Up against the likes of the 3-Series, Cadillac ATS and C-Class, the XE is Jaguar’s entry level offering but sure doesn’t feel like it. We review both the 2017 Jaguar XE 2.0d R-Sport and 3.5t R-Sport.
When the Ford Motor Company divested itself of its interest in Jaguar Motor Cars many feared that the stalwart British automaker would struggle to reestablish itself without access to Ford’s deep coffers. Fortunately, for both automotive enthusiasts and all who appreciate beautiful designs, Jaguar has managed to solidify its foundation, and in fact, capture an even larger share of the marketplace than ever before.
In short, Jaguar is on a roll, as adopted parent company Tata Motors has provided Jaguar’s team with vital guidance and resources, but wisely chose to let the capable design, engineering, and product planning teams at Jaguar run with the ball and create automotive magic. The results are impressive, with new models like the stunning F-Type and F-Pace blazing a new path for the company and attracting new, and more youthful, customers to the iconic brand, while the popular XF and XJ sedans cater to the Jaguar faithful.
The latest salvo to come from the folks at Coventry is the XE, a compact near luxury sedan that is targeted at the venerable BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Lexus IS, and North America’s prime offering, the Cadillac ATS.
The XE is immediately recognizable as a Jaguar product; as familial lines bring cues from its larger XF and XJ siblings, while subtle shapes and styling elements featured on the new car also reflect its lineage with the F-Type. The bold grill and “J-Blade” Xenon HID headlights help sell the look, while the rear of the car looks tidy and tailored, much like that of the recently revised XF.
The sleek sedan has been penned in a manner to look much larger than it really is which gives it more visual substance than most of its rivals. Long and lean, the largely aluminum XE has an aerodynamic shape that slices through the wind. The car’s cabin has been set back to help give the car the long hood proportions that has become a brand trademark over the years, while the roofline of its greenhouse descends gracefully towards the car’s short rear deck, giving the XE a real sleek profile.
Inside: Cabin Impressions
On the inside the car exudes an air of luxury and finesse, and all materials and trim pieces look flawless and well integrated. Overall the quality of the fit and finish is exceptional for a car in this category, and the styling and layout of the cabin elements reflect the company’s desire to appeal to the younger buyer.
The seats are firm, yet comfortable enough for long distance touring, although the rear seating area is short on leg and head room if you are adult sized, but this lack of real-estate is common in compact automobiles. The driving position is on point, and the majority of vital controls and switchgear are within easy reach of both hand and eye. The instrument cluster is uncomplicated, as is the layout of the dash, and manual gear selection is possible using steering wheel mounted levers. One of our test vehicles – the 3.5t, featured a heads up display (HUD) that made it easy to monitor the car’s speed and keep your eyes on the road ahead.
Interestingly, the car’s digital information display and HUD system have been designed to alert the driver to the posted speed limit as well as the speed of travel, but for some reason, this setup failed to recognize 30 km/h school zones, instead choosing to display the regular 50km/h road speed limit.
We spent time behind the wheel of two variants of the car – the XE 2.0d and the XE 3.5t. Both of our test cars sported curvaceous bodywork, enhanced with slim side skirts and a more aggressive front fascia which come along with the R-Sport appearance package. Far from looking like a boy-racer, the XE in R-Sport guise looks athletic and dapper, and the extra curb appeal helps it stand out even more in a sea of automotive vanilla offerings.
5 Trims with power options
There are five trim levels of XE available – Premium, Prestige, R-Sport, XE S, and XE Portfolio. The first three trim-lines can be ordered with your choice of one of three engines – 2.0-litre turbo diesel inline 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre turbocharged gasoline inline four-cylinder, or a 3.0-litre supercharged V6. However, the latter unit is available in two forms; the standard one delivers 340-hp while the one fitted to the XE S boasts a healthy 380-hp.
Jaguar’s new Ingenium four-cylinder turbo engines utilize the latest in technological innovations as well as lightweight aluminum construction to promote the efficient use of fuel, maximize performance, and reduce overall weight. All-wheel drive is standard on Canadian models, and all XE’s feature an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission that has been designed to enhance fuel efficiency and power delivery.
The XE 2.0d proved to be somewhat of a revelation during our testing period, as it proved itself to be economical to operate, but also a blast to drive. Fitted with the R-Sport package the car boasts lightweight alloy wheels wrapped in high-performance tires, as well as a well-sorted suspension that allowed for spirited driving and commendable handling. Despite only producing 180-horspower, the 2.0-litre engine delivers in the torque department, with 318 lb.-ft available at relatively low rpm. The car accelerates smoothly and with authority, ensuring that your enthusiast whims will be well catered to.
On the other hand, the XE 3.5t is a model designed to appeal to the enthusiast driver, as its 3.0-litre supercharged engine delivers a constant stream of power across a very broad rev band. This smooth operator is most happy when blasting around winding country roads, but is also very adept at winning on ramp drag races or cruising through city congestion.
The two cars proved a blast to drive, with sprints to 100 km/h taking 7.9 seconds in the diesel, and a mere 5.3 seconds in the V6 equipped car. The ZF engineered eight-speed gearbox proved efficient during my morning commute, but when tasked with the need to deliver a surge of power it reacted with lightning speed. The long levers of the paddle shifters made shuttling up and down the gears a simple, and intuitive, exercise.
The XE shares its platform with the F-Pace, which is a good thing, as the latter has proven to be just about the best handling and well-sorted SUV on the planet. The car’s lightweight aluminum body is immensely strong and provides very high torsional rigidity, as well as an optimum weight distribution approaching 50:50. The car’s steering is quick to respond to driver inputs, allowing the driver to place the car exactly where pointed with a level of precision usually reserved for sports and GT cars.
All Canadian XE models come equipped with Jaguar’s well sorted Intelligent Driveline Dynamics All-Wheel-Drive system which has been engineered to direct the bulk of the power to the rear wheels (up to 90-percent of available power) which for the most part, blesses the car with the satisfying handling dynamics of a rear-wheel-drive platform. However, should the system’s computers detect wheel slippage, it is able to react by sending up to 90-percent of the power to the front wheels to help maintain traction. Having this capability acts as a safety net and allows for efficient four-season motoring in all weather conditions.
Overall, the quality of the car’s ride could be characterized as rather stiff, but that is what makes this car feel like a precision tool, rather than the marshmallow Jaguar sedan that your grandfather once owned. The car’s suspension gobbles up the bumps and smooths out road irregularities enough to make the car a comfortable long distance tourer, and road and wind noise is minimal at highway speeds.
The Jaguar XE is the perfect car for those consumers who like technology and gizmos as it is loaded with the latest in infotainment, convenience, and safety features. Jaguar’s innovative telescoping rotary shift knob resides on the centre console (backed up by paddles on the wheel), and many of the car’s comfort and information systems can be operated using an 8-inch (or optional 10.2-inch) InControl Touch multimedia display that features four distinct themes and full-screen navigation.
In an effort to keep up with the Joneses, Jaguar’s product planning team has developed a long list of safety and driver-aids to the XE’s list of available options. These include such niceties as Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition and Adaptive Speed Limiter, Park Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, Reverse Traffic Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control, a surround camera system, and the InControl suite of features (Protect, Remote, Wi-Fi) which can be accessed via your smartphone.
The XE is Jaguar’s entry level offering, but it sure doesn’t feel, look, or drive like your typical entry level automobile. In fact, the XE offers consumers a nice mix of sporty handling, luxury appointments, and upmarket styling in a well-sorted and refined package. Add to this urban friendly dimensions and respectable fuel efficiency and Jaguar may have found the recipe for continued success.
Learn more – 2017 Jaguar XE
2017 Jaguar XE 2.0d R-Sport / Jaguar XE3.5t R-Sport Specs:
Base price range (MSRP CAD): $43,900 – $61,500
Price as tested: XE 2.0d R-Sport $64,700 / XE 3.5t R-Sport $71,050
Type: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, compact sport sedan
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel Inline-4 cylinder; 3.0-L supercharged V6.
Horsepower: 180 hp @ 4,000 rpm; 340 @ 6,500
Torque (lb.ft): 318 @ 1,750 – 2,500 rpm; 332 @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed ZF automatic
Brakes (front/rear): Disc /disc
Fuel economy (L/100 km): City 7.8 /12.0 Highway 5.8 /8.4