THERE WILL COME A VERSION OF JAGUAR’S NEW XE MID-SIZER WITH SOMETHING BIGGER AND BADDER UNDER THE BONNET, BUT RIGHT NOW THE 2016 XE S HOLDS THE ‘PERFORMANCE’ CROWN.
It runs to a formula not unlike Audi’s S range - a very quick sporting sedan, but without the need for all-balls-out urgency.
The ace up the sleeve of the XE S is its supercharged V6 engine - the same as you’ll find in the brilliant F-Type roadster, albeit in its lower state of tune, and in a very different kind of vehicle.
Vehicle Style: Luxury medium sedan
Price: $104,200 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 250kW/450Nm 3.0 6cyl supercharged petrol | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.1 l/100km | tested: 11.1 l/100km
When TMR took to the streets in the Jaguar F-Type roadster, we adored it - the engine is a firecracker, and the vehicle wrapped around it is near perfect in form and in function.
But a two-door roadster is a very different beast from a four-door executive sedan.
So, fittingly, there’s been a few changes made to civilise the new mid-size XE S - not to engine output, that remains the same - but there’s softer handling that the whole family can enjoy, and a more neighborhood-friendly exhaust note.
For now though, the XE S is as good as it gets - toeing a delicate line between comfort, luxury, technology and performance.
- Standard equipment: Sports seats trimmed in Taurus leather and suedecloth, dual zone climate control, power adjustment for front seats and steering column with memory, powered rear sunblind, proximity key with push-button start, Xenon headlights, auto lights and wipers, automatic parking assistant, black headlining, sports pedals, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 11-speaker Meridian audio, 8.0-inch InControl touchscreen, satellite navigation, CD player, Aux and USB inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity
- Cargo volume: 455 litres, expandable via 40:20:40 folding rear seat
The interior of the XE S is a slightly odd place - caught a little between two worlds. Where once a Jaguar interior was a visual feast of dials and walnut, it has opted for a minimalist approach with the XE.
Perhaps it's Jaguar's way of proving that it is now more modern than the stuffy old company it once was.
With the aroma of fine-grained leather filling your nostrils, and the feel of the knurled rotary gear selector in your hand, the XE has a distinctly more premium feel than photos suggest.
There are clever little glimpses of metal from the outboard air-vents, gloss black highlights, and a stitched dash-top to get the luxe feeling across.
But there are some issues with the ergonomics to the switchgear, some things placed a little oddly, and unlike the innovate rotary control systems used by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi, Jaguar relies on a touchscreen that’s a long way behind the pack.
The overall sense however is of a high quality interior, with very comfortable seats, exceptional room (and a sense of airy spaciousness from the front seats) and an engaging sporting ambience.
Rear seat passengers may not agree. The view out the side-windows is compromised by the sweeping roofline, headroom more so. In fact, the rear of the XE feels a bit more like a coupe and less like the medium sedans it lines up against.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 250kW/450Nm 3.0 litre supercharged petrol V6
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Double-wishbone front, ‘integral link’ independent rear, Adaptive Dynamics
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, turning circle: 11.7m
Under the bonnet of the XE S lies Jaguar’s supercharged 3.0 litre V6. It produces 250kW at 6500rpm and 450Nm at 4500rpm.
Those are stout figures to be sure, and just enough to outgun the the turbocharged BMW 340i.
The XE S also happens to sound more emotional too, thanks to a hint of supercharger whine as revs build and a raspy top end that builds to a richer note than the business-like BMW produces.
But it's not what it might have been. Even with the bi-modal exhaust set to its ‘Dynamic’ setting, the XE S can’t match the furious scream of the F-Type, and, to these ears, that’s a missed opportunity.
Aside from that, there’s little else to fault.
Performance is effortless with the engine able to offer a strong, linear torque curve that can be as relaxed as you need around town, but quickly swings into action if you demand it.
Coupled to an eight-speed automatic, the XE S behaves beautifully, slurring shifts gracefully when slinking around town.
On a more demanding road, the sport shift-pattern reads the conditions superbly and will have the right gear always underfoot if the road throws down the challenge - this Jag, in fact, can be searingly fast.
And you can, if you like, take the stumpy shift-paddles in hand to make your own changes, however shift reactions are slow.
Jaguar’s electric power steering system is responsive and alert, especially at higher speeds. Without feeling nervous or twitchy, there is a strongly connected feel to what is happening at the front wheels of the XE S.
The same goes for the rear axle, firmly planted through bends and not too demanding on a relaxing cruise. There’s a palpable sense of control from the rear - show it the right road, feed power cleanly to the rear wheels and the axle balance is simply 'right'.
But even with this clear performance bias, the ride of the XE S remains perfectly agreeable - there's a firm edge, as you'd expect, but no crashing, no bottoming out, and no skipping over corrugations.
The XE S shrugged off some of the worst rural roads we could find without losing its composure or breaking into a sweat.
The news, however, isn’t all as good as it should be though.
Despite the extensive use of aluminium, the XE S is far from a 'lightweight', and all the extra lard takes a bit of the edge off the straightline performance.
(It is still very quick, but not as quick as we expected from this engine.)
Noise insulation doesn’t match some of the segment’s better offerings either. While vibrations, and wind noise are well insulated, the tyres managed to throw up plenty of racket on coarse-chip surfaces - not something you expect to find in a $100k car.
ANCAP rating: The XE has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: ABS brakes with brake assist, six airbags, active bonnet, blind spot monitoring, lane departure monitoring, rear view camera, front and rear park sensors, stability and traction control.
A highway technology pack incorporating adaptive cruise control, low-speed collision mitigation and a head-up display is available for $3420, or adaptive cruise control with forward alert can be had for $1750.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
At the pointy end of the midsize luxury market, BMW’s 3 Series remains the benchmark, Mercedes-Benz doesn’t offer a six-cylinder sedan yet, while Lexus is nipping at the heels of the Germans with the IS 350.
Infiniti also seems to be gathering a (small) head of steam with its V6 hybrid Q50.
In time, there will be an Audi S4 and Mercedes-Benz C 450 AMG Sport to tackle the Jaguar XE S head-on, but those cars are still a way off for Australia at the moment.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
When it comes to "value for money", the Jaguar XE S just can’t quite match its more established rivals.
And, being forced to pay more for heated seats, radar cruise control, or digital radio in a car that costs more that $100,000 just seems a little rich to us.
That doesn’t make the XE S a bad car, far from it - Jaguar’s team have created a brilliant sports sedan with steering and handling that are good enough to humble many of its competitors.
But in today’s cut-throat market, that just isn’t enough anymore.
The XE S is very clearly ‘something different’ both in the way it looks, and the way it drives.
But, while a very satisfying and enjoyable steer, for those looking to drive their dollar further, both Mercedes-Benz and BMW have this one outpaced for value, if not performance.
MORE: Jaguar News and Reviews
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Jaguar XE Showroom: all models, prices, and features