Mercedes E350 CDI vs BMW 530d vs Jaguar XF 3.0 D – war of the titans

The luxury car segment is hounded by car models for the Indian buyers. I am sure that they are spoilt for choices but then with the advent of choices and new brands, the confusion amongst the car buyers only amplifies. Only the other day, I read a news about Shobha Kapoor gifting her daughter Ekta Kapoor a Jaguar. The reason cited was that it was an exclusive brand as it can get. The market is full of BMWs, Audis and Mercedes galore. We at Indiandrives would like to simplify this situation. So we got the Mercedes E350 CDI, the BMW 530d and the Jaguar XF 3.0 D. All diesels and high on the desirability list of Indian luxury car buyers.  The Jaguar been the latest entrant in the luxury car market deserves more than a round of applause for having the guts to stand in front of the formidable Germans. Why we haven’t thought of the Audi A6 is because buyers in this segment usually don’t want to go for the middle route which Audi usually takes. They either love driving or love been chaffered. The BMW and the Mercedes do this the best. Getting all three of these cars in a single frame was a chore but then I think that it is worth the effort. So here is the Mercedes E350 CDI in India taking on the BMW 530d in India as well as the Jaguar XF 3.0 D in India.

Looks

Mercedes E350 CDI : The Mercedes E350 CDI in India has been recently refreshed but then I don’t know if its me or something else. Mercedes designs don’t make me go wow nowadays. It might have to do something with the “familiarity breeds contempt” thing. I have seen Mercedes galore in my area that I don’t feel anything for Mercedes cars. To be fair, the lower stance at the front signifies the car’s sportiness, its 3 pointed star been a luxury icon from yores. The inverted L shaped day time running lamps in place of the fog ones and the 17 inch multi spoke alloy wheels make a style statement of their own. The rear has the biggest tail lamp cluster of this trio and are split by the bulging boot.

BMW 530d : This is also a recently refreshed variant which mixes the 7 series look wrapped in a 3 series package. The twin kidney grilles with the BMW logo on top and 17 inch run flats acctenuate the long wheelbase of the new BMW 530d in India. The rear has the Hofmeinster kink with the large tail lamps been split by the boot. The closely clustered twin tail pipes don’t look too good in face of the competition. I would have preferred a better treatment considering the BMW’s sporty intentions in its design.

Jaguar XF 3.0 D : The Jaguar XF is the oldest of the lot but then the Jaguar XF 3.0 D in India is a new variant. It somehow looks the freshest of the lot. May be has got something to do with my early theory. As the logo suggest, it really looks like a wild cat ready to pounce on unsuspecting onlookers. The slightly raised eyebrow of the head lamp and the mesh cored oval grille do take the design element to the next level. The Mercedes as well as the Jaguar get the fattest section of 17 inch tyres of this trio. The Jaguar also gets a coupe like stance at the back. Cut to the rear and you would notice the twin exhaust system which looks like a sports car. On the road, it was the Jag that bagged the maximum number of stares.

The Jaguar XF 3.0 D wins this round due to the sheer novelty factor of the unseen.

Interiors

Mercedes E350 CDI : The Mercedes E350 CDI gets the similar interiors as any other Merc in the business but then it seems that Mercedes are back to their old days. By this I meant that they are back to making cabins with good build quality. The Mercedes E350 CDI in India gets the basic COMAND system which can only control the Bluetooth and music systems. The Merc’s cabin is also in a dark shade than the others. But then sit on the front seats and you would be flattered to notice that Mercedes pays attention to driver comfort as well. The rear seats, which are usually the talking point of any Mercedes are superbly comfortable. There is enough of legroom, head room as well as shoulder room. Due to the middle hump, it is evident that all these cars in the comparo are strict 4 seaters. Boot space is also the biggest in the Merc at 530 liters.

BMW 530d : After the Mercedes, the BMW seems like it could make do with a few more buttons on the central console. I am just joking. The clutter free cabin of the BMW 530d in India is a welcome relief. For been the sheer virtue of having the BMW DNA in it, the front seats are more comfier than the ones in its German compatriot. It has got the 3rd generation Idrive system which is a joy to use now. The cabin reeks of quality. The rear seat space which was a bit lacking in the earlier version has now been addressed on account of the longer wheelbase. It would actually give the Merc a heart attack with the space. But then one 6 footer behind another would seem to be a tight fit. The BMW has got a boot space of 480 liters.

Jaguar XF 3.0 D : The best cabin I would say only for the same novelty factor present outside. Don’t be alarmed at finding the gear lever missing. Push the start button and the typical Jaguar “Handshake” gear lever whirrs up. Then like a flower blooming, the AC vents also open up. Now, I have got your attention. Don’t worry there are no more gimmicks until night falls. Because then, the cabin would be bathed in a cool blue ambience. Front seat comfort be damned (not that it is behind that of the Germans) but then taking in all this scenery would take up all the time. Moving over to the back seats, they are also comfortable but then not as much as the Merc but somehow better than the BMW. Boot space is at par with BMW but then its loading lip aperture is small.

As regards the comfort factor, it would be the Merc whereas about gimmicks, it would be hands down, the Jaguar. Close one but then I would give it to the Mercedes E350 CDI.

Handling and ride quality

Mercedes E350 CDI : The Mercedes E350 CDI in India comes with Independent MacPherson struts and coil springs in the front whereas the rear boasts of independent multi links with coil springs. This suspension set up provides it with great ride quality no matter what the surface is. Body roll is well contained and vertical movements over bumps is also amply damped. NVH is also very low so much so that you would be fooled in believing that you are in the Mercedes S-class. As far as handling goes, the hydraulically assisted steering wheel feels somewhat artificial and nowhere near its younger sibling, the Mercedes C-class. The big car just flows sublimely into corners rather than attack them with gusto.

BMW 530d : The BMW 530d in India gets Independent double wishbones with antidive whereas the rear also features antidive with anti-squat integral V multi arm axle which is independent in nature. Over the years, the BMW 5 series has been criticized for having a stiff ride but then this time around, in a bid to imitate Mercedes, BMW has offered the car with a softer suspension setup. This makes the car to glide smoothly over pot holes and everything at low speeds whereas at high speed, its good composure comes into play. Still at higher speeds, the sharper bumps do catch it off guard. Handling, unfortunately is down on the previous model. The steering wheel now gets electrical assist and this translates into an artificial feel. It still does one’s bidding to the T and the car is very eager to follow the contours of a curving road. NVH is a bit on the higher side with the diesel becoming a bit gravelly at idle and at very high speeds.

Jaguar XF 3.0 D : The Jaguar XF 3.0 D in India gets its suspension raised a bit to counter the bad road conditions. It gets independent double wishbones with anti-roll bar at the front and back. Its low speed ride quality is also commendable but unlike the BMW but less than the Merc, it has a good highway composure. Handling is not so good and would finish at the bottom of the heap amongst the trio. The electromechanical steering wheel however is the most direct around this lot but then the chassis doesn’t comply with its requests or even threats. The car is very slow to turn into corners and it is best to be done at sedate speeds. NVH is better damped than the BMW with the noise from the twin turbo engine been reduced to minimum inside the cabin.

Mercedes E350 CDI wins this round on the basis of been a perfect all rounder.

Engine, performance and fuel efficiency

Mercedes E350 CDI : The 2987 cc V6 engine in the Mercedes E350 CDI develops 231 Bhp @ 3800 rpm whereas the peak torque of 55 kgm is developed from as low as 1600. It is mated to a 7 speed auto. Since torque comes in at such low speeds, the Mercedes is very easy to drive in traffic. The 0-100 kmph mark was achieved in 7.63 seconds whereas the maximum speed it attained was 250 kmph. The gearbox is silky smooth and does its work efficiently. Brake pedal feel is a bit lacking in the Mercedes but then duties for braking are handled effectively by discs all around with ESP, EBD and ABS playing an important part as well. Safety as always is good for a car this size with 6 airbags, Pre-safe and also Neck-Pro. Pre-safe is a technology wherein the seat-belts eerily nudge towards you once you are seated inside the car. Fuel efficiency is good considering that this Mercedes employs the company’s trademark BlueEfficiency. The E350 gives 7.9 kmpl in the vicinity of the city whereas the open highways allowed it to deliver 13.2 kmpl.

BMW 530d : The 6 cylinder 2993 cc engine doing duties in the BMW 530d in India makes 245 Bhp of peak power @ 4000 rpm whereas the peak torque of 55 kgm kicks in at 1750 rpm. This car is mated to an 8 speed auto transmission. It has got the best acceleration figures with 0-100 kmph coming up in only 6.46 seconds whereas the top speed is in the vicinity of 253 kmph. Turn the BMW to manual mode and the gear shifts are bound to disappoint the enthusiasts. It is reluctant to downshift. That saying, it is best to leave it at auto mode where the closely packed gear ratios iron out the peaky power delivery. Braking power is superb and with discs all around helped by ABS, ESP and EBD, the pedal feel is also good. One more thing is that BMW uses its patent EfficientDynamics to power the batteries using regenerative braking system. Safety is taken care by the 6 air bags, 3 point seat belts and active head rests. Fuel efficiency is good due to the 8 speed gearbox. The 530d returned 8.1 kmpl in the city whereas on the highway, it turned in a shade under 14 kmpl.

Jaguar XF 3.0 D : The Jaguar XF 3.0 D in India gets a V6 engine with the cubic capacity as 2993 cc. This particular engine uses twin turbos to eliminate turbo lag. Its peak power output is 274 Bhp @ 4000 rpm whereas the torque of 61 kgm is delivered at 2000 rpm. It however gets only a 6 speed auto. The transmission just like the engine is like a knife cutting through hot butter. At low revs, the car would be purring but then up the ante and it starts roaring (most of that rear isn’t audible inside the cabin though). It shoots from 0-100 kmph in only 7.34 seconds whereas the top speed that it can climb up is 250 kmph. Just like the BMW, the brake feel is very good. The braking package includes all around discs with EBD, ESP and ABS. Safety package is also the same like the BMW with 6 air bags and seat belts with pretensioners. Fuel efficiency is a bit of a letdown in comparison with the others with figures of 7.4 kmpl in city and 12.6 kmpl on the highway.

BMW 530d wins this round purely due to the 8 speed gearbox, safety features and supreme fuel efficiency.

Verdict

Deciding amongst luxury sedans is a big task especially considering that they are all in the upper echelons as far as value for money comes. To go by the results purely, it would be the Merc which would come out trumps followed closely by the Jag and BMW. But then not everything is crystal clear. The Jaguar is the one which is to be brought by heart and not mind. It is like one of those dumb blondes that one would desire as an object of envy with no intention to own. It has got the styling, funky interiors and sweet engine. Downsides are the lack of head room in a luxury sedan, after sales and not so good handling. Next in line is the BMW 530d. It has got a scaled down 7 series look, high quality interiors, excellent handling and best of all, fuel efficiency. Negatives are the still not so good rear seats and not so enthusiastic gearbox. The winner, the Mercedes E350 CDI has got the stately looks, well put together interiors, back seat comfort as well as perfect combo of ride and handling. Negatives are that the engine lacks fire and loss of novelty factor. Pricing may play an important part for buyers in this spectrum and so here are the prices. The Jaguar XF 3.0 D price in India starts at Rs 48.50 lakhs, the Mercedes E350 CDI price in India starts at Rs 49.43 lakhs whereas the BMW 530d price in India is Rs 45.90 lakhs which is the cheapest. All these prices are ex-show room, Delhi.

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