The new BMW 330e on test for Changing Lanes!

BMW 3 Series 330e Hybrid (2021) Review

The new BMW 330e on test for Changing Lanes!
The new BMW 330e on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 BMW 330e!

What happens when you mix plug-in hybrid power with the BMW 3 Series? It’s a question very much worth exploring as the German brand continues to launch a slew of new electrified models on the Irish market.

Badged 330e, the 3 Series hybrid has some history, debuting for the first time in Ireland back in 2016. Yet with an all-new generation of the 3 Series on sale since 2019, and a reworked 330e, it’s game on in the Changing Lanes test garage!

Driving the latest generation BMW 3 Series again is a reminder of a few magical days in 2019 spent with the 320d. A BMW 320d is a bit of a legend in its own right with a four cylinder diesel engine that delivers smart economy and plenty of fun behind the wheel.

What's so special about the BMW 330e?

But the 330e has proven its mettle in the 3 Series range, winning over its own quotient of buyers with its smooth petrol power and ability to plug in and charge up between drives, plus super low CO2 emissions meaning motor tax is just €140 per year.

In the new generation of the BMW 3 Series of course it’s ‘better’ all round. They don’t release these cars without some improvements!

The BMW 330e Hybrid goes on sale in Ireland from €48,894
The BMW 330e Hybrid goes on sale in Ireland from €48,894

Let’s recap on a few of the basics first. The BMW 3 Series range kicks off from €44,453 in Ireland for a petrol 318i, with a diesel 318d from €46,564 and the 320d range from €49,765. The 330e hybrid starts from €48,894.

The BMW 330e uses a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine, battery and electric motor. Power output is a formidable 292 hp while there is 420 Nm of torque to play with. Yipee!

The BMW 330e is handsome. Super handsome. Finished in Portimao Blue and bejewelled with the M Sport trim elements, our 330e test car is sporty, muscular, and sophisticated.

Inside the 2021 BMW 3 Series

Inside the 3 Series has a wonderful interior that puts the driver competently in the centre of the action. This is a real driver’s car. Vernasca leather upholstery makes us feel comfortably executive, while the digital instrument panel, centre screen and iDrive system give the required touch of modernity. Material quality is excellent and this is a great car to spend time behind the wheel of!

The junior executive saloon will seat five with good sized footwells in the rear, though a large transmission tunnel eats into legroom for a middle passenger. Boot space is compromised somewhat in the 330e plug-in hybrid however, down about 100 litres to 375 litres to accommodate the battery.

The interior of the 2021 BMW 3 Series
The interior of the 2021 BMW 3 Series

Driving the BMW 330e

On the road, the 330e feels snappy and swift. Power delivery gets a professional finish. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a car wearing this badge. The 330e is as happy to cruise as it is to take on some corners. Rear wheel drive agility keeps things light and interesting behind the wheel. There’s plenty of grip and steering is direct. The set up is quite firm in this one, so rougher road surfaces do communicate more into the cabin. But on the smooth stuff, all is well.

Interestingly the car doesn’t feel quite as communicative in your hands as the 320d we tested previously. The electrified powertrain mutes the sensations somewhat. But the instant power delivery of the electric motor is immediately obvious. Boom!

But let’s not forget there is mighty wizardry at play here allowing you to slip this baby into electric mode and stealth mode slide around town on electric power alone for a range of up to 60 km. That’s more than before.

The plug-in hybrid models in the new BMW 3 Series owe their increased electric range to the latest advances in battery cell technology. Their lithium-ion batteries, designed specifically for each model and manufactured by the BMW Group, have a gross energy content of 12.0 kWh.

Using the electric range is best suited to low speed driving in town or short commutes, as the battery power will drain more rapidly at high speeds on the motorway for example. But I was lazy with the charging and still managed to post a good return on economy of 6.4 litres per 100 km.

It takes between 3 and 6 hours to charge the battery to full, depending on type of connection.

The 3 Series is a fun sports saloon
The 3 Series is a fun sports saloon

Did you like it?

BMW’s compact executive saloon gains even more power and flexibility in the 330e. The 330e gives options as we transition to more electrification, but even if you are not a frequent charger, the car performs on fuel like a decent petrol car.

There is an impressive fluidity to this car on the road, aided by the electric motor. Maybe not quite as sharp as a 320d for example. But it is a sporty car with a firm enough set up on the road.

It’s indeed a beautiful car, particularly in M Sport trim. We love the high quality interior, and that very meaty steering wheel.

The 3 Series is a legend and deservedly so!

The BMW 330e is a plug-in hybrid offering an all-electric drive up to 60 km
The BMW 330e is a plug-in hybrid offering an all-electric drive up to 60 km

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: BMW 3 Series 330 e M Sport
Price: 
€49,082
Engine: 
2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 292 PS
Torque: 420 Nm
Top speed: 230 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 5.8 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
34 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year

 


The BMW 5 Series has been updated for 2021

BMW 5 Series 530e Hybrid Review (2021)

The BMW 5 Series has been updated for 2021
The BMW 5 Series has been updated - the brand's most popular model in Ireland

Caroline drives the 2021 BMW 530e!

The BMW 5 Series is unquestionably a stalwart of the BMW range and indeed the entire motor industry. Making a grand entrance comes simply to the 5 Series - it has been doing just that for well over 40 years.

The latest generation of the large executive classic launched here in Ireland back in 2017. That story ended with the 5 Series winning us over with its luxurious cabin and fun to drive character behind the wheel.

In 2020 the BMW 5 Series returned with a few tweaks to keep it competitive in its class. It's the 'facelifted' 5 we find here on test for Changing Lanes.

The 5 Series is BMW’s bestselling model in Ireland and the updated range goes on sale from €53,468 for a 520d diesel or from €53,803 for a 520i petrol.

What’s new for the BMW 5 Series in 2021?

Electrification moves up a gear with a revised 530e in 2021 – the plug-in hybrid 5 Series that’s capable of driving on pure electric power for a range of up to 58 km. It goes on sale from €59,822 and posts some very impressive performance figures while keeping CO2 emissions as low as 40g/km. Plug-in hybrid power is growing in popularity across the motor industry and indeed the BMW range, with many old favourites now getting the addition of a battery, electric motor and plug!

Elsewhere styling has been mildly tweaked and new equipment added. But the 5 Series in 2021 remains a gloriously handsome car that makes you feel like a boss! The BMW kidney grille is now bigger, flanked by slimmer LED headlights with two U-shaped daytime running lights.

The 5 Series goes on sale priced from €53,468
The 5 Series goes on sale priced from €53,468

In Ireland the new BMW 5 Series will be available in SE, M Sport and M Sport Edition trims. The M Sport package features new 19” and 20” wheels, while the new limited M Sport Edition comes with exclusive Individual metallic paint and unique 20” Air Performance wheels.

The front apron of both SE and M Sport cars has also been redesigned with larger and more pronounced air inlets. At the rear, the taillights have been redesigned with blackened glass. There’s also a redesigned rear apron, trapezoidal tailpipe finishers and a sportier mounted diffuser.

Inside the 2021 BMW 5 Series

The quality and comfort inside the 5 Series make it one of the most desirable large premium saloons on the market today. Yes, you will know you are behind the wheel of something expensive. There are many different trims and beautiful interior options you can choose from, which makes every 5 Series feel more individual and nothing short of luxurious! Leather upholstery is standard across the range and the test car had Ivory White Dakota leather. Material quality is just excellent everywhere.

New interior features include a larger 12.3” Central Information Display powered by the latest Operating System 7.0 with rotary controller, including BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant and smartphone integration. The new 5 Series also benefits from the latest camera- and radar-based driving assistant systems, including features like steering and lane-control assistant and active cruise control.

The interior feels large and welcoming with good width across the rear bench for three, through the transmission tunnel takes up a fair bit of space on middle passengers. Wouldn’t it be more realistic for two VIPS or executives?

In the 530e plug-in hybrid, boot space is somewhat compromised to accommodate the 12 kWh battery under the boot floor. But the floor remains flat and there is a decent 410 litres of space regardless.

The interior of the 2021 BMW 5 Series
The interior of the 2021 BMW 5 Series - luxury limo!

What are my engine options?

The 530e uses a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine, battery and 80 kW electric motor, all combined with an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Plug-in hybrid is a big emerging trend in the BMW range with the brand adding many new plug-in hybrids across model ranges in the last 12 months. The 530e plug-in hybrid gets improved for 2021 with more power, torque and better efficiency, while a new 545e has also been added with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine. The 5 Series Touring is also available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time.

Other engine options include four and six cylinder petrol and diesel engines with mild-hybrid technology across the board to enhance performance, lower fuel consumption and improve driving comfort.

In 2017 we tested the classic BMW 520d 2.0-litre diesel at Changing Lanes and it never fails to impress with its refinement, power and economy.

Driving the BMW 530e

This time at Changing Lanes, it’s the turn of the petrol electric hybrid 530e. It is one of the most powerful of the range with 292 hp and 420 Nm of torque. This means it feels lively and flexible all the time, with a responsive throttle that marries beautifully with the 5 Series rear wheel drive dance through corners. This is a real thing. BMW make cars do this very well. They have been doing it for years. The 530e is lithe but we think the 520d we tested previously might have taken on the lateral challenges of corners a teeny bit better owing to the traditional combustion engine powertrain sans battery and electric motor.

Power is put to the road in a controlled, stately manner. It's the most fun large plug-in hybrid you will find in the executive car park! This is a super quiet, comfortable long distance cruiser. The steering is meaty with plenty of feedback for a tactile experience behind the wheel. Sport mode livens things up even more but you can optimise efficiency in the Hybrid mode and still enjoy this car.

Ideally, your plug-in hybrid should be charged regularly to get the best out of it and run it on electric power for the range of up to 58 km. Ideal for low speed trips around town. When you get out on to the motorway your battery power will drain fast. But the 530e still posted some very acceptable economy figures for what is a heavy car. Over a week of driving we averaged 6.7 litres per 100 km. And wow was this car good to drive on the motorway! For this generation of the 5 Series BMW paid particular attention to reducing interior noise levels.  The BMW 5 Series is forever stylish and fun to drive!The BMW 5 Series is forever stylish and fun to drive!

Did you like it?

We love the 5 Series at Changing Lanes. It has such class and presence, amazing pedigree and fun rear wheel drive handling.

The BMW handles superbly and feels alive in your hands like none of its competitors. The 530e adds hybrid power to the mix championing a silky smooth transmission and a new degree of silence to driving a 5 Series.

The 5 Series is ageing but still looks good. The interior is high quality with a reasonable digital upgrade helping keeping it up to date with competitors.

Diesel has been the default in this segment for a long time but the 530e is a successful alternative, offering buyers flexibility - but at a premium. We can't see the classic 520d being abandoned any time soon. It posts great economy, especially for high mileage and frequent motorway users. But whatever your preferred flavour of 5, you will find an amazing companion in the BMW 5 Series!

The new BMW 530e on test for Changing Lanes!
The new BMW 530e on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: BMW 5 Series 530 e M Sport
Price: 
€66,996
Engine: 
2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 292 PS
Torque: 420 Nm
Top speed: 235 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 5.9 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
40 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year


The Tesla Model 3 on test for Changing Lanes!

Tesla Model 3 (2021) Review

The Tesla Model 3 on test for Changing Lanes!
The Tesla Model 3 on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the Tesla Model 3!

Tesla has arguably done more to accelerate the movement of the motor industry to electrification than any other car brand. And they really don’t operate like any other car brand. In fact, this relative newcomer (Est. 2003) does everything a little bit differently. And as I was soon to find out as I approached the Tesla Model 3 for the first time, there is nothing ordinary about the car in front me!

What's so hot about the Tesla Model 3?

Designed as Tesla’s smaller, simpler, and more affordable car, slotting in below the brand-defining Model S and ‘groovy-doored’ Model X SUV, the Tesla Model 3 officially went on sale in Ireland in 2019.

With pricing starting from €48,990, this car has massively contributed to the rapid widening of Tesla’s customer base. The brand has registered 340 cars in Ireland so far in 2021, with 335 of them Model 3s.

As I approach the car with what looks like a Tesla-branded credit card in my hand, it’s probably already done a background check on me and knows my first pet’s name. A swipe of the card against the B pillar and I’m in!

Glistening in ruby red, the Tesla Model 3 brings next generation glamour to Irish roads. Three variants are available all with varying levels of performance and battery wizardry: the Standard Range Plus (448 km WLTP, priced from €48,990), Model 3 Performance (567 km WLTP, priced from €65,990) and Long Range (580 km WLTP, priced from €58,990).

Topping up the Model 3's battery at the Tesla Supercharger
Topping up the Model 3's battery at the Tesla Supercharger

What's new for the Model 3 in 2021?

The Model 3 has also received a range of styling improvements for 2021 including matte black trim around the car's exterior features like the door handles, more efficient tyres and updated 18/19” Sports Wheels. The Model 3 Performance can now be ordered with new 20” ‘Uberturbine’ wheels. There’s also a new electrically operated boot lid, which opens at the touch of a button or from the touchscreen or Tesla app.

Interior updates include more matte black finish, which replaces the gloss finish in previous versions of the car. The centre console has been redesigned, featuring fixed inductive charging mats for two smartphones. Two additional high-powered USB-C ports have been added for high-speed device charging. Plus, an additional USB-A port in the glove compartment to use for storage devices for Sentry Mode and Dash Cam footage. A new heat pump improves how fast the cabin heats up.

Eight surround cameras allow for 360-degree vision, while twelve ultrasonic sensors provide detection of surrounding objects. Driver assistance features such as emergency braking, collision warning and blind-spot monitoring try their best to keep you out of trouble, while Autopilot is included as standard which, under driver supervision, enables the car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane.

Inside the 2021 Tesla Model 3
Inside the 2021 Tesla Model 3

Inside the Tesla Model 3

Yes, Tesla do things differently - but depending on how you like your cars, the Tesla’s austere cabin design and gigantic 15" touchscreen in the centre of the dash might have you running for something more analogue and familiarly square.

Even moving the side mirrors requires a quick detour into the central operating system. But as smart as Tesla is, the pure mechanical action of adjusting the wing mirrors is then done through a few twists, turns and slides of a reassuringly normal button on the steering wheel. And except for some stalks for the wipers, indicators, and gear selection, that’s about it. There’s no ON button or ignition - the Tesla just knows you’re ready to go. The Tesla Model 3 is the smartest car I’ve ever met. And I've met a lot of cars. Over 300!

The finish of the cabin and the quality of the design is an improvement on the Model 3 but it feels more basic than a premium German saloon that would command a similar list price. Cabin space is excellent with lots of glazing making it a pleasant place to travel in. The rear bench can seat three, while the boot opens to reveal over 500 litres of cargo space.

So will I be stopping a lot to charge it?

Tesla’s battery technology is truly astounding. Seeing over 500 km on your range counter means less time plugged in or even contemplating where the next charger is when driving between destinations. And Tesla has been building these big milers for years, with well-established car brands only beginning to catch up now. And they are still not there yet.

Yes, it is a very clever car. I sat for hours behind the wheel thinking about this. No need to do rapid calculations in my head, extrapolating, predicting, estimating, and still not having enough range to get home comfortably. With a real world driving range in excess of 500 km, this model moves the conversation on completely when it comes to normalising electric cars, what you can do with them and how it feels to own one.

The Tesla Model 3 has a great design with plenty of interior space
The Tesla Model 3 has a great design with plenty of interior space

Driving the 2021 Tesla Model 3

And how you can drive them! If the range doesn’t excite your passengers, then the performance surely will. The Tesla Model 3 Long Range can accelerate to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds and it feels just as fast with a silent shove of torque that requires a small warning to passengers of warp speed that is about to be engaged.

Rapid acceleration is a novelty but the Model 3 Long Range is a talented handler with all wheel drive delivering a distinct style of tarmac hugging charm.

It’s very comfortable for the most part but the ride falls short of truly magic carpet premium.

Most buyers will charge their Model 3 at home from a wallbox and rarely need to charge on the go. But the Model 3 also comes with a built-in CCS Charge Port for compatibility with third party fast charging networks like IONITY and ESB, or Tesla’s own Supercharger network and Destination chargers.

The Tesla Model 3 Long Range available from €58,990
The Tesla Model 3 Long Range available from €58,990

Did you like it?

The Tesla Model 3 is a marvel, no doubt about it. The smartest car on the road, already set up for self-driving in a world that isn’t ready for that yet.

But it is not emotional at all. From the cut of the cabin to the myriad of functions and games set in the central operating system, the Model 3 has the distinct feeling of being a device. A good one, but it’s a different approach to building cars. Not wrong, simply different.

The on-road performance is silently charming but the Model 3 will never talk to you through the steering rim or the pedals and whisper words of encouragement like some of the best cars I’ve ever known.

But over 500 km driving range on battery power and not a bead of sweat on my forehead hustling through four counties in one day? With reliable fast charging at the other end on the Tesla Supercharger network? Maybe we need a new definition of 'best' at Changing Lanes!

The undeniable magnificent battery technology, next level operating and design mean this car has and will continue to attract its own loyal following. It remains a status symbol of futurism and cleverness, and reassures that someday we won’t talk about cars and electric cars as if one is somehow compromised over the other. Just cars that can take you from A to B.

Caroline behind the wheel of the 2021 Tesla Model 3!
Caroline behind the wheel of the 2021 Tesla Model 3!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Tesla Model 3 Long Range Dual Motor All Wheel Drive
Price: 
€58,990
Battery: 
75 kWh
Range (WLTP): 580 km
Top speed: 233 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 4.4 seconds
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 0 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€120 per year
 

 


The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class on test for Changing Lanes!

Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2021) Review

 

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class on test for Changing Lanes!

Launched back in 2016, the current generation of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is known as a leader. With over 14 million E-Class Saloon and Estate models delivered since 1946, the E-Class is the best-selling model series in the history of Mercedes-Benz and considered by many as the ‘heart of the brand’.

It's no surprise. This large luxury saloon hit its stride in 2016 with the launch of the tenth generation E-Class, widely acclaimed as the epitome of style, comfort and refinement. But even leaders need to keep themselves sharp with the pace of competition in the motor industry at the moment. So it was time for the E-Class to take a trip to the tailor for a fancy new executive suit.

Hybrid power is a strong theme as is a digital technology upgrade for even more wow factor behind the wheel.

 

 

What's new for the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class?

The E-Class is the bestselling model for Mercedes-Benz in Ireland. In late 2020, the brand launched a refreshed version of this executive classic, while also using the opportunity to launch two ‘EQ Power’ plug-in hybrid models on the Irish market – the E 300 e (petrol electric hybrid) and the E 300 de (diesel electric hybrid). The petrol hybrid now has a higher capacity battery, more power and more torque. It hits the market at a time when hybrids are big news and now can drive for longer on electric power - up to 50 km.

The latest E-Class has had a few styling tweaks for 2021. The refresh includes a slight redesign of the front grille and headlamps for a more youthful appearance in line with other models in the Mercedes-Benz range like the A-Class, upcoming C-Class and flagship S-Class that launched here at the beginning of 2021. At the back, there’s a new bumper, split tail lamps and a new boot lid. Full LED headlights and taillights are fitted as standard. Subtlety is the name of the game here but stately presence is non-negotiable.

The E-Class has been updated for 2021 with more hybrid power
The E-Class has been updated for 2021 with more hybrid power

Inside the latest E-Class

Inside comes a well-appointed interior that is still a class example of modern contemporary luxury, something Mercedes-Benz does so well these days. Cabin finish is impeccable as you would expect of a high-flyer like the E-Class. There are new trims for the interior too and a new steering wheel design. Supportive seats with leather upholstery come as standard, ideal for settling in for a long motorway cruise.

The latest-generation MBUX and ‘Hey Mercedes’ multimedia and voice-activated assistance systems also feature. Displayed on two large, high-resolution multimedia screens, both come housed beneath a shared glass cover that creates a widescreen cockpit effect. It’s simply stunning.

Unfortunately boot space suffers in the hybrid to accommodate the battery, down from a very respectable 540 litres - in a diesel E-Class for example - to 370 litres in the E 300 e, with an awkward step in the boot. Otherwise this is a roomy and luxurious large executive saloon that will thrill all on board!

Pricing starts from €53,645 for the E 200 d, while the E 300 e plug-in hybrid range starts from €61,830 with a high level of standard equipment. The E 300 de diesel plug-in hybrid range starts from €63,755.

The interior of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
The interior of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Hybrid power in the E-Class

Mercedes-Benz Ireland expects the focus for the Irish market to be the tried and tested E 200d and 220d diesels, and the new E 300 e/ E 300 de plug-in hybrids. I can attest to the success of the Mercedes-Benz E 220d from previous experience, with diesel still being a reliable choice for power and economy in this class of vehicle.

Yet times are changing with electrification becoming the default way for car manufacturers to bring down emissions and offer customers more flexible, environmentally friendly options.

Powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, combined with a 13.5 kWh battery and electric motor, the new Mercedes-Benz E 300 e puts out a healthy 320 hp and 700 Nm of torque. CO2 emissions are just 37g/km so this model qualifies for motor tax of €140 per year. Times are changing!

Simply gorgeous!
Simply gorgeous!

Driving the Mercedes-Benz E 300 e

On the road the E-Class shows exactly why it’s still a benchmark in its class with excellent comfort and refinement making it an absolute pleasure to drive. It soaks up the motorway miles, moving over the tarmac like the big, elegant saloon it is. There’s a pleasantly positive delivery of power by the E 300 e, made all the more special by the knack of the electric motor to give smooth, linear acceleration, while the 9-speed automatic gearbox never misses a beat. It is beguiling how quiet this car is to drive around town.

The E-Class might look the business but it’s not the most dynamically exciting car in its class. Yet rear wheel drive agility still makes it an interesting large saloon to drive.

While diesel has typically been the go-to in the large premium saloon segment, the new Mercedes-Benz E 300 e returns some impressive economy. Over a week of driving, with some motorway runs included, my average fuel consumption was between 6 – 6.4 l/100 km.

The beauty of this car is that because it’s a plug-in hybrid you can experiment with charging it and driving it on electric power alone, for example when driving around town or on short commutes. In this scenario, there’s up to 50 km of range available. With an on-board charge port with a capacity of 7.4 kW, the battery can be charged in 1.5 hours using a wallbox or in five hours using a conventional domestic power socket.

The Mercedes-Benz E 300 e is available from €61,830
The Mercedes-Benz E 300 e is available from €61,830

Did you like it?

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a fine car and highly desirable for its comfort, refinement, and high-end cabin experience. The updates for 2021 bring a healthy digital and technology upgrade to the car making for an even more glamourous cabin. It covers the road like a dream, making it a fabulous way to travel!

The new E 300 e is a wonderful execution of Mercedes-Benz values – electrified. However, the diesel E-Class is also a highly capable vehicle with great returns on economy. So, whether buyers are ready to pay the premium for new plug-in hybrid technology, and start their own journey to electrification, remains a very personal matter. But either way the E-Class is a magnificent car!

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class - full of mystery and magic!
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class - full of mystery and magic!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz E 300 e Plug In Hybrid
Price: 
€61,830
Engine: 
2.0-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 
320 bhp
Torque: 
700 Nm
0-100km/h: 
5.7 seconds
Top speed: 
250 km/h
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 
37 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year

 


The new Jaguar XE Chequered Flag on test for Changing Lanes!

Jaguar XE Chequered Flag (2020) Review

The new Jaguar XE Chequered Flag on test for Changing Lanes!
The new Jaguar XE Chequered Flag on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2020 Jaguar XE.

We review the 2020 Jaguar XE Chequered Flag edition with great anticipation that soon turned to a real grá for this lithe and lovely cat. Fresh from a 2019 facelift, Jaguar’s compact saloon invites more customers to the brand with contemporary luxury and first class engineering.

Jaguar Ireland is turning our attention in the direction of the Chequered Flag edition of the XE. It adds an impressive list of standard equipment along with some sporty styling additions, all available from a competitive €47,005.

What's so special about the Jaguar XE?

Let’s rewind a little to put this XE into some context. Jaguar is a small brand compared to the other heavy hitters in the premium segment but buyers of premium cars should do themselves a favour and check out what’s available from the brand. To date, Changing Lanes has spent time with Jaguar's new breed of SUVs; that will be the ground-breaking F-PACE of 2016 and the E-PACE follow up of 2017.

But what about the classic Jaguar saloon? The XE was in fact an all-new model for the brand back in 2014, joining the XF and XJ in Jaguar’s premium saloon range. Just like competitor brands, the XE was about attracting younger buyers to the brand with a modern compact saloon that oozed class and sporty appeal. Let’s remember this is the brand that lives by the tagline ‘The Art of Performance’.

The Jaguar XE Chequered Flag is on sale priced from €47,005
The Jaguar XE Chequered Flag is on sale priced from €47,005

What's new for the 2020 Jaguar XE?

The Jaguar XE has great presence on the road and the 2019 facelift offers some satisfactory updates to appearance to keep things modern. New front and rear bumpers feature as do all-LED headlights and tail-lights with distinctive ‘J-blade’ LED signatures. Chequered Flag editions get black 18” alloys and exterior pack.

However, it’s inside where the XE really does sell itself beautifully. Open the door and you will be met by a stylish and classy cabin full of leather and other contemporary magic. We loved our test car's cream leather and panelling. The contour-hugging front seats are mounted low, creating a sports-car like driving position. The raised centre console also adds to the sportiness.

The 2019 facelift reaped dividends for the brand in this segment. Soft-touch materials, premium veneers and all-new door trims feature as does a revised centre console, new gear shift selector, and a new steering wheel shared with the I-PACE electric SUV. It features hidden-until-lit graphics and tactile switches for intuitive control of key functions.

The interior of the Jaguar XE Chequered Flag
The interior of the Jaguar XE Chequered Flag

More technology for the interior

The Chequered Flag edition also benefits from a swish new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system with 10" touchscreen. Apple Car Play and Android Auto sync easily but the native system is quite impressive. The twin-screen system also includes a 5.5" lower touchscreen with two physical dials for things like ventilation and other functions. It looks great and it is actually one of the easiest on the market to use. Wireless phone charging is available for the first time too.

Other standard features on the Jaguar XE Chequered Flag are 14-way electric heated front seats, illuminated metal tread plates, configurable ambient lighting, front and rear parking sensors and reverse camera.

In Ireland the Jaguar XE is available at present with petrol and diesel engines form the brand’s Ingenium range of engines. The 2.0-litre turbo diesel puts out a healthy 180 hp. There is also a 2.0-litre petrol available with 250 or 300 hp.

The Jaguar XE strikes a fine balance between comfort and performance
The Jaguar XE strikes a fine balance between comfort and performance

On the road in the Jaguar XE!

Jaguar has a fantastic heritage in motorsport and building performance-oriented road cars. Yet can they package this supremacy in a compact saloon? We were keen to find out. In fact the XE appears to do it better than any rival in its current iteration. Much of the on-road performance is down to the Jaguar XE’s lightweight aluminium intensive body structure. Aluminium makes up 75 per cent of the body and combines with classic sporty rear wheel drive and sophisticated integral link rear suspension. The XE is the most agile in its class, a playful mate for keen drivers. The steering is wonderfully weighted with loads of precision and steering feel. No interruptions, this car is an excellent communicator on the road.

Jaguar has achieved a fine balance between comfort and performance in the XE. Despite a sporty oriented drive this car covers the road phenomenally well. Automatic transmission comes as standard and we liked the slickness of shifts in association with the 2.0-litre diesel in our test car. This engine is another fine point. Refinement is very good and performance, one of the best. It’s swift and responsive with 430 Nm of torque, achieving 0 to 100 kmh in 8.1 seconds. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was a competitive 5.5 l per 100 km.

Enthusiastic drivers will also find a Dynamic mode that amplifies the car’s sporting character, with faster gear shifts, sharper throttle response and increased steering weighting. We kept the car in Comfort most of the time and we were happy with the experience behind the wheel. Other modes include Eco or Rain, Ice, Snow Mode. Jaguar also includes All Surface Progress Control (ASPC) in the spec, a useful driver aid based on Jaguar Land Rover’s experience in off-road traction systems. It’s like a low speed cruise control system and helps XE drivers to electronically gain traction in seconds, ideal for use on low-grip surfaces, such as snow-covered roads.

Diesel and petrol engines are available in the current XE line-up
Diesel and petrol engines are available in the current XE line-up

Did you like it all?

So was there anything we didn’t like about this car? With the XE there is a compromise to be made on interior and boot space. This is the smallest car in its class when it comes to interior space. Rear legroom is on the tight side compared to rivals. The saloon style boot restricts practicality somewhat. There is over 410 litres available, but like for like, it is less than what you find in rivals.

The Jaguar XE is a smooth operator that comes up behind you, overtakes you and you never realised it was just so good. Seductive looks and the prestige of the Jaguar badge should put it on your shortlist as a mid size sports saloon. Yes we can call it a legitimate sports saloon because it really does feel like one. Even with a four cylinder diesel engine!

Once you get behind the wheel you will love the Jaguar for its classy interior and incredible on the road performance and agility. The 2019 facelift keeps the XE very competitive in its segment with the addition of the latest infotainment. The Chequered Flag edition is very tempting for the level of standard kit and price; when you compare it to rivals of similar spec it seems well-priced.

The XE feels smaller inside than rivals but if space is not a priority, then enjoy one of the most fun and sporty compact saloons on the market right now.

Jaguar XE Chequered Flag on sale now
Jaguar XE Chequered Flag on sale now

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Jaguar XE 2.0 D Chequered Flag
Price: 
€47,005
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
180 hp
Torque: 430 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.1 seconds
Top speed: 228 km/h
Fuel economy: 4.9 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 130 g/km
Motor Tax:  €270 per year


The 2020 Audi A5 Sportback on test for Changing Lanes!

Audi A5 Sportback (2020) Review

The 2020 Audi A5 Sportback on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2020 Audi A5 Sportback on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2020 Audi A5 Sportback!

The Audi A5 Sportback is revamped for 2020. Redrawn lines, renewed technology and a revised engine line-up are the headline features. Audi modernises their gorgeous five door coupé that’s still practical enough to carry up to five people AND turn heads. Aside from the new look, new mild hybrid drivetrains and the latest MMI touch operating concept debut. Pricing starts from €48,970.

If we rewind a little, the first generation Audi A5 Sportback debuted in 2009 and it was the German brand’s arrival in a new segment between the classic A4 and A6 saloons. The A5 Sportback and Coupé are derived from the A4 yet have a completely different character. With updated Audi A4 models on sale in Ireland since the end of 2019, it was time for the A5 range to receive a similar revamp.

What's so special about the Audi A5 Sportback?

Elegant, elongated, and sporty -  the Audi A5 has an exclusive coupé-like silhouette with a lowered, tapering roofline. A longer wheelbase with shorter front and rear overhangs also give it an edge over the A4. Slim windows and frameless doors complete the look.

The facelift sees the A5 get a slightly more chiselled appearance for 2020. The front end has more visual impact now the Singleframe honeycomb grille is wider and flatter. At the rear a diffuser insert with trapezoidal tailpipes makes the car appear wider. The Audi A5 Sportback S Line on test for Changing Lanes was sporty by default. But my test car also included the Style Package (€2,205) with 20" wheels, panoramic glass sunroof, multicoloured interior ambient lighting, black styling package (€775) and mirrors (€152).

The interior of the new Audi A5 Sportback
The interior of the new Audi A5 Sportback

Inside the 2020 Audi A5 Sportback

Inside the new Audi A5 Sportback, you are welcomed by an exceptionally well-appointed cabin that has received an on-point technology update for 2020. This car manages to feel different behind the wheel to the closely related Audi A4, with a more sporty and lower driving position. However, it does inherit the same wonderful elegance and classy dashboard design. We love the large MMI touch display in the centre of the dash, angled slightly toward the driver. Ventilation controls use traditional dials below.

The Audi A5 Sportback feels big inside with roomy footwells in the rear. However the large transmission tunnel in the rear means it’s a more comfortable place for two rather than three. But the boot is a great size with a practical hatchback-style opening.

What’s the range like in Ireland?

In Ireland the Audi A5 Sportback is available in SE and S line trim levels. Buyers can choose from a range of TFSI petrol and TDI diesel engines with outputs ranging from 150 hp to 204 hp.

The petrol range is made up of the 35 TFSI (150 hp) and the 40 TFSI (204 hp). The diesel range is available with the 35 TDI (163 hp) and the 40 TDI (190 hp). Models are front wheel drive as standard but four wheel drive is available. All A5 models are equipped with an automatic transmission as standard.

The model on test was a 35 TDI S line with a list price of €52,830.

The new A5 Sportback is available from €48,970 in Ireland
The new A5 Sportback is available from €48,970 in Ireland

On the road in the Audi A5 Sportback

According to Audi, the A5's suspension has been tuned with an emphasis on comfort but also with a sporty bias.  A tauter sport suspension is a feature of the S line model. On the road the A5 offers drivers more engagement than the A4 with lots of front end grip and precise, progressive steering as standard. There's no rear wheel drive agility but the Audi will please most drivers, happy on the turn in with plenty of grip to inspire confidence on the twisty stuff.

Audi is beginning to roll out mild hybrid tech across key product lines and the updated A5 is no different. In the quest to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, a belt alternator starter recovers energy during deceleration and stores this in a compact lithium-ion battery. With the A5's four-cylinder engines, the MHEV system is integrated into the 12-volt electrical system.

The 35 TDI in our test car is a 2.0-litre diesel with 'modest' 163 hp, yet feels surprisingly sprightly. Shifts are smooth and urgent through the 7-speed S tronic automatic gearbox. Fuel economy is competitive while motor tax is €190 per year. For most drivers there won't be a real need to upgrade to the 40 TDI. The 35 TDI does a fine job here.

The typical fine Audi ride comfort and refinement was slightly offset in our S line model with optional 20" wheels. However long distance refinement on the motorway for example is done well, with the engine settling down to the background and the car providing occupants with a comfortable, classy setting.

Did you like it?

The Audi A5 Sportback is clearly a gorgeous car and grabs attention with its more exclusive styling. The facelift has given the car a slightly more masculine appearance. It remains very desirable and will be a prized possession on many driveways.

The Audi A5 Sportback is practical and extremely stylish
The Audi A5 Sportback is practical and extremely stylish

Though its roots lie in the A4, the A5 carries a premium yet it is a far more interesting car to drive. It's surprisingly unique with a great driving position and driver-focused cabin. Coupé-styling gives the A5 more presence, while the hatchback-style book makes it almost as practical as an A4 estate.

Inside there is a pleasant addition of new technology, but the cabin has an elegant design that still looks fresh and modern.

On the road the A5 Sportback also differentiates itself with a sporty yet composed drive, robust engines and no great compromise to comfort.

The Audi A5 Sportback gets a very expressive mid-term makeover that makes it one of the most well-rounded cars in its class. At Changing Lanes we love this car's style, quality and versatility.

The Audi A5 range debuts mild hybrid technology for 2020
The Audi A5 range debuts mild hybrid technology for 2020

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Audi A5 Sportback 35 TDI S Line
Price: 
€52,830 (from €48,970)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
163 hp
Torque: 380 Nm
0-100km/h:  
8.4 seconds
Top speed: 226 km/h
Fuel economy: 3.7-4.1 l/100 km
CO2 emissions: 98-108 g/km
Motor Tax:  €190 per year


The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon

Mercedes-Benz C-Class (2020) Review


The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon

Caroline drives the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon!

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is one of the icons of the Mercedes-Benz range. It has been endearing buyers of compact executive saloons for over two decades now. Despite an onslaught of new SUVs, saloons remain popular in Ireland and the C-Class is still one of the most desirable.

The current generation of the C-Class Merc debuted in 2014. It quickly gained notoriety for its interior elegance and comfort. Then in 2019, it was time for an update. And that's what we have here - the latest compact Benz saloon ready to take on an executive car park crammed with premium German saloon metal. Testing the mettle of the C-Class for sure, but even in 2020 there's still plenty of reasons to check out the Benz. 

What's new for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

Pricing for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon starts from €41,320 for a C180 Avantgarde petrol edition. The latest revamp includes new engines, equipment and trim elements to keep it at the races against key rivals like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. The C-class styling makeover is slim in that all the elegant, compact saloon proportions are retained but with some new trim elements, alloy wheels and headlight/rear light design. 

Available in the classic Avantgarde trim or the sportier AMG Line, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class oozes class and prestige. AMG Line models get standard fit 18” alloys, more aggressive bumpers and a stunning diamond radiator grille with chrome pins. LED headlights come as standard. The C-Class knows how to make an entrance and won't let you down!


The interior of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon
The interior of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon

Inside the 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The cabin of the C-Class is very plush and luxurious with beautiful soft touch materials and design elements. Details like the circular air vents and open pore black ash wood trim add sophistication. The C-Class range gets a welcome technology upgrade in that you can now opt for a 12.3-inch digital cockpit display and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen. The 10.25 inch screen as part of the Advantage pack is definitely worth considering (€3,417) as it looks a lot more premium and at home than the standard 7” screen. There is also a new multifunction steering wheel with touch-control buttons that respond to swiping motions like the screen of a smartphone.

These changes give a bit more modernity to the cabin of the C-Class. It's certainly feeling more 2020 in here. But competition is stiff with a recently revamped A4 and 3 Series also dripping in quality materials and the latest technology features. All three rival compact executive saloons have a different vibe inside. The C-Class is classic Mercedes with a contemporary twist perfect for a stylish junior executive. 

In terms of space, the C-Class Saloon will seat five. However, the rear bench is best suited to two passengers rather than three because of the large ‘hump’ in the middle housing the transmission tunnel. The boot is a competitive 480 litres and the boot lid lifts electronically from a button on the key or a switch in the cabin. Classy vibes!

For buyers looking for more space, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class estate is a good buy. It offers stylish looks in the body of an estate car with a large and practical square boot.

What are my options?

There are plenty of nice features to make your C-Class feel a little bit special. Leather upholstery certainly helps and that comes as standard. There's also cruise control, dual zone climate control, heated front seats, keyless start and 17” alloys on Avantgarde models. The AMG Line models are a bit more expensive to buy but add sports pedals, 18” alloys and AMG bodystyling. They certainly improve the kerb appeal of this C-Class model.

Petrol and diesel engines are the main feature of the C-Class range in 2020. Engine options include a 1.6-litre petrol (C180), 2.0-litre petrol (C300), 1.6-litre diesel (C200d) and 2.0-litre diesel (C220d), as well as some sportier variants.


The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon has been updated for 2019
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon is available with a range of petrol and diesel engines for 2020

New Mercedes-Benz C200 engine - any good?

One of the most exciting additions to the new C-Class range is the C200 now with 'EQ Boost'. It's a new 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine for Mercedes-Benz that uses mild hybrid technology. This is a big trend for manufacturers now across the industry, with the aim to bring down C02 emissions and boost efficiency. A 48 volt on-board electrical system with a belt-driven starter/alternator gives the car a boost in performance and efficiency. The power output is a healthy 184hp and 0 to 100 km/h is achieved in just 7.7 seconds.

We found the new C200 to deliver smooth power through the nine speed automatic gearbox during our test drive. The car was refined at a cruise though when you ask it to work hard quickly, it does get a bit noisier. Over a week of driving the C200 averaged fuel consumption at 8.4l/100km. Motor tax is €390 per year for this model. This shows that in this segment there is still a space for diesel, which would easily offer superior economy for high mileage drivers.

On the road in the C-Class 

My test car featured Dynamic Body Control that alters suspension damping characteristics in three stages. The damping characteristics are tuned more tautly in the two stages “Sport” and “Sport+”. The “Comfort” mode is more comfortably tuned, unevenness is levelled out better and road roar and tyre vibration characteristics are improved. There’s also a Sports Direct-Steer system for more agile and smooth handling.

On the road, the C-Class Saloon glides along the tarmac effortlessly offering a top class comfortable and serene drive. It offers rear wheel drive agility and is flexible through corners, though the sensations reaching the rim are not overtly sporty. I recently drove the Mercedes-Benz C200 Coupé, but I really like the C200 set-up in the Saloon. 

There may be a squeeze on saloons from SUVs but there is likely to always be a market for prestigious, premium saloons like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. This facelift has improved and modernised the interior even more, so that the car still feels current. This is a fine luxury motor for cruising and Mercedes-Benz has successfully packaged the essence of the brand in the C-Class, making it a great entry point into the premium saloon market. 


Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon
Style and comfort in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz C200 Saloon AMG Line Automatic
Price:
€48,119 (Range from €41,320)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
184 hp
Torque: 280 Nm
0-100km/h:  
7.7 seconds
Top speed: 239 km/h
Fuel economy:
6.0-6.3l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
144g/km
Motor tax: 
€390 per year


The new BMW 3 Series!

BMW 3 Series (2020) Review

The new BMW 3 Series!
The new BMW 3 Series!

Caroline drives the new BMW 3 Series!

The BMW 3 Series is an icon that doesn’t need much to sell itself. It’s long been hailed as the sportiest compact executive saloon in its class, exalted for its playful rear wheel driving dynamics and high-end build and refinement.

Now the BMW 3 Series is in its 7th generation and it’s a gentle evolution of a familiar and popular car. You don’t mess with an icon like the 3 Series.

BMW 3 Series Video Review

What's new for the 2020 BMW 3 Series?

The new 3 Series was five years in development and BMW says that the focus for this new generation has been sportiness, innovation and design. Proportions have been revised, there’s a wider track and a longer wheelbase. These all impact on the visual appeal of the car and a new design language focuses on clean, precise lines. The design is comfortingly familiar yet modernised in line with the latest BMW ‘look’.

The 2020 BMW 3 Series is on sale in Ireland priced from €44,115. The new 3 Series is available in three trim levels: SE, Sport and M Sport.

Trim elements differ depending on specification and the 3 Series is in its sportiest incarnation in M Sport trim. The car sits 10 mm lower and there are large air intakes at the front as well as a redesigned front bumper, side skirts and rear apron. The kidney grille is finished in high gloss black. The stunning new Portimao Blue metallic is also a unique colour option for the M Sport model.

The interior of the BMW 3 Series
The interior of the BMW 3 Series

The interior of the new 3 Series

Inside the 3 Series gets a smart new interior very fitting of a junior executive car. There is a fine mix of materials and the quality is excellent throughout. The M Sport model adds sports seats to the specification, as well as an ‘M’ leather steering wheel, anthracite-coloured headliner, and full leather interior with heated front seats.

Cabin comfort for passengers has been improved with more shoulder room in the front and extra legroom in the back. Getting in and out of the car is easier for the rear passengers because the door aperture height has been increased. The boot has a capacity of 480 litres, while new partitioning into a primary luggage compartment and separate storage compartments has created an additional 36 litres of space.

There’s also a welcome addition of new technology features including a new digital instrument cluster as standard. The M Sport model gets the impressive 10.3-inch central instrument cluster and BMW’s brand new Operating System 7.0 with the Intelligent Personal Assistant.

The entry level SE model has 17″ alloys, LED headlights, BMW Light Carpet, interior ambient lighting, reversing camera, electric folding rear view mirrors, three-zone air conditioning and enhanced acoustic glazing.  There’s also a leather sport steering wheel and BMW Live Cockpit plus, with 8.8-inch central instrument cluster.

The 3 Series range starts from €44,115 in Ireland
The 3 Series range starts from €44,115 in Ireland

What are my options?

Engine options for the new 3 Series include the 318d and 320d (diesels available from €44,115) and the 320i and 330i (petrols available from €44,155). A new 330e plug-in hybrid is also available from €51,475. A six-speed manual gearbox is also available on some models, as is the BMW xDrive all-wheel-drive system.

My test car was a classic 320d M Sport, four-cylinder diesel engine with 190hp and an 8 speed automatic gearbox with a list price of €52,410. The 2.0-litre diesel engine has been upgraded and it now includes multi-stage turbocharging to improve efficiency across all engine speeds. On the road, the new 320d is a gem and one of the best diesel saloons on the market. It’s smooth and refined with plenty of power and torque. Acceleration is brisk with the 0 to 100 km/h sprint achieved in just 6.8 seconds with the automatic gearbox.

BMW has also made significant improvements to aerodynamics reducing the drag coefficient of the BMW 320d for example from 0.26 to 0.23 with measures such as an almost completely sealed underbody, aerodynamically optimised wheels, the use of Air Curtains at the front and the latest generation of active air flap control, which extends across the BMW kidney grille and lower air intake. Over a week of driving my fuel consumption averaged at 5.7l/100km and motor tax for this model is €200 per year.

Rear legroom in the new 3 Series
Rear legroom in the new 3 Series

On the road in the new BMW 320d

This all knits very well with the 3 Series’ natural dynamic appeal. BMW set out to improve the handling of the 3 Series even more in this new generation of the car by increasing the track front and rear and making the whole car stiffer and more rigid while also shedding 55kg of body weight. This translates to a tactile feeling on the road that is unmatched by rivals for driver appeal. The steering is meaty and ultra precise while the whole car stays perfectly balanced and aligned through tight cornering.

Despite sporty enhancements for the M Sport model (19” alloys option on test car and sports suspension), by and large the ride is fine, though some way off the slinky ride of an Audi A4. For M Sport models, buyers can specify the Adaptive M suspension that alters damping characteristics between more comfortable and sporty driving modes.

The BMW 3 Series is an icon, a hugely desirable car among its legion of fans. It still sets the benchmark for handling in its class, defining what’s possible from the compact executive sports saloon. The interior gets a welcome addition of new technology features that keep it competitive among rivals. The 320d is a fine example of a diesel saloon with class leading refinement and splendid power. Welcome back 3 Series!

The BMW 3 Series is an icon, a hugely desirable car among its legion of fans.
The BMW 3 Series is an icon, a hugely desirable car among its legion of fans.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: BMW 320d M Sport Saloon Automatic
Price:
€52,410
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
190 hp
Torque: 400 Nm
0-100km/h: 
6.8 seconds
Top speed: 240 km/h
Fuel economy:
4.4-4.7 l/100km
CO2 emissions:
112 g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year


In this review we test the Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series

Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series: Which Is Better?

In this review we test the Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series
In this review we test the Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series

Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series: Which is better?

In this comparison review, we are going to take a closer look at two titans of the executive car park – the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series. In 2019, BMW released an all new generation of the 3 Series, while in late 2019, a revised Audi A4 range hit dealer showrooms in Ireland.

The G20 BMW 3 Series sports a gentle evolution in styling of a very familiar silhouette. It’s the classic German 3-box saloon. Proportions have been revised, styling modernised more in line with the 5 Series from a class above. But the hallmarks of the 3 Series remain – the strong BMW kidney grille at the front and a road hugging sporty stance teasing the class-leading handling ability the BMW 3 Series will always be inextricably linked to.

In the Audi corner, the A4 does a fine job of commanding the executive car park. Timeless design, clean lines and elegant detailing are what make buyers fall in love with the Audi A4 quicker than you can say ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’. The 2019 facelift enhanced what was already a smart, contemporary design of a premium saloon car.

The interior of the latest 2020 Audi A4
The interior of the latest 2020 Audi A4

LED headlights are standard on both the A4 and the 3 Series ranges. Trim levels give a classic look or a sporty one in both the 3 Series and A4 ranges. This reviewer prefers the sporty look bestowed by BMW’s M Sport trim or Audi’s S line. Larger alloy wheels, meaner body kits and other exotic details make these models a little bit special (and more expensive).

So which car has the best interior?

The 2020 BMW 3 Series has a new interior that has been delightfully modernised with the latest technology features and infotainment. The material quality is excellent with beautiful leather upholstery available as standard on higher spec M Sport models. We loved the sporty M Sport steering wheel and new digital instrument panel, the latter which comes as standard across the range. SE and Sport models get a new 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, while M Sport gets the larger 10.25-inch with Apple CarPlay connectivity (Android Auto is on the way in 2020), gesture and voice control. You can also control using the iDrive controller on the centre console.

In the cabin of the Audi A4, you can have a similar digital and techy experience. The cabin design is even better in the Audi A4. Though this car debuted in 2015, it still looks really elegant and contemporary inside. Now the 2019 revamp has made it even better again with the latest 10.1-inch high resolution MMI touch display tilted slightly towards the driver. This set up comes as standard and keeps the Audi A4 at the races. A digital instrument panel is an extra however.

The 2020 Audi A4 S line
The 2020 Audi A4 S line

How practical are they?

The new 3 Series has a longer wheelbase than the car it replaces and cabin comfort has been improved for passengers. There is still quite an intrusive transmission tunnel in the middle but overall there is more shoulder room in the front and extra legroom in the back. BMW has also increased the height of the door opening so getting in and out of the car is easier for rear passengers. There is not much between these two cars in that they will fit four adults comfortably. The boot volume is the same in both the A4 and the 3 Series - 480 litres. Both cars are available as more practical estate cars – the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series Touring.

Engine options

In Ireland the new BMW 3 Series is sold with petrol and diesel engines, and there is also a new BMW 330e plug-in hybrid. On the petrol side there is a 2.0-litre petrol badged 318i, 320i or 330i depending on horsepower; there are also 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre diesels (badged 318d, 320d, 330d). There's also a top end 340i and 340d models, which also feature BMW ‘xdrive’ four wheel drive. My pick is the popular BMW 320d with 2.0-litre diesel engine and 190 hp for a mixture of power, refinement and economy. 8-speed automatics and 6-speed manual gearboxes are available.

The interior of the 2020 BMW 3 Series
The interior of the 2020 BMW 3 Series

The Audi A4 is also available with a range of petrol and diesel engines, however at this time there is no A4 plug-in hybrid to match the popular BMW 330e. Power comes from a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 150 or 190 hp, or a 2.0-litre diesel with 136, 163 or 190 hp. A 6-speed manual gearbox or S tronic automatic are also available. Audi’s quattro four wheel drive is available on the 2.0-litre 190hp diesel. The 2.0-litre diesel with 163hp is a popular choice in this large executive car segment and very economical.

Why not try these for a test drive?

Audi A4 35 TDI 163hp S tronic S Line. Fuel consumption quoted at 5.4-5.7 litres/100km. Qualifies for motor tax of €190 per year. Priced from €49,350.

BMW 320d 190hp M Sport. Fuel consumption quoted at 4.4-4.7 litres/100km. Qualifies for motor tax of €200 per year. Priced from €52,410.

Driving them

On the road both the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series offer premium levels of comfort and refinement. They slice through the air seamlessly and silently. The Audi A4 seems just that little better in this regard with refinment and comfort being key pillars of this model. But that’s not to say that the BMW 3 Series is bad in this particular area. However the BMW 3 Series is a lot more fun and engaging to drive than the Audi A4, even as a basic four pot diesel. The steering is sporty and tactile, the grip and poise sensational. It’s the one that never ceases to entertain.

We'll always love a drive in the BMW 3 Series
We'll always love a drive in the BMW 3 Series

Pricing and Equipment

The BMW 3 Series is available from €44,115 and comes in three trims SE, Sport and M Sport. The entry level SE model has 17″ alloys, LED headlights, BMW Light Carpet, interior ambient lighting, reversing camera, electric folding rear view mirrors, three-zone air conditioning and enhanced acoustic glazing.  There’s also a leather sport steering wheel and BMW Live Cockpit plus, with 8.8-inch central instrument cluster.

The Audi A4 is available from €40,570 and comes in SE or S Line trim. Standard equipment includes heated, electrically adjustable front seats, tri zone climate control, the 10.1-inch colour display, smartphone interface, 18“ alloys, LED headlights and rear lamps, rear view camera, Audi Drive Select, keyless go, front and rear parking sensors, and cruise control.

The Audi A4 shines for its refinement and elegance
The Audi A4 shines for its refinement and elegance

So which are you buying?

This is a very tough call. When you are buying a car at this level of the market, a few things are guaranteed: prestige, refinement, comfort and quality. The Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series deliver on these fronts. Under the skin, the BMW is the newer car here, however the Audi A4 2019 facelift means that you would be hard pressed to know it. The Audi A4 steals the show in terms of interior design and technology. It just is a nicer cabin to spend time in. However, beside the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4 is fine but dull to drive. The 3 Series is really good to drive, engaging, athletic and supple. The Audi A4 is a classy, plush ride. So which will it be?

In light of our summation above, you won’t regret buying either car. But for this reviewer who loves driving, my money would be on the BMW 3 Series.

Volvo S60 vs Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series

What happens when you throw the Volvo S60 into the mix? Interesting. Briefly, I’ll make a few points. An all-new Volvo S60 was launched in 2019. The S60’s Scandi style is something completely different to the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series. Inside the cabin experience is high quality but we noted in our Volvo S60 review how calming and relaxing this cabin was with few distractions. The most interesting difference here is that Volvo has taken the brave decision to produce only petrol and petrol plug-in hybrid S60s. There’s no diesel in a segment where many drivers are high mileage. We tested the Volvo S60 T5. It was beautiful to drive, actually quite close to the 3 Series in that regard but without the rear wheel drive frolics. However, the economy could never match what we got from the BMW and the Audi. Still a classy alternative.

The new Volvo S60
What about the new Volvo S60?

Mercedes-Benz C-Class vs Audi A4 vs BMW 3 Series

Ah, how will the old stalwart Mercedes do in this company? Again let’s look briefly at the C-Class from Stuttgart against the 3 Series from Munich and the A4 from Ingolstadt. In 2018 the Mercedes-Benz C-Class range received a revamp to keep it at the races. The C-Class is know for its broad range. There’s a saloon, estate, cabriolet and coupé. The C-Class is a good looker with the unmistakable class of a Mercedes-Benz. The 2018 revamp did wonders for the interior, with the same contemporary vibe as the Audi A4. In fact, these two are probably best matched for overall cabin design, quality and ambience. There is a broad engine range with a new petrol engine with mild hybrid tech and some trusty diesels. It’s good to drive but a BMW 3 Series is better.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon
Or you could have a tasty Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon like this one

Read our up to date full road test reviews of some of the latest models in the premium saloon segment:

BMW 3 Series (320d)

Audi A4 TDI S line

Volvo S60 T5

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon (C200)

Caroline Kidd


The first generation Opel Insignia (2009-2017)

Opel Insignia Used Car Review (2009-2017)

The first generation Opel Insignia (2009-2017)
The first generation Opel Insignia (2009-2017)

Check out our Opel Insignia used car review!

The Opel Insignia was one of my first ever car reviews for Changing Lanes. That was 2014. Now I think it's fair to say that we can class it as a used car review. I've updated my original review with some more background information. This will help you if you are thinking of buying a used Opel Insignia from between the years of 2009 and 2017. 

The first generation Opel Insignia reached Ireland in 2009. It received a refresh in 2013 and stayed in production until 2017 when it was replaced by the all-new Opel Insignia Grand Sport.

Diesel was king in Ireland in 2009 and the Insignia looked after customers well in this regard. It quickly became a fleet favourite. The visibility of this generation of the Opel Insignia is still high on Irish roads. The Opel Insignia replaced the Opel Vectra and was a huge step forward in design.

Opel Insignia Review

In summer 2014, I tested the Opel Insignia SRi, the sporty one in the range with attractive OPC inspired body styling, 18" alloys, and sports suspension. The first generation Insignia has good presence on the road, while inside it's comfortable and good quality for the large car segment of this era.

The Insignia range was refreshed in 2013 and there were updates to the headlamp design, revised front bumper with slightly bigger and lower air intakes, along with different rear light clusters, new rear bumper and some other trim updates.

The 2013 facelift also saw a revamped interior, new steering wheel, better quality materials, and a new Intellilink touchscreen that removed more buttons for a cleaner look. There was also a new touchpad controller available and voice control.

The interior of the first generation Opel Insignia
The interior of the first generation Opel Insignia

Standard equipment is impressive and over the years there were five trim levels -  S and SC being the more basic ones, SE and Elite the more premium ones and SRi the sporty one. SC and above have the IntelliLink infotainment system with 8” touchscreen and Apple CarPlay from 2015. Some of the safety features available on the first generation Opel Insignia include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitor, rear view parking camera, traffic sign recognition and lane departure warning system.

Opel Insignia Hatchback Vs Saloon Vs Estate

The Opel Insignia was available as a hatchback, saloon or Sports Tourer estate between 2009 and 2017. Interior space was competitive for a large car, not outstanding but the boot was a good size at 530 litres in the Insignia hatchback, 540 litres in the Insignia estate and 500 litres in the Insignia saloon.

My 2014 Opel Insignia was powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine with 163 hp. This engine is economical with good pulling power but it's a bit on the noisy side. In 2015 it was replaced by an improved and much quieter 2.0-litre diesel with 170 hp. Read our review of that diesel Insignia here. Manual and automatic gearboxes are available. Other engine options for the Insignia at the time included a 1.6-litre CDTi with 136 bhp and a 1.4-litre turbo petrol with 140 bhp.

The 2014 Opel Insignia SRi on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2014 Opel Insignia SRi on test for Changing Lanes!

Is the Opel Insignia a good car?

On the road the Opel Insignia majors at cruising effortlessly up and down motorways. This car has broad appeal. The suspension is on the firm side but not uncomfortable by any means. The steering is precise and intuitive giving a reassuring and sporty feel going around bends. This is matched to excellent grip and body control (no doubt down to that extra firmness in the suspension!). The car grips but there is a fair bit of movement of the car’s weight over the suspension. SRi models fitted with sports suspension are tighter in this regard.

The 2014 Opel Insignia SRi 2.0-litre diesel I tested had a normal retail price of €33,295.

Not surprisingly, the Opel Insignia is a popular choice as a company car for its comfort on long journeys and good suspension that absorbs bumps and ruts so well. The huge 530 litre boot and great rear passenger space make it a great family buy too. The Opel Insignia is the German car without the premium price tag but retaining that feeling of quality that you expect from a German car.

It isn't the most dynamically exciting car in the class (that accolade goes to the Ford Mondeo) but the Opel Insignia is more than up for the job of long motorway cruises, keeping everyone on board happy and comfortable!

If you are thinking of buying a used Opel Insignia, I hope this review has been useful.

The 2014 Opel Insignia SRi on test for Changing Lanes!
The 2014 Opel Insignia SRi on test for Changing Lanes!

Details correct at time of test

Model tested: 2014 Opel Insignia SRi Limited Edition 5-door Hatch
Price: €33,295 (as tested new in June 2014)
Engine: 2.0 litre diesel
Power: 163 bhp
0-100km/h: 9.5 seconds
Economy: 65.7mpg (4.3l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 114g/km
Tax band: A4 (€200 per year)

Caroline Kidd