The skinny: Low, swift and dynamic at the wheel, and luxuriously trimmed inside, this is Jaguar’s new XE sports saloon. It’s here to do battle in the booming premium saloon segment.
That means taking on ‘the Germans’: BMW’s 3 Series, Audi’s A4 range and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Can it do it? With a choice of four engines, each hooked to a ZF 8-speed sports automatic, the XE range has the firepower in its drivetrains. It also handles delectably on-road – like Jaguar saloons of old – and offers a point of difference in the car park. Jaguar’s new XE might surprise a lot of buyers.
Vehicle style: Premium mid-sized saloon
Pricing: $60,400 (XE Prestige 20t) - $104,200 (XE S)
Engines (20t not tested):
20d: 2.0 litre turbo-diesel | 132kW/430Nm
25t: 2.0 litre turbo-petrol | 177kW/340Nm
S: 3.0 litre supercharged V6 | 250kW/450Nm
Transmission: 8-speed ZF automatic (with sports mode and paddle shifts)
20d: (claimed) 3.7 l/100km | (tested) 6.1 l/100km
25t: (claimed) 7.5 l/100km | (tested) 8.2 l/100km
S 3.0 V6: (claimed) 8.1 l/100km | (tested) 10.1 l/100km
And, yes, there are lots of similarities. It’s about the same size, there is an elegant sporty elan to its handsome, low-set lines, and, like the 3 Series and C-Class, it drives through the rear wheels.
Also, starting at $60,400 for the 20t XE Prestige, and topping out at $104,200 for the rapid supercharged 3.0 litre V6 S, it is priced about the same.
So, on the face of it, the new premium mid-sizer from Jaguar is at least fighting in the same weight division.
But how good is it, and will it convince you? Certainly, if Jaguar can get buyers into showrooms to look it over, the new Jaguar XE may give some of those buyers reason for pause.
After driving three of the four new models, it has us thinking.
On sale now, in Prestige, Portfolio, R-Sport and S models, and with four engine combinations to choose from, Jaguar’s XE is positioned right in the slot to put a warning into the camps of the dominant players.
We drove the $62,800 20d diesel Prestige, the luxurious $70,400 Portfolio 25t, and the ‘top-dog’ (or rather, ‘top-cat’) supercharged V6-powered $104,200 XE S.
- Keyless entry and start
- 8-inch touch-screen with navigation and voice control
- 380W Meridian 11-speaker (with subwoofer) sound system
- Taurus leather seats with electric adjustment (plus electric lumbar support)
- Memory control for exterior mirrors, steering column and driver’s front seat
- Dual-zone climate control with air-quality sensor
- 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat
- Electric power folding mirrors with auto-dimming and reverse auto-dipping
- 18” ‘Arm’ six-spoke alloy wheels
- Soft-grain Windsor leather seats with Herringbone perforation and tonal stitching
- Leatherette wrapped instrument panel
- Gloss ebony veneer interior highlights
- Rear window electric sunblind
- Sports seats in Luxtec with Technical mesh inserts
- Sports suspension and R-Sport bodykit
- R-Sport branding on steering wheel, sill plates and side-vents
- Taurus leather sports seats with suede cloth inserts
- Adaptive Dynamics with sports suspension
- 19” ‘Venom’ five-twin spoke allow wheels with red brake calipers
- ‘S’ bodykit and branding on steering wheel, sill plates
- Sports leatherette-wrapped instrument panel
- Bright finish pedal kit, black headlining and tailpipe finishers
There is certainly nothing wrong with the interior of the new XE. Each of the four models, Prestige, Portfolio, R-Sport and S, looks and feels the premium buy.
And there is a bit of passion and soul in here. You will feel it the moment you slide into the low-set sports seats, grip the solid leather-trimmed wheel, note the curve of the cockpit and the sports-style instrument binnacle, and thumb the starter button.
Then, a sporty burble greets the ears as things fire into life, which is louder (or softer) depending upon which model you’re seated in.
It is certainly well-featured. Unlike some competitors, you don’t need to go looking for the options boxes to find the high-end features and luxuries you might reasonably demand in a premium mid-size saloon.
Like the 8-inch touchscreen with navigation and voice control, like the Meridian sound system, the Taurus electrically-adjustable leather seats, and the climate control air-con with air-quality sensor.
Even the base model Prestige is very well-equipped. Spend an additional $10k to step up to the sumptuous Portfolio 25t, and the feel of the leather-look stitched dash, polished ebony-wood surfaces and super-comfortable perforated leather seats is distinctly high-end.
All of the controls have a solid engineered feel, there is a cold-metal feel to the chrome garnishes, the tactile surfaces feel exactly as they should in a premium car, and the fit is tight. (That said, we had an occasional errant rattle in the 20d Prestige we drove.)
I’m not crazy about the rotary shift selector (also found in the XF); it’s certainly clunkier to use than a simple conventional automatic ‘gate’.
But it is elegant, and the way it rises out of the centre console on start-up adds a bit of drama to the occasion (which some will enjoy).
The rear seats are well-shaped, there is reasonable leg-room there (provided you don’t have a giraffe at the wheel) and they fold 40:20:40 to offer some additional versatility if lugging some long items (like skis) about.
The centre seat though is not for adults.
If lifting ‘the bub’ in and out of the back, you will appreciate the long, wide-opening rear doors, although you’ll find it a bit more of a stretch getting to the low-set seats than into an SUV.
The boot too, wide and very deep (as this photo shows), provides ample cargo room for ‘the family trip’ away, or for the Saturday morning lash at the golf club.
The XE also boasts a long list of extras: the priciest options include perforated leather-faced sports seats ($1900), heated/cooled front seats and heated rear ($1770), heated front and rear seats ($1240) and a panoramic sunroof ($1800).
Want more? You can also option a head-up display ($1770), adaptive cruise control with Forward Alert and Queue Assist, or intelligent emergency braking ($1750).
ON THE ROAD
- 20d: 2.0 litre 'Ingenium' turbo-diesel | 132kW/430Nm
- 25t: 2.0 litre turbo-petrol | 177kW/340Nm
- S: 3.0 litre supercharged V6 | 250kW/450Nm
- Transmission: 8-speed ZF automatic (with sports mode and paddle shifts)
- Double wishbone front-end, ‘integral link’ rear suspension
This is where the argument will begin – where, as buyers, we assess the decisions of the engineers in getting the balance right between outright performance and on-road comfort.
The XE is a sporting saloon, so we’ll be expecting a bit of ‘edge’.
And this, I have to say, is where Jaguar has got it right. The suspension of the XE is an absolute delight.
With a double wishbone front-end (lifted straight from the F-Type), and an elaborate ‘integral link’ rear that allows both vertical movement as well as fore-aft, there is a superb controlled sophistication to the way the Jaguar XE rides.
Set it to 'Dynamic', and whip it through a set of bends, and it points like a spear. Turn-in is really sharp, the nose sits as flat as a pancake with a really supple but controlled feel for the road.
Only once, on a very damp corner, and carrying more than a handful of speed, did we find understeer.
On road at speed, the feeling is of the wheels ‘contouring’ the road, riding and absorbing every undulation, but entirely without jarring and kick-back through the wheel.
It also manages to do this with an elastic sporting compliance; the XE is a really ‘well-sprung’ car.
As for the engine choices, at the base of the XE range, which we didn’t drive, is the 20t with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol-turbo engine producing 147kW and 280Nm. (Which is, incidentally, slightly more torque and power than the 2.0-litre found in the $61,500 BMW 320i.)
Above this, at a $2400 premium, is the brilliantly smooth 132kW/430Nm ‘Ingenium’ 20d, a 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. We loved it.
Higher up again is the more powerful 177kW/340Nm 2.0-litre 25t – essentially the same engine as found in the EcoBoost Falcon – and a lively unit in the XE (it will hustle the XE to 100km/h in a brisk 6.8 seconds).
It adds $4500 to the base model XE Prestige over the lower-specced 2.0-litre unit.
At the top of the range is Jaguar’s 250kW/450Nm supercharged 3.0 litre V6, also found as a howling bad-boy – in a higher state of tune – in Jaguar’s F-Type sports. This one, as we found on a rapid run up into the Atherton tablelands in North Queensland, can get out of the blocks very quickly.
It doesn't have the rip-snorting sensational soundtrack of the F-Type, but its wail when stretching the lungs isn't half bad. This is one damn fast car.
All models are matched to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode and paddle shifts, and not such a happy marriage.
It’s a decision Jaguar has made with the mapping, but whereas the same transmission in the sporting BMWs ‘zinks’ between gears, dropping instantly into the next ratio, the Jaguar ‘slurs’ slightly on the changes.
It’s no big deal, but it could be sharper.
There are paddles at the wheel for upshifts and downshifts, but you can leave it to its devices and it won’t put a foot wrong with the gear selection (blipping on down-changes).
The automatic mated up to the howling V6 can certainly get things moving pretty quickly, and will have you firing in and out of corners (the XE S will bolt to 100km/h in just 5.1 seconds), but none in the range are slouches.
With 75 percent aluminium construction, the XE is both light and beautifully balanced. We found the 25t brisk enough, and the 20d perhaps the pick of the engines.
It hates a drink – even driving with a bit of enthusiasm we managed 6.1 l/100km – and makes a really nice high-tech diesel hum on the road.
Also, once rolling, the 20d can really be hustled along. Its dash to 100km/h in just 7.8 seconds is far from shabby for a diesel; the 430Nm under the toe helps here.
The spare is the ‘get you home’ space saver variety, not the full size.
ANCAP Rating: This model has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: Tyre pressure monitoring system, front and rear parking sensors with rear camera, automatic park assist with parallel and bay parking, and parking exit; blind-spot monitor with reverse traffic detection and closing vehicle sensing, lane-departure warning with autonomous emergency braking, plus a full complement of front and side airbags and other dynamic and passive safety features.
Warranty and Servicing:
Warranty period is three years, with service schedules as follows - 20t and 25t, 12 months or 16,000kms; 3.0 V6 S, 12 months or 26,000kms; 20d, 24 months or 34,000kms. An additional two years/100,000kms extended warranty (to take it to 5 years) is $2500.
Jaguar also offers a capped servicing package, with a total cost fixed-price of from $1100 to $1350, depending upon the model (or, less than $400 a year, and includes scheduled work such as timing belt replacement.)
HOW IT COMPARES:
Well, it’s inevitable, nearly everyone will cross-shop the XE with the dominant Germans.
In a nutshell, the XE is more comfortable and has a more modern feel than the now-ageing 3 Series. It is also a lot quieter on-road, and smoother, but the 3 Series feels sharper at wheel.
The XE is simply a better buy than the Audi A4, which is sandwiched between the very smart, and cheaper A3 (the sedan we particularly like), and the brilliant A6.
The C Class? Now there’s the rub. This is one terrific car: solid, stylish and comfortable and superb on-road. But it lacks a little for passion.
VERDICT | OVERALL
So, in the XE, does Jaguar have an answer – an antidote – to the global plague of premium German saloons?
Well, that depends upon what you think. In the context of the category, this is a solid "4-star car": it looks and sounds like a sporting saloon should, it’s a cracking drive and it’s a little bit different.
And that superb suspension will win a lot of buyers should they point it through a set of corners, or show it the lash on the open road.
We think the XE range could have been priced a little more sharply – it’s a brave move lining it up so precisely to its German competitors – but, from a standing start, Jaguar has delivered a good one here.
There is something of the lusty, gorgeous Jaguar Mark 2 in this car, its spirit is swirling around in the air somewhere.
Perhaps you’d better check it out.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
20t petrol - $60,400
20d diesel - $62,800
25t petrol - $64,900
20t petrol - $64,400
20d diesel - $66,800
25t petrol - $68,900
25t petrol - $70,400
3.0 V6 petrol - $104,200