It could be argued that Jaguar’s XF saved the brand. It brought in new, younger blood to what was strictly an older clientele.
Jag now need to do this again. They need 30 something, company car owner, mile munchers to keep the big cat heading in the right direction.
With eyes on the compact executive car segment the XE has been launched. Gunning for the ever popular BMW 3 series it has a lot to live up to.
We took the 2.0 litre diesel XE in R-Sport Trim. Costing from £34,775 it makes 180 BHP and 430 Nm of torque, meaning it will hit 60 in 7.4 seconds.
Looks wise the XE is a kind of mash up of the XJ and the new XF.
Up front for example it takes the larger, more upright grille seen on the current XJ, but toward the rear quarter you notice some distinctly XF curves.
With chiselled headlights and taught styling lines it’s a sharp looker, the only thing we would criticise on our model are the rather horrific exhaust pipes…I mean…really Jaguar?!
There are some very cool styling points to mention; the hidden third brake light in the top of the rear window trim is very smart, another is the way the rear lamps float in the boot lid with a rather clever cutaway behind them.
A number of F-Type cues are also found, from the front wing side vents to the rear light signature you can see Jaguar are pushing the sportiness of this car.
Pressing the start button on the dash and the diesel ‘Ingenium’ engine kicks into life. It’s not as quiet and well refined as some diesels though, you can still hear its gruff rumblings…albeit faintly.
Pulling away you notice the smooth gear changes. Naturally these are dealt with by the brand’s mainstay the 8 speed ZF, and when kicked into manual mode it really is something else.
Suddenly the XE switches from a more benign cruiser into a sporty saloon. Change up just before the red line and this diesel really does fly, the paddle shift makes it so much more engaging to drive.
But now for the real test.
What does it ride like? Well, all the other reviews to date have only driven this in Spain, on pristine toll roads and around a race track…yes really…a race track?!
Taking it down some heavily rutted, pitted and pot holed B roads the XE doesn’t disappoint.
Even with our XE’s ‘Sport Suspension’ everything beneath you is pretty much ironed out, you get a dull thud over broken sections of road and when the going gets a little tougher you can feel the jolts slightly in the cabin, it’s not at all crashy but you can tell this is a sportier car than your run of the mill saloon.
Once on some dual carriageways the ride becomes effortlessly smooth.
Throw the XE a little bit quickly at some corners, and you start to notice just how well this chassis is set up.
Borrowing the front double wishbone suspension from the F-Type it’s no wonder it’s good.
Turn in is spot on. You can really place the XE with pin sharp accuracy. Although we do have to say the electric steering gives you just a smidgen of feedback…but that’s a given these days anyway.
There is barely any body roll, and even under swift changes in direction everything stays well controlled.
Weight balance – believe it or not – is 50:50. Jaguar could have made the XE even lighter, but seeing as it had already hit that magic 99g/km of CO2 (in the entry level manual diesel) there was no need.
For example the rear boot floors and lid are made of steel to help achieve that balance. Lift up the boot carpet and instead of a spare wheel you find the battery sat as low down as possible, this is race car kind of stuff right here!
Braking on our car was crisp and sharp, lots of initial bite gives you confidence on more spirited drives.
Torque vectoring is standard across the range and when trying to purposely unsettle the car at varying speeds it keeps the rear end in check nicely.
Such a well sorted chassis is begging for more power. The hottest variant you can currently buy is the S, this is fitted with the 3.0 litre V6 engine from the F-Type and produces 340 BHP.
We reckon an R could push 400 with ease, whilst an R-S a few years down the line…who knows, but the XE can handle a lot more grunt.
Planting yourself in the driver’s seat the first thing you notice is the rather svelte F-Type’esque steering wheel. It feels a tad larger than the coupe’s, but it sets the sporty tone and is a joy to handle.
A large central tunnel features the now iconic disappearing gear selector, gloss black swathes the rest of the console, with buttons being kept to a minimum. For the more Germanic look no doubt.
The low sweeping dash is framed by an acutely shaped arc that starts from the front door trim all the way round. It is meant to mimic the windscreen of the Riva speedboat…but I can’t help but think it’s going to become terribly dated rather quickly.
Centrally embedded into the dash is the new infotainment system.
This is now rolling out across the JLR range, and it’s a vast improvement over the old, dated interface. Now with full colour, the menus are larger and easier to use whilst on the move.
There are still some faffs though. To put the heated seats on you press the physical button on the dash, this then brings up the on screen menu to select the temperature level. It would be far easier to short press the physical button to turn it up, and then long press to turn it down.
The same applies for the fan direction, whilst on that subject the corner dash vents are sat very low. Those with longer legs will need to watch out for those corners when getting in.
Rear seat leg room is ample for an average sized adult, a 6 footer would probably struggle. Thanks to the low hip point head room is also pretty good, but the middle seat is best forgotten about as it’s rather raised and uncomfortable.
Boot space is decent at 455 litres, but it is rather narrow and deep. If you need more space you will have to spec the optional 60:40 folding rear seats.
Jaguar’s first stab at the modern compact saloon segment is pretty much spot on.
Ride and handling are easily best in class, and when matched with those chiselled looks and upmarket interior surely buyers will be flocking from the boring, staid, Germanic hordes?
Jaguar XE – Strong looker, pin sharp handling, smart interior, 3 series killer?