More from Motoring

The unnatural silence was interrupted by the rustle of some leaves, which made a snoozing cat leap up and scramble once he had a glimpse of my silhouette. I’d been waiting for this. The chance to get a clean run in the BMW, that is, not getting a cat startled. Right from the beginning I had a feeling the 3 Series had a little something extra over the other two in this story, but I needed more than just a hurried run in traffic to find out whether I was right. The sad truth of the matter is that in our need to plug our wants and desires, we’ve clogged up our roads with cars worse than someone with arterial plaque chowing down his fifth big Mac. The upshot is that, despite what most might have you believe, well-paved roads are 
slowly becoming more of 
a common sight.

BMW’s sent over a 320d M Sport, and standing there in white in the dead of the night it seemed perfect: Hunkered down — slammed almost — and sitting on a lovely set of 18-inch wheels. There’s a certain attachment I’ve always held for cars that hold the ‘Underdog’ tag close to their chest, and somehow I’ve always seen the 3 in that light. As I guide it out silently, taking in the functional layout of the place I’m sitting in, I can’t help but admire the sense of simplicity that BMW’s employed here.

BMW 3 Series (2)

You wouldn’t be taken seriously were you to describe the cabin of a 3 Series as jarring and quirky. Everything has its space and it fits in just right. What happened to cabins like this one? Wanting to outdo one another in the name of having a luxurious place to sit is fine, but simplicity as a mantra seems to be a dying concept. Even BMW’s iDrive system, which has drawn a bit of flak every now and then, seemed easy to navigate via the 8-inch screen, and 
it’s rather well laid-out, I should add.

BMW 3 Series (5)
I wasn’t in the mood to waste any time. I was in the mood to make friends with the 3. Three quick taps on the button to the right of the gearlever got me in Sport+, the equivalent of transforming your car into an embodiment of Danny Bhoy, because the 3 turns into a laugh riot thereon.

More from Motoring

Before continuing, though, I must pause and add a few details. The thing I love about the 3 is that its vital stats mirror just how much fun you can have on the road with it. You get all of 188 bhp and 40.7 kgm going to the right set of wheels, and it’s made to be extremely accessible thanks to a gem of a ZF 8-speed ‘box.

BMW 3 Series (3)

Bonds develop thanks to an exchange of experiences and a certain attachment, and this BMW has a peculiar way of setting them up. The 3 and I were set the moment it powerslid around a corner unintentionally. The handshake could have been a bit more firm and weighty but for most drivers this steering will work just fine. It has this marvelous sense of being right there in the moment when you’re pushing the car hard into a corner or going irrationally fast up or down the gearbox via the paddles which, by the way, respond astonishingly quick to your inputs.

BMW 3 Series (4)

There’s a sense that you’re one with the car when you’re driving it, as though you’re both progressing toward the same goal, the same end point. That end point will show up bloody well fast, too, if you pin the accelerator, because the revs pile on so effortlessly. It’s not an assault on your neck muscles — nothing as unfriendly as that. The 3 goes about its business with a serene ease that’s hard to mimic, and that, I feel, is the best way to describe how it gathers pace and goes around corners. There’s never an iffy moment while driving it, and in the right hands, you could shame some much faster 
cars around you.

Jaguar XE BMW 3 series

With the XE parked right next to the 3, I could tell that Jaguar’s gotten something very right with the styling. Sure, the family look is obvious with the way the headlights, tail-lights and the silhouette are shaped, but viewed in isolation it’s a sleek and well-thought out execution. It doesn’t have the 3’s menacing, hunkered down look, but you’ll definitely get eyeballed a lot more, especially at night with those gorgeously detailed LEDs. The differences between the 3 and the XE become more apparent once you get into the driver’s seat, and in a sense that could work in Jag’s favour.

Jaguar XE (1)

The cabin, oddly enough, feels better put together, and the quality of all the switchgear feels absolutely top notch. Whoever Jaguar’s employed to work on its cars’ interiors needs a big raise, because it’s just such a nice place to be in. Simple, clean lines, everything’s laid out well, the instrument binnacle’s borrowed from the F-Type so that’s always a good thing if you’ve driven that hilarity on wheels, and you can set your seat up to find just the right driving position.

If I had to pick out some bad bits, the Meridian touchscreen could be a bit more responsive, and the rear seat could do with a lot more legroom. Even the 3 has so much more space in comparison, which is a pretty big sore point considering quite a few who pick up cars in this segment like lounging around at the back.

Jaguar XE (4)

Where the XE makes up is on the move. The one we got, the 25t 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol, makes 238 bhp and 34.6 kgm. There’s also a lower-spec ‘20t’ Pure trim that puts out 198 bhp, and Jag will bring in its ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre turbodiesel a little later. And just like the 320d, the 25t sends all its power to the right set of wheels (unlike its predecessor, the X-Type), which always gets me in a better mood. Understandably, the XE is a bit down on torque compared to the 3, but it doesn’t translate on the move. It’s a really quick car, the XE, and while we didn’t get a chance to test it in its entirety, Jaguar says it’ll crack 100 kph in 6.8 seconds, which is 0.4 seconds faster than BMW’s claimed figure for the diesel 3. The best bit? The XE gets Jaguar’s first ever electric steering, which is just a delight when you’re chucking the car around. There’s an ample amount of feel and response, which just makes the entire process of driving a pleasure. And the aspect that adds to that pleasure significantly is the fact that the XE uses Jag’s aluminium intensive chassis, which is a segment first. There’s a hitch, though. Where the 3 revels in blurring your immediate surroundings, the XE would prefer a cup of tea while at it. How very British of Jaguar, eh?

Jaguar XE (3)

Allow me to clarify myself beyond doubt here, though: The Jaguar XE is a fun-to-drive, enjoyable car that’ll do most of what you ask it to. Attack corners hard? Sure! Kick the tail out while you’re at it? Why not? Brake hard and with measurable confidence? Absolutely. It’s just the last 10 percent; that’s where it’s found a bit lacking. I think I wouldn’t be wrong in attributing this to two key aspects: the gearbox and the car’s weight.

Jaguar XE (2)

The ZF 8-speed auto ‘box is just fine for the most part, but when you switch it to Dynamic mode, switch traction control off and go absolutely berserk with the throttle and brake pedals, it feels like the XE is getting out of its comfort zone. The weight comes into play here, too: The Jaguar is a fair bit heavier than the BMW, and you can feel it shifting its weight around uncomfortably when you’re pushing the car hard. And this is despite it employing a trick integral link at the rear and double wishbone suspension at the front that allows for greater stiffness without compromising on comfort. Where the 3 goads you on and makes you laugh along with it at the edge, the XE is silently wondering when this episode will end so it can get back to its cuppa. It’s the friend you drag along to a party who’s not entirely into it but will go and have a good time just to keep you happy. It’s not the best analogy, but I think it drives the point home well enough.

Jaguar XE Mercedes C-Class

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, meanwhile, has as much, if not more, going for it as the other two here. For starters, a lot of people believe that the C is the best looker of the lot here, and I concur. It’s a baby S-Class (and now a smaller E-Class as well), and that’s no bad thing. Smooth, curvy lines dominate the body, and it’s a well-rounded execution that’s easy on the eyes. A lot of people will be swayed by the cabin, too, which is exceptionally well built and luxurious. Of the lot, I’d say it has the cabin that will appeal the most to potential customers.

Mercedes C-Class (3)

In the version we have here, the C200 petrol makes 181 bhp and 30.5 kgm, which is a bit down on the other two and it shows on the move as well. The 7G-Tronic auto ‘box isn’t the fastest transmission around, and you really need to push the car hard for it to start feeling even a bit alive. I’d be tempted to conclude that the C-Class feels so much more at home at sedate speeds, but then it manages to get unsettled by bumps that the other two would take with relative ease.

Mercedes C-Class (4)

Is the C sorely lacking somewhere? I wouldn’t be that dismissive. It’s a solid car, and there’s a reason why it sells in the numbers it does. The appeal is there for everyone to see. It’s just that if you’re looking for a car that manages duality as well as the other two here, you’d be left wanting. I’m not implying that the 3 and the XE are built specifically for use in traffic, but the way they go about their business is a lot more convincing than the C.

Mercedes C-Class (2)

Even around bends, the C feels hesitant, reluctant almost and that’s probably because it rides so much higher than the other two. It’s a huge departure from its monstrous elder brother, the C63, which sort of behaves like it lives on a diet of the Eau Rouge for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Jaguar XE Mercedes C-Class BMW 3 Series (1)

What, then, is to be made of these three? If the story hasn’t made it plenty clear already, then here’s what you should be looking for while considering one of these three. The BMW, the Jaguar and the Mercedes are all very thoroughly thought-out cars. They will all do justice to the amount of money you spend, and they’ll all keep you happy. The C-Class will keep you in the limelight thanks to its looks, its features, and that sumptuous cabin. If it’s a fun drive you’re after, and if you know you’re going to be the one doing the driving, then you’d be better off with an XE, because it handles itself so much better (pun intended) when things get a bit hard around the corners. To keep you company, you’ll have a lovely car to look at and a nice cabin to sit in, unless you’re in the back seat, in which case you’d be better off hacking a portion of your limbs off.

BMW 3 Series (1)

But if you absolutely must do things the right way, and I insist on this because it will bring you the biggest smile of all three, then binge a little and buy the fantastic 3 Series. It looks the part, especially in the M Sport trim with all those extra bits and bobs, even though it’s a few lakh rupees more than the second-from-the-top Luxury Line trim, and the best bit is that it drives like it’s possessed. It’s a classic case of the one that brings you the most with the least. My gut feel was right: It is the 3 that has just that little bit extra. Just don’t overcook that powerslide and end up in a wall, will you? That’ll be a damn shame…

AUTODATA
Jaguar XE

POWERTRAIN
Displacement: 1999cc, i-4, turbopetrol
Max power: 237 bhp@5500 rpm
Max torque: 34.6 kgm@2000-4000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed auto

STEERING
Type: Electric power steering, rack and pinion

SUSPENSION
(F/R): Independent, McPherson struts/coil springs

BRAKES
(F/R): Ventilated discs

TYRES
(F/R): 255/55 R17

DIMENSIONS
L/W/H (mm): 4795/2075/1416
Wheelbase: 2835mm
Kerb weight: 1547 kg

PERFORMANCE
0-100 kph: 6.8 secs (claimed)
Top speed: 250 kph (claimed)

PRICE: Rs 39.9-46.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

 

Mercedes-Benz C200

POWERTRAIN
Displacement: 1991cc, i-4, turbopetrol
Max power: 181 bhp@5500 rpm
Max torque: 30.5 kgm@1200-1400 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed auto

STEERING
Type: Electric power steering, rack and pinion

SUSPENSION
(F/R): Independent, McPherson struts/coil springs

BRAKES
(F/R): Ventilated discs

TYRES
(F/R): 225/50 R17

DIMENSIONS
L/W/H (mm): 4686/1810/1442
Wheelbase: 2840mm
Kerb weight: 1545 kg

PERFORMANCE
0-100 kph: 7.3 secs (claimed)
Top speed: 235 kph (claimed)

PRICE: Rs 38.90 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

 

BMW 320d

POWERTRAIN
Displacement: 1995cc, i-4, turbodiesel
Max power: 188 bhp@4000 rpm
Max torque: 40.7 kgm@1750-2500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed auto

STEERING
Type: Electric power steering, rack and pinion

SUSPENSION
(F/R): Independent, McPherson struts/coil springs

BRAKES
(F/R): Ventilated discs

TYRES
(F/R): 225/45 R18

DIMENSIONS
L/W/H (mm): 4633/1811/1429
Wheelbase: 2810mm
Kerb weight: 1430 kg

PERFORMANCE
0-100 kph: 7.2 secs (claimed)
Top speed: 230 kph (claimed)

PRICE: Rs 35.9-44.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)