Jaguar’s efforts in the mid-size executive sedan space have left a lot to be desired for over…well…forever. The last effort, the Ford Mondeo-based X-Type was a bit cynical and symptomatic of Dearborn’s upper management completely failing to understand the concept of brand values. It wasn’t a bad car, it was just that it was a Mondeo in drag and punters knew it.
Before the XE’s 2015 launch, Jag had been out of the segment for almost six years. During that time the company was bought by Tata who got busy rebooting the brand with the XF and F-Type as well as a couple of wild concept cars.
Despite its new-found sexy with those two models, Jaguar really needs the XE to boost volumes. We spent a week in it to find out of the world will want it.
The (so-far) sedan-only XE range starts with the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol at a tick over $60,000, passing through diesel and petrol variants of 2.0 litres capacity but varying outputs before ending at over $104,000 for the 3.0 supercharged XE S. The last hurdle before the jump to the S is the $70,400 Portfolio 25t.
Standard at this level is leather trim, ambient interior lighting, auto headlights and wipers, bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights, cruise control, 18-inch alloys, an 11-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors front and rear with reversing camera, electrically adjusted front seats, sat-nav, auto-parking, and power everything.
Our car also had the $1580 Advanced Parking Assist pack which adds perpendicular parking and 360-degree parking sensors; 19-inch alloys ($1200); power boot ($850) and satin grey ash veneer in the interior for $230. All up, we were rolling in a $74,260 car.
After a long wait, some found the XE disappointing – when you put it next to the XF and F-Type, there’s a halfway decent argument to support this. But when you look at the rest of the segment, you’ll find the similarly-sized Germans are completely free of drama and certainly aren’t adventurous enough to go the four-door coupe route of the XE. BMW charges you more for that in the form of the 4 Series Gran Coupe.
Setting that aside, it’s a handsome machine with enough XF in the front and profile and Jaguar’s now signature LED strips in the taillights to identify as a Jaguar. When the new XF arrives, this design will make sense the way a 3 and 5 do in a BMW showroom. The optional 19-inch wheels on this car were very cool and it’s a car that works with big wheels.
Inside is, again, a bit more conservative than its stablemates. The central console shares the same rotary dial gear selector as the XF and the Range Rover Evoque, which rises up when you turn on the ignition. It will also render your fingertips unusable if you park the car in the sun and absent-mindedly go to select Drive without a pair of welder’s gloves.
The XE also shares the slightly visually bottom-heavy steering wheel as other Jags and the iffy central information screen between speedo and tacho – the graphics are a bit jaggy and instantly dates the system, which is probably the only jarring visual element. The high-res version from the F-Type would be most welcome.
There’s enough storage scattered around but it’s not really a roustabout family car. Then again none of the cars in this segment are. Boot space is 450 litres and headroom is restricted in the rear, the falling roofline to blame.
It feels good, though. There’s a bit more character than any of the Germans or Japanese and while there’s nothing outstanding, just about everything is done well, apart from having nowhere to put your phone.
Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, blind spot sensor, brake assist, active safety bonnet, forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, autonomous city braking, and rear cross traffic warning are all standard and the XE scored a Best-in-Class award from EuroNCAP to go with its five stars.
The sat-nav and Meridian-branded stereo are all run through Jaguar-Land Rover’s updated InControl touchscreen system. InControl has come on in leaps and bounds with this new update but the screen hardware is still a bit on the slow side and no match for the rotary dials of its rivals.
Sound from the stereo is excellent and fills what is ordinarily an eerily quiet cabin.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
Jaguar XE Portfolio 25t is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol developing 177 kW and 340 Nm (up from 147/280 in the 20t). Power goes to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ZF automatic, pushing the XE to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds (over a second better than the 20t’s time).
Jaguar claims 7.5 litres per 100 km on the combined cycle – we saw 9.8 L/100km in a solid mix of city and freeway driving.
Thankfully, the XE delivers on the driving front. The engine is punchy but super-smooth and refined, with almost no mechanical noise reaching the cabin. One or two rear passengers grumbled about a little tyre noise, but up front all you can hear is a distant whirr and some rustling around the mirrors.
In standard suspension setup, the ride is smooth, even on the bigger 19s and while there is a little body roll, it’s well controlled and isn’t excessive. Those who want a bit more can specify the adaptive dampers or spring for the R-Sport package.
The electric steering is bang-on, the acceleration eager if undramatic and the transmission looks after itself almost as well as if you flick the paddles. It’s an excellent all-round driver’s package as well as being supremely comfortable for passengers on pretty much every road surface.
SUMMING UP 4/5
The team in Coventry has landed a hit with the XE. This is a hugely important car for the brand as this is a gateway drug – young-ish thrusters need to start somewhere before the attractions of other brands take hold and they start spending the really big dollars – or need to move to an SUV when the family arrives.
With F-Pace SUV due soon, the XE can grab those pre-family sales and the punters won’t feel like they’re missing out by not buying something from the continent.
LIKES: subtle Jaguar styling, great powertrain, something different in the segment
DISLIKES: rear headroom marginal, needs a bit more storage, touchscreen needs more horsepower