Every time Jaguar releases a new model there is always talk that it is the most important yet, but with the launch of their new small saloon, XE, this really is the big one. Like any good parent, Tata Motors has been patient in nurturing its child, stumping up the necessary cash to give it the best start in going from bespoke manufacturer to proper premium player.
Hence Jaguar now have a new factory (within Land Rover’s existing site in Solihull), new in-house engines and a new aluminium platform. The purrs on the street suggest that Jaguar hope to sell 100,000 XE’s worldwide annually which is some ambition considering that in the last few years, Jaguar only made roughly 75,000. Check out the video below to get an overview of the features.
The F-Type is the Jaguar we would all love to have, but the XE is the one that we could all actually buy as it starts at a reasonable £26,990. To put the cat among the Germans it is priced to go head to head with the BMW 3 Series (from £25,160), Audi A4 (from £25,900) and Mercedes C-Class (from £27,665). There are a choice of two diesel engines and three petrol engines, all available in varying states of tune as well as your usual eight-speed automatic or even, a six-speed manual gearbox. You can also opt for Jaguar’s All Wheel Drive system for grip and poise whatever the weather. Highlights include CO2 emissions as low as 99 g/km and fuel economy as high as a claimed 75 miles per gallon if you opt for the diesel manual. There are a variety of trim levels available from base SE through to Portfolio (luxury) and R-Sport (best looking).
We elected to try the four cylinder diesel and petrol models. The XE with its sleek looks unmistakably a Jaguar and looked positively striking in the Italian Racing Red of our petrol R-Sport test car. The public vote was also unanimous, anyone who walked past the car, did a double take, surely the sign of a good looking car.
There are elements to the design where Jaguar could have been more daring, notably around the rear lights which would have benefitted from the same clusters as used on the rear-of-the-year F-Type.
The striking exterior was matched inside by a fiery red and black combination interior that felt suitably special. With a raised centre console and supportive seats that allow you to sit low, it offers the sports car feel that a Jaguar should. The interior also majors on style, from a sweeping dashboard which features an elegant mix of leather and veneer through to the contrasting double red stitching that reminds you of a sharply tailored suit.
The dashboard is dominated by a central touchscreen that controls all navigation and entertainment functions. I am yet to be convinced by touchscreens, preferring instead BMW iDrive system of using an effective mouse to make inputs as it means you never need take your eyes off the road, adjusting by feel rather than sight. Inevitably with touchscreens you often go through a process of look, aim, select, try again. Not exactly safety-first when putting the car through its paces. Thankfully the touchscreen features Jaguar’s latest software and is much quicker to respond than on previous generations. The XE can also be optioned to respond to spoken word through its voice recognition programme, if you prefer to command your car without lifting a finger.
The interior style does come at the expense of some substance however, with the use of some low-grade plastics below eye-level and space in the rear which is on the tight side. Turn up to the Rugby club in an XE and you will win admiring glances but not necessarily any friends if you try to chauffeur any players in the back. In fairness Jaguar would argue that if you regularly need to transport four adults, the bigger XF model would be a better bet (from £32,300). However, for a family of two adults and two children, the XE marks a very stylish addition to the household.
Boot space at 455 litres is smaller than with the German rivals (typically 480 litres), but for £400 the rear seats can be folded if load space ever becomes a problem.
For the XE to qualify as a proper Jaguar and cash the cheques that its handsome body writes, it has to drive well. First out of the blocks, was Jaguar’s own new 2.0 petrol engine with eight speed automatic priced from £26,990 (as tested £41,530). Available in two states of tune: 200 PS or 240 PS. We opted for the 200 PS unit which offered: 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds, average of 37 miles per gallon, 179 g/km of CO2 emissions and annual road tax of £225. Get past these numbers and you soon realise that this unit is beautifully refined, being smooth and whisper quiet. Thanks to turbocharging it is suitably quick too, offering real punch no matter the gear and because it uses petrol, it likes to rev which gives it that sporting edge over the diesels. It is a shame that it will never be a volume seller as the diesel units will always lead the way in the sales charts, but if you are a private buyer do take it out for a spin and rediscover the sporting promise that only petrol power gives.
A few weeks later our other XE arrived and all of Jaguar’s sales ambition comes down to this, their new 2.0 diesel four cylinder engine. Priced from £29,775 (as tested £38,210) and available in two states of tune: 163 PS or 180 PS. Our XE was the latter higher powered unit which offers those all-important business numbers: Average of 67 miles per gallon (75 mpg if you opt for the lower powered unit with a manual gearbox), 111 g/km of CO2 emissions (again 99 g/km for the lower powered diesel), a Benefit in Kind (BIK) figure of 17% and annual road tax of just £20! Read ‘em and weep Mr tax inspector!
Start your diesel XE and it sounds more industrial than you would expect from a Jaguar. Thankfully any excess noise is banished once up to speed and the XE offers a soothing drive, if not a particularly sporting one as the engine tends to get harsh if you work it hard. Better to sit back and enjoy all of the low down pulling power.
No matter which engine sits under the bonnet, the one thing that unifies all XE models is the perfect balance they strike between comfort and driver entertainment. Thanks to the combination of direct steering and near-on perfect driving position, the XE offers that rare quality of real driver engagement, flowing from bend to bend. This is partly due to its light aluminium construction, which blesses the car with quick reactions and a suspension that offers that rare blend of flat cornering and a forgiving ride quality, even when sat on the larger wheels (19 inch) of this R-Sport model.
By a whisker the newly revised BMW 3 series holds on to its driver champion status, but this new cat on the block has it well and truly licked for refinement and comfort.
Good looks and a great drive only go so far in this sector, what really gets the sales flowing is plenty of in-car technology. For this Jaguar offers its InControl system which allows you to seamlessly integrate your phone with the XE’s central 8-inch touchscreen either via Bluetooth, USB or auxiliary socket. Hence, you can make/receive calls on the move, get your XE to read out your text messages and stream your mobile music through the car’s speakers. Upgrade to the InControl Touch Pro version (£1,100) and the central touch screen grows to 10.2 inches and responds to touch gestures just like your smartphone.
Satellite navigation is standard but if you have upgraded to the Touch Pro version, you can send navigation instructions direct from your phone to your XE whilst it is sat outside on the drive. Then when you park up again, you can then revert back to the navigation on your phone to get you those last few metres to the door. There is also real time traffic information allowing you to plan well ahead, doing away with any more “Sorry I’m late darling, awful traffic…” type excuses.
There is also the option of a full colour Head-Up Display, which at £1,000 is an expensive option, but it quickly becomes invaluable transmitting vital information (speed, prevailing speed limit, navigation instructions) on to the windscreen in front of you allowing you to keep your eyes firmly on the road.
A number of parking systems are also available, the best being Park Assist (£1,540) which allows for hands-free reverse parallel parking. You can control the accelerator and brake, the XE does the rest.
And finally, the most decadent tech feature on the XE was the heated steering wheel (Cold climate pack £700), well you know what they say: warm hands, warm heart.
It once was said: “Build it and he shall come”, in this case Jaguar have indeed built their new baby saloon and let’s hope he, in the form of many buyers, do indeed come as the XE deserves to do well. It is a great car, not perfect given the limited rear space and the iffy interior plastics, but if you still relish driving and style is important to you, you shall be in fine company with the XE.
Model tested: Jaguar XE 2.0 Petrol 200 PS (0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds, average of 37 miles per gallon, 179 g/km of CO2 emissions and annual road tax of £225).
Jaguar XE 2.0 Diesel 180 PS (Average of 67 miles per gallon, 111 g/km of CO2 emissions, a Benefit in Kind (BIK) figure of 17% and annual road tax of £20)
Priced from: £26,990 (petrol model as tested £41,530, diesel model as tested £38,210).
Motoring Writer, Road Test Reviewer & Car Consultant