A posh executive estate for the price of a new Ford Focus… but which is best?
If you’ve just scraped together enough cash to consider a brand-new Ford Focus, hold on: you could be driving one of these three big executive estate cars instead. OK, they are secondhand models dating back to 2012 rather than being all-new, but, seriously, what would you still rather be in – a Ford, or an Audi, BMW or Jaguar?
They all offer tremendous value for money. The Audi A6 Avant has a powerful 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 engine with quattro all-wheel drive. The Jaguar XF Sportbrake is a punchy 2.2-litre, and the BMW 5 Series Touring a swift 2.0-litre; all three have an automatic transmission and they’ve all got the worst of their depreciation behind them so they’ll lose less than the Focus from this point on. Yes, you’re tempted…
BMW 520d Touring SE auto
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
List price when new: £34,080
Price today: £16,000
Torque: 280lb ft
Top speed: 130mph
Fuel economy: 57.6mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 129g/km
These are fine cars to drive. The Jaguar glides along at speed, and handles extremely precisely. Its ride is a bit firm at low speed, though, and the automatic gearbox doesn’t slur gears as smoothly as the best automatics. Its engine is more clattery too – which isn’t a failing the smooth BMW suffers. Mind you, only 5 Series Touring with the optional Variable Damper Control system handle with the sharpness you’d expect of a BMW – and they’re a rare find on the used market.
The Audi has a firmer ride than the BMW but, like the Jaguar, it too settles down well on the move, and it handles pretty well on all bit the twistiest of roads. Its big six-cylinder engine is more relaxing than the four-cylinder units in the other two, but we wish its automatic gearbox were a bit sharper – and the stop-start system takes too long to fire the engine back up at traffic lights.
Audi A6 Avant 3.0 TDI 204 SE Multitronic
Engine: 3.0-litre diesel
List price when new: £38,085
Price today: £17,000
Torque: 295lb ft
Top speed: 135mph
Fuel economy: 54.3mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 136g/km
Step inside and the Jaguar initially appeals. The rotary gearlever that rises from the centre console and pulsing starter button are all exciting. But the seats are thinly padded and plastics in the boot are cheap: both the BMW and Audi are both better quality and much more sophisticated, particularly with their next-generation infotainment systems.
The Audi has the biggest boot, but can’t make the best use of it as it doesn’t have self-levelling rear suspension, and the tailgate is an awkward shape. The same can be said for the Jaguar, although it does have a handy powered bootlid. Overall, the BMW’s boot is the most practically-shaped, its split tailgate is useful and the self-closing load cover a clever touch.
Jaguar XF Sportbrake 2.2D 200 Luxury
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel
List price when new: £36,440
Price today: £17,000
Torque: 332lb ft
Top speed: 129mph
Fuel economy: 52.0mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 135g/km
In terms of pricing, the BMW’s popularity means it’s the cheapest on the secondhand market, with around a £1000 used price advantage over the others. It’s also easily the most fuel efficient, and thus the cheapest to tax, although it is also the most expensive to service – the cheapest here is the Jaguar. The brand also fares the best in the most recent JD Power Dependability Survey, whereas Audi and BMW finished third and fourth from last.
Which is our pick? Emotionally, it’s the Jaguar. It’s stylish outside and in, nice to drive and generally feels special. Scratch below the surface, though, and the chinks start to show. It’s the least efficient car here as well, all of which relegate it to last place here. The Audi scores more highly thanks to its better quality and smoother engine. If only the Audi’s rear screen were better shaped, and its handling more polished.
Which leaves the BMW 5 Series Touring in first place. It may not be as classy as the XF Sportbrake on the outside and the A6 Avant on the inside, but it’s otherwise a class act, with fine driving manners, loads of comfort and refinement, a smooth engine, practical boot and low running costs. It’s the cheapest car to buy here as well. Ford Focus drivers will feel like they’ve won the lottery.