Alfa Romeo Giulia Super v Jaguar XE 25t R-Sport v BMW 420i Gran Coupe comparison

The most hyped Alfa Romeo in decades takes on the updated 4 Series Gran Coupe and our reigning champ, the Jaguar XE, for mid-spec luxury sedan supremacy

Alfa Romeo Giulia Super v Jaguar XE 25t R-Sport v BMW 420i Gran Coupe comparison

ALFA Romeo has a winner on its hands. Not only is the all-new Giulia the most hyped Alfa sedan in decades, but in flagship QV guise, it’s a giant-killer too, having recently stunned its lauded rivals from AMG and BMW M in our latest sports sedan showdown.

But how does Alfa’s billion Euro baby fare without the beefed-up Quadrifoglio dressing? Can it really be just as impressive in run-of-the-mill Super guise? In many ways this battle is the real test of the Giulia’s mettle – while range-topping flagships are important, it’s the mid-spec variants in the $60-70K bracket that gobble up the bulk of sales in the tightly fought mid-size luxury category.

Our reigning champ in this segment is the Jaguar XE 25t, found here in handsome R-Sport guise it can be rolled off the showroom floor for $68,900. However, our test car cost $87,590 with a slew of options fitted. The XE is a 2016 Car of the Year finalist, and a class leader, praised for its chassis balance, ride refinement, and selection of perky engines. With optional adaptive dampers (costing $1,910), it is able to provide both smooth refinement, and sporty aggression at the flick of a button.

The odd-ball in this fight is the 4 Series, with the freshly updated four-door lift-back Gran Coupe subbing in for its older 3 Series sibling. Sporting a $69,900 sticker price, a mid-life facelift brought new LED lighting, some minor exterior tweaks, a new iDrive infotainment system, and revised (read firmer) suspension tuning. As tested, with optional sunroof, metallic paint and comfort access system, it costs $74,481.

Interestingly, every car in this trio follows the same drivetrain recipe: a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot up front, eight-speed automatic gearbox and rear-wheel drive.

However, it’s the Alfa that wins in the value stakes. With a $64,195 base price, it brings more equipment as standard than its rivals; heated seats and steering wheel, leather instrument panel and seats, active cruise control, lane departure warning and AEB are all included. The BMW lacks active cruise as standard, while the Jaguar requires extensive box-ticking to match the Italian and German pair.

As tested, the Alfa remained the cheapest at $70,395.

The Alfa lands the first dynamic blow too. On the winding roads outside Melbourne, the Alfa feels light on its feet, and eager to attack corners. When the road starts to snake its way into the distance, the Giulia creeps under your skin and urges you to give it a little more. The car encourages, and rewards, an enthusiastic driver.

The Giulia Super’s 2.0-litre turbo engine is a perky little unit. It doesn’t have the same ‘designed by Ferrari’ PR hype as the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 from the QV, but it revs happily, and is torquey throughout the rev range. It will easily cruise in relative quiet on the highway, and in-gear acceleration doesn’t leave you wanting for more.

The steering is ultra-fast in the Giulia. The quick rack adds to the Alfa’s dynamic repertoire, but stops short of making the car feel ‘darty’ at a cruise. There is a slight numbness in terms of feedback through the electronically assisted wheel, but its light action means driving around town in the Alfa is a breeze. Irksomely, the Giulia’s eight-speed automatic gearbox can be a tad too eager to downshift a cog or two upon light acceleration.

Nipping at the Giulia’s fun-to-drive heals is the XE, which holds onto the road impressively. The XE has heavier steering that communicates what is happening at the front wheels better than the Alfa, though it is less eager to tip in, and tends toward understeer earlier than the Giulia. If you are patient on turn in, the Jaguar rewards with a sweet balance in the corners, and its standard torque vectoring helps it through the bends.

Where adaptive dampers are standard on the Giulia and BMW, they are a nearly $2,000 option for the XE. However, their addition brings two wildly different sides to the Jaguar. In Comfort, the XE’s ride is the smoothest of the bunch, but in Sport, the damping puts a harsh edge on the experience inside the cabin.
The engine in the Jag is the most powerful here, at 177kW/340Nm (30kW/10Nm up on the Alfa, and 42kW/70Nm more than the BMW).

It is the quickest in a straight line, but also the thirstiest, drinking over a litre per 100km more than its rivals in this comparison (10.8L/100km v 9.8L/100km in the Alfa, and 8.9L/100km for the BMW). Power is delivered in a smooth fashion, but it is higher in the rev range where the XE really comes alive.

Where the Giulia and the XE are sporty in their dispositions, it’s a different story in the 4 Series. The Gran Coupe offers a laid back experience, both in its styling, and dynamic offering. The steering in the BMW is heavier still than the Jag’s, and requires a more aggressive style to tip into corners. The BMW asks you to work harder before it gets onto the balls of its feet, but it offers a rewarding experience once you get to that point.

It is the same with the engine, with Sport and Manual modes required to really get the most out of it. However, for day to day driving, the BMW excels.

Where you have to adapt to the style and quirks of the Alfa and Jag, the BMW feels in tune with the driver straight away. The BMW is happy to use its 270Nm of torque from 1350rpm to provide the requested push, without a sudden change to a lower ratio, while the Alfa and Jag transmissions jump through gears with fever.

Where the 4 Series really has the edge is inside. Despite its coupe roofline, there is more leg and headroom in the back of the BMW than in the Jag or Alfa. However, don’t expect to put three people across the back row for anything but short trips. Its 2+1 back row design means four people max out comfortable cabin space.

The BMW’s liftback boot gives it another day-to-day advantage, with 480 litres of space expanding to 1300 with the rear seats folded down. The Alfa matches the BMW with 480 litres, but its standard sedan loading aperture is much smaller than the BMW’s roof-hinged design. The Jaguar’s boot is the smallest of the trio, with 455 litres of space.

The Giulia’s interior is the most stripped-back and minimalist, though it doesn’t feel bare, rather it has a light and airy vibe. The 8.8-inch infotainment screen blends well with the dash design, and is easy to use and navigate, unlike the Jag’s. In the spec we tested, the cabin of the Jag felt somewhat dark and cramped. All black leather for the seats, headliner, and dash didn’t help. The touchscreen infotainment system was difficult to use safely on the move, with small buttons that are closely grouped. However, the $3,760 optional Meridian Digital sound system in the Jag is the best of the bunch. In such a tight battle, it is issues like ease of use that separate the final order.

While the Jag impresses with its engine performance and occupant comfort, it falls down with an overly harsh ride in Sport, and relatively minimal standard spec in this more recently updated company. Ultimately, the XE dropped from defending champ to wooden spoon.

The BMW is the most accomplished of the bunch from a practical day-to-day standpoint, but misses the mark dynamically by demanding too much manhandling to get through its initial lethargy and into the best bits.

It is the Giulia which excels, and proves Alfa’s comeback isn’t reserved for the high-rolling sports sedan crowd. The mid-spec Super is more than just a one-trick pony, being a winner both dynamically, and around town, thanks to its engaged driver appeal and well behaved on-road manners.

Model: BMW 420i Gran Coupe
Engine: 1998cc inline four-cylinder turbo
Max power: 135kW @ 5000rpm
Max torque: 270Nm @ 1350-4600rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
L/W/H: 4638/1825/1389mm
Wheelbase: 2810mm
Weight: 1595kg
0-100km/h: 8.3 seconds (tested)
Economy: 8.9L/100km (as tested)
Price: $74,481
On sale: Now

Model: Jaguar XE 25t R-Sport
Engine: 1999cc inline four-cylinder turbo
Max power: 177kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 340Nm @ 1750-4000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
L/W/H: 4672/1967/1416mm
Wheelbase: 2835mm
Weight: 1520kg
0-100km/h: 6.7 seconds (tested)
Economy: 10.8L/100km (as tested)
Price: $87,590
On sale: Now

Model: Alfa Romeo Giulia Super
Engine: 1995cc inline four-cylinder turbo
Max power: 147kW @ 5000rpm
Max torque: 330Nm @ 1750rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
L/W/H: 4643/1860/1436mm
Wheelbase: 2820mm
Weight: 1492kg
0-100km/h: 8.3 seconds (tested)
Economy: 9.8L/100km (as tested)
Price: $70,395
On sale: Now


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