Jaguar’s new compact executive sedan takes on the best, and very nearly comes out on top.
Jaguar’s new compact executive sedan takes on the best, and very nearly comes out on top.
Jaguar doesn’t have a huge amount of expertise in the compact sedan class. Prior to the new XE, the firm’s only experience in this segment was via the X-Type; a car that was essentially just a Ford Contour dressed up in oh-so-English veneer. Needless to say, buyers won’t fooled, and the X-Type never truly threatened the dominant BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class trio. Things have changed a bit for Jaguar’s second attempt, however. Gone are the platform sharing controversies; instead, we have a completely bespoke chassis setup that’s designed to blend comfort and refinement with taut body control and the most dynamic handling characteristics of any car in this segment. It’s an incredibly tall order, and the Jaguar XE does indeed stumble in a few places on its journey to class honours. Overall, though, the Jaguar XE manages to be an incredibly well-resolved, and a mightily fine alternative to its entrenched opposition.
Build quality, for instance, is impressive, with the plentiful array of soft-touch plastics
A key part of any compact sedan’s appeal lies with its interior. Not only does it need to be comfy, spacious and roomy enough to make those longer commuter jaunts serenely swoop by, but the cabin itself needs to be built and designed to a standard that befits the $34,000+ price tag. For the most part, Jaguar’s managed to pull off this act with the XE. Build quality, for instance, is impressive, with the plentiful array of soft-touch plastics used throughout the cabin being complemented by the leather trim on the seats and dashboard that come as standard on all XE variants. Combined with the simple button layout on the center console (helped immeasurably by the large and crisp, if a bit clunky to use on the move, touchscreen multimedia interface), the Jaguar XE’s cabin quality ranks right up there with some of the best in this segment – though we will admit the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class do just pip the Jag to the mark. Where the Jaguar XE claws back some ground, however, is when it comes to the sporting ambience. The low-slung seating position and wraparound front fascia lends the Jaguar with a very driver-focused feel for whoever gets to sit behind the wheel, with the well-bolstered standard seats offering good levels of support. BMW may have been the traditional king of sporty cabins with the 3 Series, but it’s now relinquished that specific title to Jaguar’s XE.
There’s lots of head and leg room in the front seats, and the storage cubbies are of a decent size.
If there’s any real criticism of the Jaguar XE’s cabin, it involves the practicality from the center-post backwards. Though overall space up front is good (there’s lots of head and leg room in the front seats, and the storage cubbies are of a decent size), the same can’t be said of the back row. Despite the hollowed-out roof lining, head room is more restricted on the XE than on many of its rivals, and taller passengers will find leg room to be highly compromised. The former quandary can be explained by the sloping, coupe-esque roofline, but the leg room issue is a bizarre one to find in a car that’s longer and wider than the more spacious BMW 3 Series. Similar issues can be found in the trunk, which also isn’t as practical as its most commodious competitors. On paper, the 15.9 cubic feet of space isn’t bad (it’s a substantial increase on the Cadillac ATS’s 10.9 cubic feet capacity, for instance), but the shape itself isn’t particularly boxy and the trunk opening the widest you’ll find in this class, so getting larger items like suitcases and golf club bags in and out might be a bit tricky at times. It’s also worth pointing out that the most basic Jaguar XE models can’t be fitted with split-folding rear seats (it’s a standard feature on all other trim levels), so those who go for the entry-level cars won’t be able to expand the XE’s load bay at all.
Even on the largest wheel options, the Jaguar rides beautifully along the road.
In the build up to the XE’s launch, Jaguar was quite confidently boasting the car’s Jekyll and Hyde handling characteristics; how the tailored chassis setup made it as home on the highway as it was down twisty roads. We’ve heard marketing spiel like that before, so the claim itself wasn’t surprising. What did catch us off guard, though, was that the ‘Jaguar XE: The Sports Sedan Redefined’ tagline wasn’t hyperbolic in the slightest. Thanks to the chassis set-up that’s been built specifically for this sedan, the Jaguar XE is a beautiful car to spend longer journeys in, regardless of how many switchbacks you’ll find yourself encountering. Even on the largest wheel options, the Jaguar rides beautifully along the road, with only the lumpiest and bumpiest of asphalt surfaces disrupting the overall serenity. Yet that same comfy suspension doesn’t equate into excessive body lean in the bends or constant bobbing as it starts to settle down over speed bumps – instead, the Jaguar XE remains stable and composed. It’s a remarkable achievement that few rivals can come close to matching.
The view from the windshield is so broad you can see the bulge on the hood peeking into sight.
Further improving the Jaguar XE’s dual purposes as a cruiser-cum-canyon-road-conqueror is the light, direct and steering that lets you place the car exactly where you want with confidence, and the impressive amount of noise insulation also improving the more cosseting qualities of the Jaguar XE. Even the forward visibility is commendable – despite the low slung seating position and the thick-by-class-standards front posts, the view from the windshield is so broad you can see the bulge on the hood peeking into sight. As with cabin practicality, though, things do start going downhill visibility-wise when you go beyond the front seat backs. The center post, for instance, impedes over the shoulder visibility, and the small rear window can make reversing into tighter spots on models that don’t come with rear parking sensors (standard on ‘R-Sport’, part of a $2,400 optional package on ‘Premium’ and ‘Prestige’, absent entirely from the standard car). That said, all models bar the basic Jaguar XE get a rear view camera as standard, and the large side mirrors do alleviate some of the pain brought about by the thick center and rear posts.
A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit is one that we’re more inclined to recommend.
Unlike quite a few cars in this class (we’re looking at you in particular, Audi A4...), Jaguar’s offering a decent range of engines and drivetrain options on the XE. Whether it’s an ultra-frugal diesel to the same supercharged V6 from the F-Type sports car, there’s a power plant on offer that should suit the preferences of most buyers. That diesel engine in particular (a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit) is one that we’re more inclined to recommend – especially if you’re the sort of person with a large annual mileage. While the 180hp output isn’t groundbreaking, the 318lb/ft of torque this engine produces across a broad rev band means there’s plenty of shove on offer, regardless what gear you’ve selected in the smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission (the only transmission available in the Jaguar XE range). Plus, it’s remarkably silent on start-up and on the move for an oil burner, and fuel economy should be pretty good – though the EPA has yet to disclose official figures, the economy figures issued in other markets suggests the diesel Jaguar XE should be a match for its contemporaries in terms of mpg (i.e. low 30s for the city, low 40s for the highway). For buyers as adverse to diesel power as they are to gas station trips will find plenty to like in the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine. Despite being 67lb/ft on torque, the 240hp power it churns out gives it comparable mid-range pace to the diesel, and the claimed 21/30mpg for the city and highway respectively make it fairly efficient by class standards – if, admittedly, less frugal on paper than a like-for-like Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The Jaguar XE with this engine has the advantage of being the cheapest model in the range.
Being a petrol, though, it is noticeably smoother and more refined than the diesel, and the Jaguar XE with this engine has the advantage of being the cheapest model in the range. At $34,900, it’s $1,500 less expensive than an identically-specified Jaguar XE with a diesel engine fitted. The speed freaks amongst us, though, will sidestep the first two engines entirely and put their name down for a Jaguar XE with the 3.5-liter, 340hp supercharged V6 under the hood. Sure, it’s not cheap to run, but it’s nigh-on impossible to get a compact executive sedan faster than the supercharged Jaguar XE without getting something from a performance division – the Cadillac ATS with the 3.6-liter V6 is more expensive to buy, yet is slower than the Jag to 60mph (5.4 seconds vs 5.1 seconds) and has an inferior top speed (146mph against 155mph). Plus, that slick-shifting automatic transmission and the terrific chassis balance means it’s probably all the sports sedan the dedicated driving enthusiast will ever need. Well, until Jaguar eventually sells us an XE sedan with a 500hp+ supercharged V8 shoehorned into the engine bay...
The Jaguar XE has an options list that can drastically increase the price of the car if you let yourself get carried away on the car configurator.
Like all compact executive sedans on the market today, the Jaguar XE has an options list that can drastically increase the price of the car if you let yourself get carried away on the car configurator. Tick all the boxes on the Jaguar XE with a supercharged V6, and you’ll be looking at a bill a few hundred bucks shy of $67,000 (to put that in some perspective, that kind of cash can get you a larger and more opulent Jaguar XF in a good trim with a couple of neat options on it). Yes, that example is excessive, but you do still need to keep the cost of the optional extras in mind. As with many compact sedans on the market (namely the Audi A4 and Infiniti Q50), the only way to specify optional extras is to buy specific packages that can exponentially increase the price of lower-spec Jaguar XE models. On ‘XE’ and ‘XE Premium’ trims, for instance, the only way to specify the heated front seats that are standard fit on all other Jaguar XE variants is by paying $1,000 for the Cold Weather Package they’re featured in. It’s pretty good, then, that standard equipment levels on the Jaguar XE are pretty good. No matter which model you go for, your sedan will automatically come with cruise control, heated door mirrors, climate control, 18inch alloy wheels, BlueTooth connectivity and a hill start assist system.
Each car comes with a full complement of front, side and curtain airbags.
All Jaguar XEs are laden with safety gear, too. Each car comes with a full complement of front, side and curtain airbags, on top of a brake pad wear indicator, a tire pressure monitoring system, an emergency brake assist feature that helps prevent sudden head-on collisions and ISOFIX mounting points in the two outer rear seats. One feature we’re especially impressed by is the All Surface Progress Control (ASPC) system, which helps the driver maintain control of the car at slower speeds in low traction conditions. In our humble opinion, the well-rounded nature of the car’s core package means we don’t think you need to add too many extras to your Jaguar XE. The excellent ride handling balance means you don’t need to bother with the $1,000 self-levelling damper system, and the ASPC feature means you can save another $1,500 by not specifying all-wheel drive (unless you live in a part of the US where all-wheel drive is a nigh-on necessity in the winter months). In fact, unless you crave the harder-edged driving experience that comes on the firmed-up ‘R-Sport’ model, we reckon many buyers will be fine with ‘XE Premium’ or ‘XE Prestige’ specs with the $2,400 Vision Package fitted so you get access to all-round parking sensors and a blind spot warning system. Cars specified to this level come with all the goodies you’ll probably ever need, all the engine options are available in those two trim tiers and will keep the MSRP at a reasonable level.