CAT BRINGS THE SOFT TOUCH TO A HARD HEART

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A cat with nine lives might be taking things too far, but one feline of the automotive variety has at least two.

The Jaguar XE 300 Sport, like the ultimate furry friend, will pad around all day as quiet as a mouse, but switch to Sport mode and the claws come out, together with a strident engine soundtrack to match.

The XE range is the British answer to the Germans’ – Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, not forgetting the Italians’ Alfa Romeo Giulia and assorted others from the likes of Lexus.

The XE 300 Sport is meant to take on their best in performance and price. How about zero to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds for a weighty medium-size sedan? Pricing is more debatable, with the basic car in the low 70 grand mark, plus on-road costs, rising to a touch off $80,000 with a range of optional packages such as the Active Safety Pack at $2920.

STYLING
Oxymoronish as it may seem, understated forcefulness is the best way to describe the Jaguar XE 300 Sport on the outside. An assertive mesh grille, with prominent 300 Sport badge, is flanked by slim feline-like headlamp units, while the body is free of stark character lines, resulting in a sleek profile.

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The grille and side window rims, mirror caps and rear spoiler are finished in dark grey, as are inner sections of the 19-inch twin spoke alloy wheels, with black branded brake calipers up front.

INTERIOR
The exterior design treatment is reproduced inside the cabin with yellow contrast stitching on the leather wrapped steering wheel, seats, door insert, and front centre armrest.

Sports front seats are 10-way power adjustable, with four-way electrical lumbar support adjustment and memory for the driver. The ubiquitous 300 Sport label is prominent on brushed metal front tread plates and front headrests.

INFOTAINMENT
The 10-inch colour multimedia touchscreen on the central dashboard handles phone, satellite navigation, and media, vehicle info and reversing camera projections. Add to these, control of the Meridian 11-speaker / 380W audio. Apple CarPlay is an option with a Smart Phone Pack.

There is an optional 12.3-inch digital Interactive Driver Display screen ($670) behind the steering wheel to scroll through configurable instrument displays, satellite navigation maps, driving data, vehicle status, and more.

Jaguar_XE_interior

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The XE 300 Sport’s all-alloy 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine is a member of Jaguar Land Rover’s modular Ingenium family, featuring variable valve timing and lift, delivering 221 kW at 5500 rpm and 400 Nm between 1500 and 4500 rpm. It sends drive to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

SAFETY
The XE 300 Sport was awarded a maximum five stars by ANCAP thanks to active crash avoidance technology including anti-locking brakes, emergency brake assist, dynamic stability control and lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring system and hill launch assist.

Added to this are all surface progress control or low-speed, low-traction surface cruise control, reversing camera, 360-degree view parking aid and park assist with parallel, perpendicular and park exit functions.

The test vehicle also came with the Active Safety Pack, which includes blind spot assist, rear traffic warning, lane keep assist, driver condition monitor and adaptive cruise control with queue assist.

The XE does come with autonomous emergency braking and forward collision alert as standard.

DRIVING
The sleek lines of the Jaguar XE 300 Sport, with its low roofline, had the driver and front passenger bending double to get into the car, while rear seat passengers had to contend with a door with a limited opening.

With three across, the latter occupants could then be in a battle to get comfortable. A couple of grown-ups suffered no such squeeze. Boot space (415 litres) was also pinched by two enormous interior hinges.

On the plus side, there is a storage area behind the passenger side, there are cargo tie-down rings fitted and bag hooks on both sides. A space saver spare lies under the boot floor. Slim doors preclude large bottle storage.

The sweet 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine is a member of Jaguar Land Rover’s modular Ingenium family and is in place across the whole XE range. As mentioned above, it’s either a kitten or a big cat.

With a claimed fuel consumption of 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle, a day of mostly cruising country lanes had the Jag test vehicle clocking 8.1 litres per 100 fuel use.

The start / stop engine system was rarely needed on the run and Eco mode was all but ignored in the odd country town visited. Lane keep assist, which nudged the steering wheel if the driver was tempted to wander off-lane, took some time to get used to.

The ride and handling are what we have come to expect from Jaguar. On our day out fast bends, corkscrew corners, hills and valleys were no sweat, Thanks to up to 400 Nm of pulling power on tap at a low 1500 revs, the XE 300 Sport took them all in its stride.

JaguarDrive Control switches between Sport, Eco and Rain / Ice / Snow’ modes, optional Configurable Dynamics allows fine-tuning of the gearshift calibration, throttle response and steering weight, with Adaptive Dynamics chipping in with continuously variable dampers.

SUMMING UP
The Jaguar is behind the times with its skinny three-year warranty. Many rivals enjoy five, or even seven years. But there’s enough Jag there to have the rusted-on sports sedan enthusiast ignore this detail.

AT A GLANCE
Jaguar XE 300 Sport 2.0 automatic: $70,900
Note: This price does not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Jaguar dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Jaguar XE 300 Sport 2.0-litre four-door sedan)

ENGINE
Capacity: 1997 cc
Configuration: 2.0-litre, 4 cylinders, turbocharged, eight-speed automatic
Maximum Power: 221 kW @ 5500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 400 Nm @ 1500-4500 rpm
Fuel type: Petrol 95 RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 6.7 litres per 100 km
CO2 emissions 153 g / km

DRIVELINE:
Drivetrain: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4686 mm
Width: 1850 mm
Height: 1416 mm
Wheelbase: 2835 mm
Kerb weight: 1565 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 63 litres
Turning circle: 11.7 m

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Disc

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Three years / 100,000 kilometres

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