Car review: Executive saloon shootout among BMW 520i, Audi A6 and Jaguar XF

(From left) The Audi A6, BMW 520i and the Jaguar XF. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - A plush mid-sized executive sedan offering space, luxury and a responsive drive is still arguably a tempting proposition despite the rising popularity of sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

While SUVs topped sales for the first time last year, the BMW 520i, Audi A6 and Jaguar XF are proof that sedans still have their place in the sun. But with all three costing around $300,000 in today's certificate of entitlement market, which model deserves your hard-earned dollar?

Size and styling

All three sedans are about the same size.

The A6 is the lightest at 1,605kg, and the shortest in length (4,939mm) and wheelbase (2,924mm). The 520i is the tallest at 1,479mm and heaviest at 1,700kg, with the longest wheelbase at 2,975mm.

The widest car, at 1,982mm, is the XF. Its recent cosmetic tweaks, including "cat-like" headlights, have made it more regal and sleeker.

Cutting an imposing figure is the A6, with the largest grille and crisp lines. The 520i, which has relatively subdued styling, does not wear the somewhat oversized and divisive grille seen in some newer Beemers.

The German sedans wear 18-inch wheels while the Jaguar has 19-inchers. In the stowage department, the Audi and BMW offer a more generous boot space of 530 litres, while the Jag has a 459-litre boot.

The plush A6 impresses with motorised soft-closing doors and a high-tech interior dominated by three screens for digital instruments, infotainment and climate control. It has the roomiest rear section of the three, where occupants enjoy independent climate control and rear sunshades, which are not found in the other two cars.

The Audi A6 does not have USB charging points for rear passengers, only a cigarette lighter socket. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

But strangely, it does not have USB charging points for rear passengers, only a cigarette lighter socket.

In comparison, the 520i's button-heavy cockpit looks a tad dated, but buttons are easier for drivers to operate than touchscreens. It does have a 12.3-inch instrument display and a similarly sized infotainment screen. But it is the only ride here not equipped with a wireless phone-charging cradle, which BMW attributes to the ongoing chip shortage.

The BMW 520i has a 12.3-inch instrument display and a similarly sized infotainment screen. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

A meaty multi-function steering wheel inspires confidence. Overall, the BMW's cosy cockpit remains a favourite among keen drivers.

In the XF, analogue instruments have been replaced with a 12.3-inch digital display, while an 11.4-inch curved infotainment screen dominates the centre stack. Its crisp graphics and slick interface make the system easy to use.

The Jag is the only car here which alerts the driver of possible speed camera locations, but alas, the system on the whole is not as responsive as BMW's.

In the Jaguar XF, analogue instruments have been replaced with a 12.3-inch digital display. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The gearshift knob with "cricket ball" stitching is a nice touch. Sadly, its rear legroom is the tightest of the trio.

Performance and drive

The XF is the most powerful and sportiest, clocking the century sprint in 6.9 seconds - a full second faster than its German rivals. It is planted through the corners and keeps body roll well in check at the expense of some ride comfort.

When pushed hard, its 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder can sound somewhat coarse and its gearbox is not as seamless as the A6's. But steering is lively and eggs you on to take just one more corner and relive your boy-racer days down South Buona Vista Road.

The Audi takes life a bit slower, which allows you to enjoy its sumptuous ride quality and high level of refinement. With the most forgiving damping among the three cars here, the A6 shrugs off the harshest of imperfections on the bitumen. Its smooth-shifting seven-speed gearbox also contributes to its unhurried quality. Nevertheless, overtaking is a breeze with its generous torque of 320Nm.

If you take a road trip up north in the Audi, skip the B-roads and cruise on the highways.

The 520i is quintessential BMW - agile in the corners with creamy power delivery yet comfortable. Even with the lowest power output, the car still feels sprightly, aided by a 48-volt mild hybrid system. It also comes with Goldilocks just-right damping - not too hard or soft - and a well-judged steering.

Curiously, there are no steering-mounted shift paddles, which are instead available as an add-on option.


The Jaguar XF, BMW 520i and the Audi A6 are proof that sedans still have their place in the sun. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Pick the urbane A6 if you value comfort and luxury the most. The Audi's deluxe appointments coupled with its roomy cabin make it an ideal long-distance tourer. However, it does not come with safety features such as blindspot monitor or lane departure warning.

The best handling goes to the Jaguar XF. Its steering weighs up well around corners and never feels tiresome. The brakes are strong, making the car feel like a true sports sedan. But its gearbox is hesitant at slower speeds, taking some sheen off what is otherwise a graceful sedan.

The BMW 520i offers a sweet blend of precise handling and comfort. With its L-shaped headlights and restrained kidney grille, the ride exudes conservative luxury. Its winning formula lies in its understatedness and all-round driveability.

It also proves to be the most frugal, averaging 8.5 litres/100km over 245km. The Audi clocks 9.5 litres/100km over a similar distance, while the XF is the thirstiest at 11 litres/100km over 120km.

Audi A6 sedan 2.0 TFSI

Price: $315,713 with COE
Engine: 1,984cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch with paddle shift
Power: 190hp at 4,200rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,450-4,200rpm
0-100kmh: 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 237kmh
Fuel consumption: 6.2 litres/100km
Agent: Premium Automobiles

BMW 520i executive

Price: $320,888 with COE
Engine: 1,998cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual select
Power: 184hp at 5,000rpm
TORQUE 290Nm at 1,350-4,250rpm
0-100kmh: 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 235kmh
Fuel consumption: 6.1 litres/100km
Agent: Performance Motors

Jaguar XF

Price: $314,999 with COE
Engine: 1,997cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift
Power: 247hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 365Nm at 1,300-4,500rpm
0-100kmh: 6.9 seconds
Top speed: 250kmh
Fuel consumption: 7.3 litres/100km
Agent: Wearnes Automotive

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