The new class benchmark?
For years it was always the BMW 3 Series this, the 3 Series that…blah, blah, blah. But please don't misinterpret those words – the 3 Series is an excellent luxury sport sedan. Always has been and, knowing BMW, always will be. 40 years of experience building one of the best all-around cars on the market will always be put to good use. However, there's something called competition, and competing automakers have regularly tried to build something to take down that 3 Series benchmark. The Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, Cadillac ATS, all great cars, but none quite hit the bull's-eye.
Jaguar tried for the first time back in 2001 with the X-Type. It was really nothing more than a heavily rebadged Ford Mondeo. It wasn't a very good car. But since then, Jaguar has come a long way. It learned how to build beautiful cars once again that didn't fall apart.
And that brings us to today's Best of 2015 under $50,000 pick, the Jaguar XE. Jaguar announced several years ago it was developing a proper 3 Series fighter that would effectively become the new benchmark. Thanks to the immensely successful XF and the XJ flagship, this goal didn't seem entirely impossible. Then came the F-Type, final proof that Jaguar had been reborn. The XE was unveiled in London in September 2014. Designed by the great Ian Callum, the smallest sedan in the Jaguar lineup is constructed mainly from bonded and riveted aluminum and is built on an all-new chassis. The rear floor pan, all four doors, and the trunk lid are steel, but Jag engineered the car so that those heavier bits shift weight distribution to the rear wheels.
The goal was to make the sedan as light as possible, but when fully loaded with the top-of-the-line engine (we'll get to that shortly) it still weighs a hefty 3,700 lbs. That's actually about the same as the 3 Series and the Cadillac ATS. Now, when we first laid eyes on the XE, we weren't so sure it looked different enough from its larger sibling, the XF. It really does look like a shrunken version. Is that a bad thing? No. The first-gen XF, which debuted way back in 2007, aged absolutely beautifully. The all-new 2016 XF is simply an evolution of its predecessor's design. And that's the look Jaguar has adopted across its lineup, and it works wonderfully in the XE. Call it a baby XF if you'd like. That's not an insult.
From every angle the car looks good; we honestly couldn't find a bad one and trust us, it looks even better in-person than in photos. Step inside and you'll find an interior that's plush, sporty, and functional. Craftsmanship is top notch. An 8-inch infotainment touchscreen immediately draws your attention. HVAC controls are easy to find, logically located just underneath the screen. The seating position is superb and we think it's even better than what we experienced in a 4 Series Gran Coupe last summer (which is really nothing more than hatchback 3 Series). And, of course, a proper driver's car needs the right engines. Did Jaguar deliver? The base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel four with 180 hp and 318 lb-ft of torque.
Jaguar claims a 0-60 mph time 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph. That might be good enough for some, and it's definitely the most efficient choice, but enthusiasts will likely prefer good old gas burners. Enter the 3.0-liter supercharged V6. Yes, the very same unit found in the F-Type. For the XE S, it spits out a total of 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. As for transmissions, Jaguar recently announced that a six-speed manual will soon be offered for not only the V6, but also for entry-level versions. An eight-speed ZF automatic is standard otherwise. And speaking of which, a new 2.0-liter turbo four gas-burner with 240 hp and 251 lb-ft will arrive sometime later in 2016.
Rear-wheel-drive, of course, is standard, but all versions can be had with AWD. As for performance, that blown V6 makes the sprint to 60 mph in only 5.1 seconds and tops out at 155 mph. Fuel economy? Well, let's just say that if you really care about it, don't opt for the V6. It's a performance sedan. Enough said. Now, pricing. Every car in this week's series must have a base price under $50k. The 2016 Jaguar XE begins at $34,900. A fully-loaded supercharged V6 XE S will easily climb to nearly $60k. Jaguar has managed to build an extraordinary machine here. Some are already saying it's the new sports sedan benchmark. You mean it's better than the 3 Series? To each their own, of course, but one thing's for certain: that Bimmer has never experienced a greater threat.
You can also check out the best SUVs under $20,000.