Car reviews - Jaguar - XE - Range
Dynamic ability, suspension set-up, refined Ingenium diesel engine, fuel efficiency, V6 engine note
Room for improvement
Value questions over options, tinny windscreen wipers, V6 S lacks drama
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25 Aug 2015
JAGUAR is having something of a re-birth, with sexy and exciting product in the pipeline, its first foray into the SUV segment imminent with the 2016 launch of the F-Pace, and a parent company that is willing to support its aspirations for global growth.
It technically kicked off its re-launch two years ago with the gorgeous F-Type sportscar as its hero model, but it is the all-new XE mid-sizer that is expected to lift the company’s volume around the world.
Built in the United Kingdom on a new lightweight 75 per cent aluminium architecture it will share with the forthcoming second-generation XF, the XE is pitched against premium mid-sizers such as the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50 and Volvo S60. Jag says aspirational buyers from the mainstream segment below are also prime targets.
Starting at $62,800 plus on-road costs, its pricing lines up pretty well with equivalent versions of the BMW and Benz.
There is a bit of risk pitching it at the same price point as the established Euros, given that the XE is a brand new model with no history – and the last car Jag had in this segment was the Ford Mondeo-based X-Type. Roundly criticized and a poor seller, it was eventually pulled from the line-up in 2010.
Jaguar Australia reckons it has this side of things sorted. It is offering the XE with a super generous five-year servicing plan that’s priced between $1100 and $1350, depending on the variant, that is fully financeable and transferable.
The British car-maker will also offer guaranteed future values via a 38 or 48 month plan through JLR’s financial services arm. Jaguar believes these measures will eliminate concerns from prospective buyers about how much a Jag costs to service and whether it is reliable, and refocus the attention back on the car itself.
And if it does just come down to the car, Jaguar should do well out of XE.
The powertrain range consists of one diesel and two petrol four-cylinder units, as well as a range-topping supercharged V6 lifted from the F-Type.
These are paired with spec levels including Prestige, R-Sport – similar to Audi’s S line or the Lexus F Sport trim levels – and Portfolio, while the V6 XE S has its own trim level.
Unfortunately we did not get any time behind the wheel of the entry level 147kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol 20t variant, so that will have to wait for a more detailed road test.
The 20d uses an all-new Ingenium turbo-diesel delivering 132kW and 430Nm, and, as with the rest of the range, is paired with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. This costs $62,800 plus on-roads, a $2400 premium over the petrol.
Jaguar Australia executives talked a lot about the lightweight chassis and suspension set-up of the XE at the media launch, and for good reason.
Eschewing MacPherson struts for a double wishbone set-up at the front end and Integral Link at the rear might prove to be a master stroke, with the arrangement making for a beautifully balanced ride.
Unlike some of its German rivals that insist on a sporty (read stiff) suspension tune for their mid-size masters, Jag’s engineers have managed to imbue the XE with a silken smooth ride, particularly over rough or loose surfaces.
In diesel guise, the XE handles exceptionally well, tackling corners like a smaller, sportier car.
Not that you would know it is a diesel, though. Like the latest Benz diesel unit in the C200d, it is near impossible to tell you are driving an oil burner once the engine is on. It’s silky smooth, and quiet, with little road noise penetrating the very well insulated XE cabin.
There is a hint of turbo-diesel lag on take-off, but torque comes in low and early ensuring brisk acceleration, while higher up there is more than enough grunt to overtake with confidence.
Switch from Normal to Dynamic mode, and the performance is more immediate. It really is a cracking engine. The transmission is a good match, too, offering smooth changes up and down without fuss.
Jag says the 20d does 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds and consumes just 4.2 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. After a brief stint of enthusiastic driving on twisty roads from Cairns to Port Douglas, we saw numbers ranging between 6.2 and 8.1L/100km. A more in-depth review will provide a better indication of real world fuel consumption, however.
Inside the modern XE cabin, the dash sports a clean layout and the controls are mostly logical. There is an interesting integrated shelf that joins the door parcel with the dash, providing a wrap-around look that adds a point of difference to the interior.
There is a very steeply raked windscreen giving the car a sporty profile, and the rear window is pretty small, making rearward vision somewhat limited.
The centre stack is simple and elegant and houses the 8.0-inch touchscreen and other functions, and in base Prestige trim there are understated gloss black panels and subtle chrome touches.
The XE gets a lovely three-spoke steering wheel, and the scalloped roof in the rear makes for more headroom. The thin front seats also mean adequate legroom for the segment, while the 450-litre boot is slightly less than that of the 3 Series and the C-Class, both of which offer up 480 litres.
The Prestige gets leather-facing 10-way electrically adjustable front seats which offer terrific support, and the standard safety gear – blind-spot monitor, tyre-pressure monitor, autonomous emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera and automatic parking – is plentiful.
There are, however, a lot of options in any spec.
Want heated seats in your $60,000-plus premium Euro sedan? That’s $620 just for the front seats. How about digital radio? That will be $540, thanks. Even a powered bootlid costs $850. And the list goes on.
Some of these features are now standard fare on circa-$30,000 mainstream models. If Jaguar wants to stand out from the Germans that are notorious for their lengthy options lists, this is not the way to do it.
If Jag had a more generous standard features list, it could help set itself apart from Benz/BMW/Audi, but simply matching those brands on some of these items could make the XE’s job tougher.
Luckily, the XE is a terrific driver’s car.
The 25t starts from $64,900 for the Prestige, rising to $70,400 for the Portfolio – the only variant offered in Portfolio trim, by the way.
We sampled this upper-spec version that offers the most ‘Jaguar’ interior of the range. There is wood grain trim, a mushroom-coloured leatherette dash finish, and cream leather seats. It definitely feels more high-end than the Prestige, and returning Jag buyers should appreciate it.
The 2.0-litre petrol unit in the 25t produces 177kW and 340Nm – the 20t uses essentially the same unit but detuned to 147kW/280Nm – and it has a delightful engine note and offers solid performance in a straight line, while offering most of the dynamic benefits of the diesel.
In Normal mode the steering feels nicely weighted, if a little dead off centre, but flick to Dynamic and it quickly sharpens up. Jag says the official fuel figure is 7.5L/100 and we recorded 8.2L/100km.
The performance flagship – until an XE R, or something from JLR’s Special Vehicles Operations surfaces – is the V6 XE S, which uses the sweet supercharged donk from the glorious F-Type.
It pumps out 250kW and 450Nm and delivers that sweet, addictive engine note familiar from the spicy sportscar – that is, if you are outside the car. From inside it is decidedly muted. Perhaps unsurprising, given it is a mid-size executive sedan, not a two-door sportscar. But still, a little more drama inside the cabin would be nice.
Performance from a standing start is exciting without being jaw-dropping, but perhaps that will come with the M3/C63 rival down the track.
The steering has a much heavier feel than the diesel, and seems to need more input for any action, but it is sharp and goes where it is told to.
The suspension set-up on the S is once again sublime. The car is balanced and flat though corners and it covers bumps and holes much better than its Euro counterparts.
In very slippery conditions, the S keeps its composure beautifully, with the traction control allowing a little bit of tail movement before reining everything in to keep the car in the black-top.
During a rainy section of our drive, the windscreen wipers of the S kept slipping, which, aside from being annoying, was something we have only experienced in a circa-$16k Fiat 500. Flimsy windscreens should not be found on a $100k-plus sports sedan.
Which brings up the question of value.
The XE S is priced from $104,200, and Jag says it is not pitching it against warmed-up models such as the BMW 335i rather it’s suggesting it is an Audi S4 rival.
The Audi costs $105,000, and the BMW costs $93,430, more than $10k cheaper than the Jag. The BMW has a generous standard features list at that price point, as well.
Pricing it above $100k is an interesting strategy, and time will tell whether it will succeed. There is more competition on the way too, with Benz’s C450 AMG Sport coming later this year or early next year.
We reckon the $64,900-$70,400 25t might be more than enough performance for many buyers, and they will save at least $35k. But some will find the allure of that sweet V6 too much, and will happily shell out six figures for the S.
For our money, we would pick the diesel. The trim depends on what goodies you prefer.
Overall the XE is an impressive return to the segment from Jaguar, and it is a car that must succeed for the brand to move to the next level.
In terms of dynamics, fuel efficiency, technology, driveability, style and likeability, the XE is on equal footing with the Germans.
Rusted-on Benz and BMW owners should definitely visit a Jaguar dealer before putting their hard-earned down on the latest C-Class or 3 Series.
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