Sticking to conventions: Mercedes C-Class vs saloon rivals

Sticking to conventions: Mercedes C-Class vs saloon rivals

And it has offered value. Our particular test cars muddied a perfect comparison a little bit, because we could only source a four-wheel-drive XF D200 for this test. But if you compare like with like across these three cars, a cash buyer might be looking at a rear-driven XF R-Dynamic SE for less than £37,000, versus a 320d M Sport at more than £40,000 or a C220d AMG Line at more than £42,000. Pretty remarkable, that: the biggest car here comes with the littlest price tag.

ttlest price tag. On monthly finance, however, the Jaguar isn’t quite so remarkable. The BMW’s better forecast residual values and better manufacturer finance support would make it cheaper than the Jaguar on a typical three-year PCP deal, albeit only by about £50 per month. The Mercedes would be cheaper than the Jaguar too, if by a smaller margin. Still, the XF is definitely in the same conversation now. Its new lease of life might materialise just yet.

Onto interiors, then. If what you want from your executive saloon is an expensive-feeling, richly equipped cockpit with room for adults in both rows, all three cars deliver. It’s here, of course, that the Mercedes’ S-Class hand-me-downs ought to give it an early lead, but surprisingly to some, perhaps, they don’t.

Sure, there’s that 11.9in, Tesla-tribute central infotainment display screen, with its upgraded ‘natural speech’ voice recognition system, its integrated three-platform music streaming and its over-the-air software update networked connectivity. But, now without a separate tactile input device and relying on touchscreen inputs alone to operate it, the system isn’t the most intuitive of its kind. It requires multiple swipes and prods to achieve a given result which other systems deliver more simply. Being angled the way it is, it can also reflect light into your eyes through the passenger-side window in a way that a less steeply raked screen wouldn’t. Honestly, I prefer the systems in both the BMW and the Jaguar.

For practicality, fewer surprises are in store. The Jaguar has the biggest back seats and a boot that’s bigger than those of its rivals by about 10% (but then the car is more than six inches longer than the C-Class overall). But it’s the 3 Series that feels the best-packaged car of the three. As a 6ft 3in adult sitting in the back of the BMW, you’re nearly as comfortable as you might be in the XF. Move to the Mercedes and, even though Stuttgart claims to have added both knee and elbow room, you will soon find the roof lining with the top of your head and the front seat backs with your knees.