars ride well, but the Arteon is more comfortable – in the main. With the optional from new DCC adaptive dampers fitted, it smooths over motorway ripples better than the XE and irons out patches of broken asphalt around town more effectively. 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 its 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.
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