What’s The Best Sporty Luxury Sedan You Can Get For Less Than $50K?
Four doors for funby Jonathan Lopez, on
At its most basic, a sport sedan should be a happy balance between two competing philosophies. The “sport” half of the equation should make it engaging, both in the way it drives, and the way it looks. A sport sedan should issue a dose of adrenaline when the hammer is down, and be a willing dance partner in the corners. It’s also gotta draw attention, turning heads as it goes, making its owner pause momentarily after exiting and locking the doors. Then there’s the “sedan” bit. A sport sedan isn’t supposed to be stripped down and basic – practicality and comfort are paramount. Often used as a daily driver, backside coddling should be there in abundance, complementing the car’s speed potential, rather than taking away from it. All told, it’s a big ask, but this segment has plenty of contenders vying for the title of best. In this comparison, we look at six of the top entries and sort them out, from first to last.
Listed in alphabetical order, this comparison will take a look at the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Chrysler 300, Infiniti Q50, Jaguar XE, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. We’ve evaluated each in terms of exterior aesthetics, interior comfort and technology, powertrain and drivetrain specs, and chassis and handling. We’ve also included a glut of info in chart and graph form to help you make a quick comparison. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the best sporty luxury sedan you can get for less than $50,000.
Continue reading for the full comparison.
First Place – BMW 3 Series
Bimmer has been doing the sporty luxury thing for a long time now, and that experience shows with the 3 Series. First offered in 1975 as a follow-up to the 02 Series, the 3 Series entered its sixth generation (F30 and F31) in 2011. BMW offers the 3 Series in a variety of body styles, including a five-door fastback and five-door wagon, but it’s the sedan that stands out in terms of popularity with consumers. And for good reason, too – although the base model is a bit sparse on the equipment, the 3 Series is well appointed further up the range, offering just about any tech you could want in a well-executed, comfortable cabin space. What’s more, the chassis is top notch, and the suspension provides high levels of relaxation while cruising, and indulgently tossable excitement when getting frisky. Pair those qualities with the option to get even more performance with the 340i model and available M division packages, plus a broad variety of powerplants and an available manual transmission, and what you end up with is a comparison-winning automobile.
Read the full review here.
BMW has also been busy revamping its iconic sports sedan, adding a restyled front end, new headlight design, and the option for full LED headlights. LEDs come as standard equipment on higher trim levels. The overall design philosophy, however, isn’t terribly different than what came before, incorporating a long hood line, rear-biased cab placement, and shortened overhangs. Standard lighting uses halogen elements with LED daytime running lights, while options include adaptive LED units and automatic high beams. Keeping the hot bits cool is Bimmer’s standard kidney grille intake, plus larger intakes in the front fascia corners. Wheel sizing includes optional 19-inch rollers, while in the rear you’ll find LEDs for the taillights as well. Go for the sportier 340i model, and you’ll have dual exhaust pipes in the rear, whereas the 320i and 328d get twin pipes. Finally, buyers will have 12 different exterior colors to choose from, some of which are offered exclusively with certain packages.
The interior layout uses a driver-oriented cabin design, plus lots of chrome trim and high-gloss features, including a shiny black surround for the center console. Ambient lighting enhancements add a premium touch, as does the available Saddle Brown Dakota Leather with dark brown highlights and a leather-wrapped M Sport steering wheel. Heading the infotainment front is the BMW ConnectedDrive suite of mobility services, plus an optional Navigation System with 3D visualization in cities. A color HD heads-up display is offered as an available option, which can relay info like road speed, navigation, and more. Speaking of navigation, the Bimmer’s system comes with three years of map updates via SIM card and LTW connection. The LTE connection can also integrate with your smartphone via USB, Bluetooth, and other systems. An available Concierge Service allows the driver to find certain points of interest, including hotels and restaurants, while also enabling you to place a reservation or call ahead. In terms of the safety, the BMW Assist eCall (Enhanced Automatic Collision Notification) system will notify the BMW Assist Response Center with information of vehicle location, airbag deployment, and crash severity, then call up the most appropriate emergency response. A Parking Assistant helps with parallel and perpendicular spots using ultrasonic sensors, automatically steering while the driver applies the brakes and throttle and changes between drive and reverse.
In terms of powerplant and drivetrain selection, BMW is offering a broad selection to choose from, including both RWD and AWD layouts. For the engine, buyers can get either a four-cylinder or six-cylinder, with both gas and diesel variants on the table. Standout features include all-aluminum construction, 500 cc’s of displacement per cylinder, and a closed-deck crank case design, while BMW’s TwinPower Turbo technology provides the boost. Kicking off the oil burners is an inline four-banger making 180 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. For the 2016 model year update, BMW introduced a new 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder, replacing the outgoing N55 engine. This new lump makes 320 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 330 pound-feet at 1,380 rpm, and paired with an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, you’ll go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds with RWD, or 4.6 seconds with AWD. Top speed limited at 155 mph with high-performance tires and 130 mph with all-season tires. The eight-speed automatic is standard, but a six-speed manual is a no-cost option on models like the 320i, 328i, and 340i. Standout features for the six-speed include a dual-mass flywheel, centrifugal pendulum absorbers, and a rev match feature for auto-blip downshifts. Go for the eight-speed, and you’ll get multiple drive modes, including Eco Pro, which will automatically decouple the transmission when coasting downhill. Further fuel gains come with the automatic start/stop system, Brake Energy Regeneration system, and on-demand ancillary unit operation. There’s also a proactive Driving Assistant on the eight-speed auto that uses nav info to adapt the power output appropriately and offer driving recommendations. Finally, a Plug-in hybrid model is also available, dubbed the 330e.
To help it handle, the latest 3 Series gets updates like new struts in front with updated geometry, new dampers in the rear, and new updated electric power steering. The Dynamic Stability Control system was also recently updated. An available M Sport Suspension and Adaptive M Suspension are also on the table. The Adaptive M Suspension uses electronically controlled dampers that are customizable from the cabin, packing continuous road monitoring for optimized settings. Opt into the Track Handling Package, and you get stuff like Variable Sport Steering, Adaptive M Suspension, and M Sport Brakes with high-temp pads and blue-painted calipers. This package also tosses in 18-inch alloy wheels finished in Orbit Grey and wrapped in Michelin’s Super Sport tires.
Second Place – Infiniti Q50
Offering a viable alternative to the German status quo in this segment is no easy feat, but Infiniti has pulled it off with the Q50. Introduced as recently as the 2014 model year as a replacement for the Infiniti G-Series, the Q50 offers a broad selection of technology and luxury features, all for a relatively low price. That makes the Q50 an extraordinarily high value entry, and when considering just how pricey the competition can get when adding in the extras to compete, the Q50 is a highly tempting proposition. What’s more, buyers can choose from a wide selection of powertrain options, including the highly potent Red Sport 400, which offers unique styling, upgraded suspension, 19-inch wheels, and a twin-turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder producing a mighty 400 horsepower, all for less than $50,000. Unfortunately, all this goodness is paired with a high curb weight, which detracts a bit from the car’s playfulness in the corners, as well as a lack of overall refinement compared to the alternative from BMW, which means the Infiniti gets second place in this comparison.
Read the full review here.
Infiniti just updated the Q50’s exterior styling for the 2018 model year, with more angles added to the front and rear bumper, plus a wider, lower stance than before. However, the model still manages to maintain the same nicely molded curves and gentle creases, plus the aggressive profile and beefy proportions of the old model. Infiniti also added a few new styling cues to help differentiate between the various trim levels and models. All trim levels, however, get a double-arch grille in front, which offers a 3D textured look, mesh insert, and chrome surround. The character line along the flanks dips into plumped up haunches, while signature lighting up front adds distinction. The headlights get LED lighting elements, as well as something dubbed a “human-eye” design. In the rear, there are slim taillight housings, also equipped with LED’s, with styling derived from the Q60 sports coupe. In terms of aerodynamics, Infiniti says the Q50 gets zero lift, as assisted by a newly upgraded front bumper and air foil.
In addition to the new exterior, the Q50’s interior was also updated for the 2018 model year. Updates include new stitching, a new steering wheel with molded thumb positions, and new chrome trim with an inlaid Infiniti logo added here and there. The shifter paddles are mounted on the sides of the wheel, and a performance leather shift knob gets some double stitching goodness. Leatherette was added to the instrument panel, which now also receives a handsome double stitching. There’s also lots of wood trim for the dash that manages to retain the feel of the grain, making for a more tactile experience compared to the high-gloss alternative. The seats gets something called a “spinal support” feature, which was specifically designed to reduce lower and upper back pressure. Infotainment starts with Infiniti’s InTouch Services suite, offering in-car connectivity. Driver aides include the ProPilot Assist suite, which throws in Direct Adaptive Steering, Forward Emergency braking, backup collision warning, intelligent cruise control, distance control assist, lane departure warning and prevention, blind spot monitor and intervention, and active lane control. Controlling it all is a pair of touch-capacitive color screen, the lower of which is 7 inches in diagonal, while the one above is 8 inches. These also help to relay pertinent info to the driver and display the system’s various apps, navigation, and more. The Q50 can also accommodate settings for multiple drivers via an intelligent key system, customizing parameters such as seat positioning. A 16-speaker Bose sound system with CenterPoint 2.0 software provides the tunes.
The Q50 has a variety of powerplant options available, including those from the VR family of engines, such as a 3.0-liter V-6 twin-turbo making 300 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. You can also get the Q50 with one of two four-cylinder engines, including a 2.0-liter turbocharged gas unit, and if you live overseas, a 2.2-liter direct-injection turbocharged diesel unit. The gas-powered 2.0-liter makes 208 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque at 1,250 rpm. The 2.2-liter diesel makes 168 horsepower at 3,200 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. The most interesting model in terms of performance is the Red Sport 400, which gets an appropriate 400 horsepower thanks to a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 Finally, there’s the Hybrid model, which is equipped with the Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid system. This electrified iteration starts with a 3.5-liter all-aluminum V-6 with 24 valves and dual overhead cams, then adds in a lithium-ion battery and electric motor. Together, the ICE and electric motor make 360 horsepower. Both RWD and AWD are available, depending on the trim level and engine picked.
Underpinning the Infiniti is a standard multi-link suspension, with recent updates made to the front and rear stabilizer bars. The Dynamic Digital Suspension system, which was first introduced on the Q50 in 2016, was also upgraded with fresh electronic adaptive dampers and a Direct Adaptive Steering system. Multiple driving modes offer customized refinements, and include “Personal,” “Standard,” “Snow,” “Eco,” “Sport,” and “Sport+” to best suit whatever the situation might be. The system also hooks up with the Direct Adaptive Steering system, or you can opt to adjust the settings independently through the Drive Mode Selector. Models equipped with a 2.0-liter engine get a vehicle speed-sensitive hydraulic electronic rack-and-pinion power steering as standard.
Third Place – Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Like the BMW 3 Series, the C-Class is an iconic sports sedan, first offered in 1993 to replace the outgoing 190 E model. Also available in coupe and cabriolet form, the C-Class sedan is an attractive, comfortable, highly refined machine that’s sure to satisfy anyone looking to indulge in a spot of opulence. Merc’s luxury DNA is apparent from every angle, whether admiring from outside, or sitting in one of the lovely leather-clad seats. The interior is top-notch, with a handsome layout and tons of top-shelf features. However, to keep the price below the $50,000 mark, buyers are limited in their powertrain selection, down to a 2.0-liter turbo four making just 241 horsepower, and adding onboard equipment does get a bit expensive. Luckily, a hybrid and AWD drivetrain are both on offer below that magic number, broadening the selection a bit. All told, the C-Class is still a fantastic sports sedan, although it is lacking a bit of the sportiness and standard gear required to rank in any higher than third in this comparison.
Read the full review here.
The C-Class offers elegant styling with an undertone of aggression and performance intentions. Mercedes says it pulled inspiration from nature for the shapes and overarching design, relying on minimalism and a purity of form to connote the brand’s upscale philosophy. As such, the C-Class gets a long hood line, short overhangs, and a cab-back design, similar to the other entries on this list, plus the requisite plus-sized wheels in the corners. It’s a mix of strong creases and soft angles, and it works well. Buyers get the option for two different grille designs, with either a three-pointed Mercedes emblem mounted on the grille, or on top of the hood as part of the Luxury Package. Mercedes also says it reduced aerodynamic drag and wind noise for enhanced interior comfort. The exterior paint options include Selenite Grey Metallic and Brilliant Blue Metallic, both of which were just released for the 2017 model year.
Hilariously, Mercedes brags that “settling into your seat in the C-Class is akin to the uplifting feeling of being upgraded from economy to business class on an airplane.” Standard spec throws in wood trim, an analogue clock, and various other top-shelf materials. The center console was upgraded recently, and gets five rounded air vents with a metallic cool-touch effect. Mercedes’ brand of leatherette is used on the dash, while the various switches connote a sense of quality in design. For infotainment, there’s a touch pad on the handrest of the central tunnel, which is included in the P3 and P4 packages and gets smartphone-like operation. Letters, numbers, and “special characters” can all be handwritten in any language, and there’s haptic feedback for enhanced ease of use. A heads-up display projects stuff like road speed, the posted speed limit, navigation info, and more onto the windshield, while every model gets a Rearview Camera as standard. There’s a central display in the console that measures in at 7.0 inches in diameter, but upgradeable to 8.4 inches with the Multimedia Package and Comand Infotainment System. The C-Class also gets a large lineup of safety systems, including Attention Assist, Collision Prevention Assist, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, braking assist, and lane-keep assist. The Navigation and GPS location finder link up to improve various systems; for example, altering the climate control by closing the air recirculation flap when driving through a tunnel. Providing music is an optional Burmester sound system, with 13 speakers and 590 watts of power.
The C-Class is available with RWD as standard, but can be upgraded to AWD with Merc’s 4Matic system. The base engine is a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, which is turbocharged to 241 horses at 5,500 rpm and 273 pound-feet of torque at 1,300 rpm. The 2.0-liter uses an all-aluminum construction and mates to a 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission, with standout features including rapid-multispark ignition and high-pressure direct injection. There’s also an Eco start/stop system and multiple driving modes to tailor your experience behind the wheel. Keep off the loud pedal, and you’ll get 24 mpg city in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. Floor it and you’ll go 0 to 60 mph in 6 seconds flat. Alternatively, you can get the same powerplant, but with an AWD drivetrain, which adds more grip, while decreasing fuel returns slightly to 31 mpg on the highway. City fuel returns and the 0-to-60 mph time remain the same at 24 mpg and 6 seconds, respectively. There’s also a plug-in hybrid model called the C350e, which mates a turbo 2.0-liter inline-four with a 60-kW electric motor. This electrified ICE manages to produce upwards of 275 horsepower and a whopping 443 pound-feet of torque total, while also returning 45 MPGe in the city and 61 MPGe on the highway. The Hybrid is also quicker to 60 mph than it’s ICE-only counterpart, hitting the benchmark in 5.8 seconds. The C350e is offered exclusively with RWD.
Under the skin, the C-Class uses an aluminum hybrid body that cuts about 150 pounds compared to its steel alternative. Total vehicle weight is reduced by roughly 200 pounds total, with roughly half of the structural design made from aluminum, up from the 10 percent used on the previous model. Curb weight comes in at around 3,400 pounds. In the corners, Mercedes updated the C-Class’ four-link front suspension, an independent set-up that’s fully decoupled from the spring strut for greater grip and additional stability. The rear gets a multi-link set-up with a five-link concept. Steel suspension is standard, but options include a Sport Package that lowers the stance by 0.6 inches. Meanwhile, the AWD-equipped C300 4Matic gets a comfort suspension setup as standard, something that’s also offered on the Luxury Package on the RWD C300. Higher up in the range is an Airmatic air suspension, offered as an option lower in the line. Standout features for the air set-up includes an electronically controlled, continuously variable damping system. A variety of different drive modes affect how the C-Class handles, including “Comfort,” “Eco,” “Sport,” and “Sport+.” The “Individual” mode offers additional customization. An electric parking brake is standard. Electromechanical Direct Steer is standard as well, with road-speed dependent feedback and a variable ratio. Finally, the Sport Package also includes Sport Direct Steer for improved feel in the twisty bits.
Fourth Place – Audi A4
As goes BMW and Mercedes, so goes Audi. The final piece of the big German three adds the A4 to the mix, a nameplate that’s been in use since 1994 and now sits in its fifth generation. Also offered as a wagon, the A4 sedan is a highly competent automobile, equipping FWD as standard, but offered with Audi’s legendary quattro AWD system for a reasonable upcharge. Comfortable and unassuming, the A4 is like a well-tailored suit, and perfect for those daily commutes to and from the office. The interior is well appointed, and you won’t be left wanting in terms of technology. However, the Audi is also rather dull compared to the other entries mentioned thus far. The FWD and AWD drivetrains provide adequacy, but not much in terms of excitement. The styling is also a bit lackluster, both for the exterior and interior, and although it’s endless competent and should be considered a safe, reasonable buy, it’s impossible to rank the A4 higher than fourth in this comparison.
Read the full review here.
Ever since Audi introduced its Prologue design concept a few years back at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the brand has been gradually updating its models to reflect the new, ultra-sleek, pointed, and futuristic aesthetic. Such is the case with the latest A4 sedan, with gets the same geometric lines and hard angles as the concept, albeit a bit toned down for production status. Starting in front, we find a large Singleframe grille, a signature Audi look for the front end. On either side of the grille’s horizontal polished bars is a set of angular headlights with a checkmark, L-shaped housing. The headlights use Xenon lights as standard, but buyers can also get LEDs or Matrix LEDs as an available option. Additional features include dynamic turn signals, while up top is a sunroof with a power shade, power tilt, and power slide function. Buyers also get available exterior dress up packages. Finally, the current A4 sedan has larger exterior dimensions as compared to the outgoing model.
Step inside the A4, and you’ll find a raft of standard features, including Bluetooth streaming support, voice control, keyless start, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, smartphone interface, a Bang & Olufsen stereo with 3D sound, an Audi phone box with wireless charging, and the Audi connect suite of services. Providing the driver with info is the Audi virtual cockpit, an optional digital instrument cluster with a 12.3-inch LCD screen. User inputs for the various systems come from an MMI controller and touchpad in the center console, which acts as the main point of operation for the infotainment system. There’s also MMI navigation plus, and buyers can get an 8.3-inch screen with touch and smartphone-esque operation. An optional heads-up display provides further info and a little digital drama as well. Safety tech includes assists from the Audi pre sense systems, which throw in active lane assist, Stop&Go adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, park assist, cross traffic assist rear, exit warning, collision avoidance assist, turn assist, and the available traffic sign recognition system.
Under the hood is a choice between two tunes for a turbocharged 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder gas engine, with either 190 horsepower at 4,200 rpm and 236 pound-feet of torque at 1,450 rpm, or 252 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 273 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. The engine uses an aluminum head and cast-iron block for construction, plus 16 valves and the Audi valvelift system to mate efficiency with power. A predictive efficiency assistant helps in this endeavor as well. A seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic swaps cogs, while either FWD or AWD is offered for the drivetrain. Incredibly, you can also get your A4 with a six-speed manual, if you prefer three pedals. Go for the 190-horse option with FWD, and you’ll hit 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and continue on to a top speed of 130 mph, with fuel returns looking like 27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. Get it with 252 horsepower and AWD, and it’ll take 6.1 seconds to reach 60 mph, while top speed remains limited at 130 mph. Returns look like 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.
Despite the increase in exterior dimensions, the new Audi A4 is actually lighter than the previous model, dropping as much as 243 pounds depending on trim level, down to about 3,500 pounds on average. Construction includes a steel unibody and aluminum hood. Managing the weight is an updated five-link suspension system, both in front and in back, with optional damper control custom settings when appropriate. Steering it is an electromechanical power steering set-up, but dynamic steering is offered, providing different ratios based on the current road speed and steering angle. Further driving modes help tailor the rest of the settings to whatever the situation might be. Standard brakes include 12.4-inch ventilated discs in front and 12.8-inch ventilated discs in the rear, or you can upgrade to 13.3-inch front discs and 13-inch rear discs.
Fifth Place – Jaguar XE
The Jaguar XE nameplate is a relatively new offering in this segment, first put into production in 2015 as a replacement for the Jaguar X-Type. The XE stands out as the only British offering in this comparison, and that heritage is proudly displayed thanks to drop-dead gorgeous exterior styling, courtesy of famed U.K. designer Ian Callum. The Jag also comes equipped with a nice selection of engine options, including a diesel and a supercharged V-6. Combine those powerplants with a relatively lightweight, aluminum-intensive chassis offering thrilling handling, and the XE looks like the perfect choice for those who need a unique identity and extra driving pleasure from their sports sedan. Where the Jag falls short is in the sedan half of “sport sedan,” with a rather small cabin space, plus less-than inspiring cabin build quality and materials. The technology is also a bit lackluster, which throws the XE off-balance compared to the rest of this list.
Read the full review here.
The Jaguar XE is characterized by it’s British good looks and sensibilities, matching sportiness with refinement, but in a uniquely Jag kinda way. We think it looks great, which should come as a surprise when considering the exterior design was inspired by one of the most gorgeous cars ever created, the Jaguar E-Type. What’s more, Ian Callum, a renowned British designer with a slew of gorgeous cars on his resume (Aston Martin Vanquish, Jaguar C-X75, etc.) had a hand in the XE’s creation as Director of Design. Standout features include short overhangs in front and in back, with a cab-back profile to add a little extra aggression. Jag says it sought to give the XE a “taut, muscular appearance.” It’s also got a long wheelbase, and a low and wide stance. Up front, the headlights get a J-Blade daytime running light design, while a rising waistline gives it a raked appearance. The rear quarter panels were inspired by the F-Type coupe. In the corners, buyers can get optional 20-inch forged alloy rollers. In the rear, the taillights get a horizontal appearance. What’s more, the whole design manages to post a remarkably low coefficient of drag at just 0.28.
Inside, the Jaguar XE takes a thoroughly modern approach, with a deep center console that attempts to make the driver feel as if he or she is sitting in the cockpit of an aircraft. There’s a needle sweep feature for the gauges on startup, and fine-grain leather is used for the upholstery, complete with contrasting twin-needle stitching. Trim materials include gloss black, textured aluminum, and contemporary wood finish. An available ambient lighting feature will bathe the cabin in up to ten different colors. The infotainment selection includes both the Jaguar InControl Touch and InControl Touch Pro systems. Buyers can get either an 8.0-inch touchscreen, or a larger 10.2-inch touchscreen, with Bluetooth, a USB port, SD card-based navigation, voice control, and smartphone-like operation all featured. A Meridian Digital Audio sound system makes music thanks to 380 watts of sound and 11 speakers, or you can upgrade to the premium 17-speaker stereo system. New infotainment and safety system enhancements for the latest model year include a Driver Condition monitor and Apple Watch connectivity. There’s also an optional laser heads-up display that projects info like road speed and navigation onto the windshield. Drivers assists like Automatic Emergency Braking, Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Speed Limiter, Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Closing Vehicle Sensing, Blind Spot Monitoring, semi-automated parallel and perpendicular Park Assist, and Reverse Traffic Detection round out the list of driver’s aides.
There are three individual powertrains offered on the XE. At the top of the pile is the 35t, a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 making 340 horsepower, something you’ll also find in the Jag F-Type, offering direct injection, fully variable valve timing, a 90-degree bank angle, twin vortex Roots-type superchargers, 332 pound-feet of torque, and enough muscle to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited at 120 mph. Following the six-cylinder is the 25t, a 2.0-liter turbocharged gas-powered four-cylinder making 240 horsepower. This engine is also carried over from other JLR models, and it makes 251 pound-feet of torque. Below the 2.0-liter gas engine is the 20d, a 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel four-cylinder making 180 horsepower. A diesel engine is a bit of an oddity in this segment, but it’s got the right numbers, delivering 318 pound-feet of torque at 1,750 rpm thanks to tech like a variable geometry turbo and 1,800-bar common rail injection. Standard spec is RWD, but AWD is offered on the diesel engine and the V-6 gas engine. The AWD system gets Jag’s Torque On Demand tech, which consists of a transfer case with a multi-plate clutch wet pack and chain drive on the front propshaft. Depending on the situation, the AWD system can engage all four wheels in as little as 165 milliseconds, but will run in RWD in most situations to cut down on parasitic loss, only sending torque to the front axle when needed. An Intelligent Driveline Dynamics system helps to determine the torque split. The automatic transmission options are both from ZF, with the 8HP70 used for the supercharged V-6 and AWD, and the 8HP45 used for the rest of the drivetrain combos.
Jaguar is really big on making sure you know its chassis use a lot of aluminum to keep it relatively lightweight, which should pay dividends not only in power delivery and fuel consumption, but obviously handling as well. In fact, the XE was the first global model to receive the updated JLR modular vehicle architecture, a platform also used on the XF sedan and F-Pace SUV. Most of the chassis is constructed using 6000-series aluminum, a thin but strong material that brings the curb weight down as low as 3,320 pounds. The XE also gets a double wishbone suspension, with aluminum for the front spindles, forged using cast blanks. Meanwhile, the rear suspension uses an integral link system similar to what’s used on the XF sedan. Finally, the latest XE ditches the old hydraulic power steering set-up and instead opts for electric power-assisted steering similar to what is used on the F-Type.
Sixth Place – Chrysler 300
Currently in its second generation, the Chrysler 300 was first introduced in 2004, offering big and bold American style in a segment filled to the brim with foreign invaders. That American heritage makes it stand out, as evidenced by the 300’s unique exterior styling and plus-sized dimensions, while its available V-8 powerplant provides the appropriate rumble from out back. Unfortunately, the 300’s lack of refinement, dated onboard equipment, and dearth of high-end materials set it back substantially, while uninspiring handling compounds the problem. The 5.7-liter heartbeat makes up some of the difference, delivering 363 horses and dropping the 0-to-60 mph time to the low 5’s, while the 300’s highly affordable pricing makes for a soft landing, but in this crowd, the Chrysler takes last place.
Read the full review here.
The 300 eschews the highly angular lines and deep cuts that seem so common in this segment, and instead, gets solid, blocky shapes and gentler curves. In front, there are available adaptive bi-xenon HID headlights with an automatic leveling feature, which come as standard equipment on higher trims, while LED daytime running lights are standard across the range. LED fog lights are also an available option. Wheel sizing ranges between 18, 19, and 20 inches in diameter. Go for the 300S model, and you’ll get 20-inch rollers with a Hyper Black finish and black exterior accents. Go for the 300C model, and you’ll get 20-inch aluminum wheels with a polished, Platinum Chrome finish. Chrysler is also offering nine different exterior colors, including the optional Ceramic Gray hue that was added in the most recent model update.
Inside, the 300 gets upgraded interior accents and materials. The latest refresh brings with it a Black and Sydney Gray color scheme for the optional leather upholstery, while heated and ventilated seats are available as well. Inside the 300C is a two-tone Indigo/Linen color scheme, with perforated leather seats and door panels, natural pore wood trim, French accent stitching, chrome accents, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The 300S model gets black interior accents and a 10-Speaker Beats Audio system. Chrysler also updated the onboard Uconnect System with smartphone integration as standard, and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported. Providing the control is an 8.4-inch touchscreen, which gets improved performance with a faster startup time, more processing power, and clearer graphics. Operation of the touchscreen is the usual lineup of smartphone-esque controls, such as pinch, zoom, tap, swipe, and the like. The 300 also boasts a Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS, and it gets tech like forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control with Full Stop feature, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Blind-spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross Path detection. Five different interior color combinations round it out, including Black, Black and Linen, Black and Caramel, Black and Sydney Gray, and Indigo and Linen¬.
Standard motivation is an all-aluminum Pentastar V-6 engine that produces upwards of 292 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm, redlining at 6,400 rpm, and posting up to 30 mpg on the highway. Buyers can also opt for a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which comes equipped with a four-cylinder deactivation mode and Fuel Saver Technology. The V-8 cranks out 363 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 394 pound-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm, with a redline set at 5,800 rpm. Get the V-8, and the 300 is capable of reaching 60 mph in less than six seconds, with fuel mileage rated at 16 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. A TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission comes as standard on each model, with both RWD and AWD on the table. Paddle shifters offer a bit more control, while sport mode will reduce shift times from 400 milliseconds to 250 milliseconds, sharpening throttle response, firming up the steering feel, and engaging the AWD system. Speaking of the AWD, the 300 gets a segment-exclusive active transfer case, plus a front-axle-disconnect feature for better fuel returns.
The 300 weighs in at about 4,380 pounds, depending on trim level and equipment. The car is constructed from a unitized steel body and aluminum hood. The suspension tuning is set for “touring” on models equipped with a V-6, and “performance” when equipped with a V-8, while the RWD 300C gets “comfort” tuning. The optional performance-tuned suspension offers higher spring rates, tweaked steering and bushings, bigger sway bars, and on the RWD 300S, Goodyear Eagle F1 three-season tires. The suspension set-up is an independent SLA and high upper A arm in front, plus coil springs over gas monotube shocks and a stabilizer bar. Meanwhile, the rear gets a five-link independent set-up with coil springs, gas shocks, and a stabilizer bar. A rack and pinion steering system with hydraulic power assist helps it turn. Go for the Touring Brake Package (standard on 300 Limited, 300S, 300C, and 300C Platinum with RWD), and you get 12.6 rotors in all four corners, plus aluminum single-piston calipers. A Sport Brake Package is also offered, replacing the front bits with 13.6 rotors and dual-piston calipers. Rubber duties are handled by either 225/60R18 all-season tires from Firestone, or 235/55R19 all-season performance tires from Michelin.
BMW took the top honors in this comparison, and considering the brand’s history, those results aren’t all that surprising. What is a bit of a surprise is Infiniti’s finish at second, besting the other two German competitors thanks to its solid lineup of features, technology, and affordability. The fact it can make 400 horsepower with a base price under the $50,000 mark certainly helped quite a bit as well. Of course, it should be mentioned that these are our rankings based on our own priorities and sensibilities. If, for example, you care less about cornering or having the very best in interior spec, and instead prefer to save as much money as you can while still getting pampered, the 300 might be the better choice for you.
Of course, we wanna know – how would you rank these six sporty four-doors? Did we nail it, or miss the mark? Let us know in the comments below.
Tables And Graphs
|Leg Room (f/r)||41.3/25.7||41.3/35.7||41.8/40.1||44.5/35.1||41.5/35.0||41.7/35.2|
|Shoulder Room (f/r)||55.9/54.5||55.9/54.5||59.5/57.7||56.7/56.1||56.8/54.7||54.7/55.0|
Engine, Drivetrain, And Chassis
|Engine Type||turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder|
|Drivetrain||FWD or AWD|
|Transmission||seven-speed automatic, six-speed manual|
|Horsepower||190 hp, 252 hp|
|Torque||236 pound-feet, 273 pound-feet|
|0-to-60 mph||7.1 seconds (190 horsepower, FWD), 6.1 seconds (252 horsepower, AWD)|
|Top Speed||130 mph|
|Fuel Economy||27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway (190 horsepower, FWD), 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway (252 horsepower, AWD)|
|Curb Weight||3,500 pounds (est.)|
BMW 3 Series
turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (gas), turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (diesel), turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder, hybrid turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
RWD or AWD
eight-speed automatic, six-speed manual
180 hp, 248 hp, 320 hp, 248 hp
200 pound-feet, 280 pound-feet, 258 pound-feet, 330 pound-feet, 310 pound-feet
7.1 seconds, 7.4 seconds, 5.5 seconds, 4.8 seconds, 5.9 seconds
155 (with options)
23 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway, 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, 71 MPGe combined
|Engine Type||turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (gas), turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (diesel), turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder, hybrid turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder|
|Drivetrain||RWD or AWD|
|Transmission||eight-speed automatic, six-speed manual|
|Horsepower||180 hp, 248 hp, 320 hp, 248 hp|
|Torque||200 pound-feet, 280 pound-feet, 258 pound-feet, 330 pound-feet, 310 pound-feet|
|0-to-60 mph||7.1 seconds, 7.4 seconds, 5.5 seconds, 4.8 seconds, 5.9 seconds|
|Top Speed||155 (with options)|
|Fuel Economy||23 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway, 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, 71 MPGe combined|
|Curb Weight||3,300 pounds|
|Engine Type||3.6-liter V-6, 5.7-liter V-8|
|Drivetrain||RWD or AWD|
|Horsepower||292 hp, 363 hp|
|Torque||260 pound-feet, 394 pound-feet|
|0-to-60 mph||5.3 seconds (V-8)|
|Fuel Economy||19 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway|
|Curb Weight||4,029 pounds|
|Engine Type||turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, hybrid 3.5-liter V-6, turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 (Red Sport)|
|Drivetrain||RWD or AWD|
|Horsepower||208 hp, 300 hp, 360 hp, 400 hp|
|Torque||258 pound-feet, 295 pound-feet, 258 pound-feet (ICE) and 214 pound-feet (electric motor), 350 pound-feet|
|0-to-60 mph||7.0 seconds, 6.0 seconds (est.), 5.0 seconds, 4.4 seconds|
|Top Speed||140 mph (est)|
|Fuel Economy||23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway|
|Curb Weight||3,700 pounds|
|Engine Type||turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (gas), turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (diesel), supercharged 3.0-liter V-6|
|Drivetrain||RWD or AWD|
|Horsepower||240 hp, 180 hp, 340 hp|
|Torque||251 pound-feet, 318 pound-feet, 332 pound-feet|
|0-to-60 mph||6.0 seconds, 7.7 seconds, 5.1 seconds|
|Top Speed||120 mph|
|Fuel Economy||31 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, 32 mpg city and 42 mpg highway, 20 mpg city 29 mpg highway|
|Curb Weight||3,320 pounds|
|Engine Type||turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, hybrid turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder|
|Drivetrain||RWD or AWD|
|Horsepower||241 hp, 275 hp|
|Torque||273 pound-feet, 443 pound-feet|
|0-to-60 mph||6.0 seconds, 5.8 seconds|
|Top Speed||160 mph|
|Fuel Economy||24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway, 45 MPGe city and 61 MPGe highway|
|Curb Weight||3,450 pounds|
Pricing And Options
BMW 3 Series
Sport Line package (high-gloss exterior bits for the kidney grille, b-pillars, and rear bumper, black chrome tailpipe trim, high-gloss black surrounds for intake, aluminum-look trim, sport instrument cluster, anthracite headliner, heavily bolstered sports seats), Luxury Package, M Sport Package, M Aerodynamic Package, Premium Package (exclusive to 328i and 328, standard on 340i. Includes comfort access, LED headlights, Lumbar Support, Moonroof, Sirius Satellite radio)
Exterior Sport Appearance Package (more aggression, blacked-out components, new front fascia, unique LED fog lamps, new side skirts, deck-lid spoiler), Interior Sport Appearance Package (premium perforated leather seats with side bolsters finished in suede, available ventilation feature), Alloy Edition Package (black exterior color with Dark Bronze accents, Black Nappa leather interior with Caramel stitching, Liquid Titanium accents for interior)
|Q50 Red Sport||$48,700|
Premium Plus (InTouch Navigation and 3D building graphics, heated front seats, SiriusXM Traffic), Driver Assistance (Forward Emergency Braking, Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Backup Collision Intervention), Leather Seating Package (leather upholstery front and rear, power lumbar driver’s seat)
Cold Climate Package (heated front windshield, heated washer jets, heated front seats, heated steering wheel), SiriusXM radio, SD navigation, InControl Apps, Rear View Camera, carbon fiber trim, chrome grille, gloss black grille, illuminated side sills
Leather Seating Package (heating and ventilation available), Luxury Package (silver 17-inch wheels, upgraded grille, black leather steering wheel with burl Walnut inlays), Premium 1 Package (Blind Spot Assist, keyless entry, SiriusXM Radio), Airmatic Package (air suspension, dynamic driving modes), Parking Assist Package (Parktronic with Active Parking Assist, Surround View System)