Jaguar XE Sport Road Test (2016)

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KITTEN CLASS  


Many moons ago Jaguar or more likely the then lord and master’s Ford had the idea of manufacturing a small Jaguar. Based on the Mondeo floorpan the theory behind the X-Type was that a whole new market would be created. That 2WD, 4WD and diesel options in both saloon and estate and at more affordable prices would prove and instant draw to younger drivers. Combined with Jaguar’s move into F1 a whole new more modern Jaguar dynamic was to be created, the image of the older driver sat within the gentleman’s club interior a thing of the past.


Problem was it didn’t work, the main buyers of the X-Type being retired directors wishing to downsize from their XJ company car. The new small car allowed them to still retain Jaguar status at a cost they themselves could afford since it wasn’t the firm that was paying for it. So with older drivers behind the wheel and one of the most lackluster racing teams, the fact the X-Type pricing structure overlap meant the S-Type became increasingly attractive and that the X-Type wasn’t a particularly good car all combined to produce a markedly negative effect.


Move onto their latest generation of models, the new XJ and XF now realigning the brand into a defined, conceptual combination of modernity, razor edge styling and an ability to take on their competition head on, the new XE was a natural progression. This time however, the end result is a compact saloon coupe that has clarity, the small Jaguar understanding both its intended market and the competition it now takes on head-to-head. The end result is a compact saloon worthy of the famous name built around Jaguar’s new aluminium architecture.


Hugging the ground with a stance as modern traffic calming measures will currently allow, from the bluff front, egg crate grille and red outlined ‘growler’ inspired by the XF, feline inspired Xenon lights wrap round into the arches. The raked screen leans back into the tapering roofline visually coming together with the high waist and neat rear profile. Sat on multi-spoke 17” alloys and 205/55 lower profile rubber, the posture and presence of the XE give the car an overtly sporting poise. A full four door saloon if the profile has a downside it one that affects taller drivers, access to the cabin at times a little tighter than might be expected. Not a major problem but one certain potential owner’s will have to take into consideration.


Inside the XE’s sporting connotations continue especially in the R-Sport version as tested. The wraparound dash, soft touch surfaces, heavily bolstered leather sports seats and thick three-spoke multi-function steering wheel give the driver and front passenger more of a feeling of pilot and co-pilot. Similarly, whilst the XE is considered a five-seater, the deep rear bucket design means the car is better considered a four-seater if only for the sake of comfort. Whilst each passenger enjoys their own tailor made space the driver is able to capitalise on a the bold instrumentation, onboard readouts and head-up display that relays speed and satnav direction whilst the various settings provide the driver with various settings ranging from normal, eco, dynamic and winter. Equally, all controls are simple to understand and operate, rear passengers able to individually control their individual climate and seat settings, the multi-speaker Meridian media system ensuring each occupant is kept equally entertained.


Useful enough for most owners the boot holds 455 litres of cargo with the facility of a 1,800kg towing capacity. Hooking a trailer to the XE is courtesy of Jaguar’s towing pack, activation of which is via a small control within the boot. During times when it isn’t required there no visible signs that the hitch exists, the neat design ensuring the rear lines haven’t been interrupted. But push the button and within a few seconds the hitch appears and locks into place as it rotates, swivels and positions itself in what’s probably best described as one of the most pseudo-erotic routines you’ve every likely to see on any car.    


Under the squared off bonnet both petrol and diesel options provide the XE with a variety off power options. In unleaded format the choice is that of a 2-litre 4-cylinder or 3-litre V6 whilst JLR’s new Ingenium diesel has made its appearance. Developing 180hp and a very usable 430Nm of torque, the 4-cylinder unit propels the car from 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds and onwards to a 140mph top speed. Transmission wise there’s the option of a 6-speed manual although most buyers will opt for the 8-speed automatic with Driver and Sport settings and the option of paddle change. Selected via the still less than intuitive rotary shift, a feature that has now seemingly invaded all the company’s vehicles, in Eco mode with stop/start activated the 265 varied test miles returned an acceptable mean average 45.8mpg with a motorway constant of 55mpg. All of which means in excess of 500 miles per 56 litre tank of fuel even when driven with gusto.


Slotted behind the wheel, the opening roof cassette meaning taller drivers will need to have their seat at its lowest position, the XE wraps itself around you. With passengers suitably well catered for the XE emphasizes that at heart Jaguar have to a degree returned to their ‘driver’s car’ roots. The cabin styling whilst pleasing to the eye ensures everything the driver needs is immediately to hand and that distractions have been kept to a minimum. With electrically assisted power steering, an 11.7m turning circle and riding on what Jaguar describe as passive and adaptive suspension, whilst the XE exhibits the marque’s usual long-distance traits of comfort and undemanding operation its when crossing more demanding roads that this new compact Jaguar seriously impresses.


Exhibiting the classic handling characteristics of a rear wheel drive, the car’s handling, balance, early turn-in and cornering eclipse the negatives. Select ‘Dynamic’, turn off the stability control and the XE becomes a car you want to drive along roads that demand the driver’s attention. Displaying a progressive tendency towards oversteer that can be reeled in or provoked dependant on the driver’s needs or wishes, the XE positively dances around corners and flows through more open curves with the ability to tweak the line and precise, nicely weighted steering by judicious use of the throttle.


And don’t for one moment think that exploiting the XE’s genuinely inspiring abilities is reserved for petrol power. By using the paddle operated sequential 8-speed, the Ingenium diesel engine delivers power and performance, all the drive having to do is learn how to use the power band and gearbox to get the best out of the car. If not, just leave the transmission in ‘Sport’ and the XE will do it for you albeit fractionally slower but only just.


The XE R-Sport as tested can be parked on your driveway for £34,200 whilst the entry level model will cost you £26,990. If you desire more performance the 3-litre V6 is all yours for £49,945 but as an all-rounder that delivers economy along with more than adequate performance, the Ingenium diesel is virtually everything you need. Granted the compact design and low roofline will render the XE slightly confined, this new small Jaguar more than makes up for its tighter dimensions when behind the wheel.


Jaguar’s XE especially in R-Sport trim also provides buyers with another even more important option and that’s a realistic and stylish alternative to something built in Germany.




By; Mark Stone



Jaguar XE Sport Road Test