Car reviews - Jaguar - XE - S
Build quality, high quality interior feel, timeless styling, gutsy performance
Room for improvement
Engine can be thirsty, transmission is jerky at low speeds, no way to fold down rear seats without opening boot
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11 Dec 2015
By TUNG NGUYEN
Price and equipment
While Jaguar’s new luxury mid-sizer starts at $60,400, before on-road costs, with the 2.0-litre turbocharged XE Prestige, our flagship XE S rings in at $104,200, almost $45,000 dearer.
For the jump in price, the flagship variant gets a spicy 3.0-litre supercharged V6 engine, sending power exclusively to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, along with sports suspension, adaptive dampers, red brake callipers, bodykit and ‘S’ branded sports interior.
These features come on top of a long list of standard equipment across the XE range, which includes front and rear parking aids, reversing camera, cruise control, an idle-stop system, keyless entry and start, automatic headlights, windscreen wipers and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with satellite navigation, Bluetooth and an 11-speaker Meridian audio system.
While the XE S has 450 litres of boot space, more than enough to lug around this year’s Christmas shopping, the 40/20/40 split rear seats have an unfortunate flaw. To fold the seats down, the boot first needs to be opened and the rear seat release latches pulled from within. There is no way to fold the seats down from inside the cabin, making quick and easy loading of longer objects an unnecessary bother.
Jaguar gets props for a long list of standard features, but the British marque still offers options, which include a head-up display, sunroof, heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel and powered bootlid.
Inside, the XE S test car features two-toned blue and black leather sports seats with Suedecloth inserts, with the coloured highlights extending to the dashboard and door trims.
The sports seats, which come standard on our XE S, are excellent. They look great and are supportive in all the right areas in quick transitioning corners, they are adjustable in every way imaginable, including three-way lumbar support and are even soft and supple enough to cushion the tush on bumps around town.
The high-riding window line – which extends around to the dashboard and joins together just below the windscreen – makes you feel cocooned in, almost like the XE is giving you a great big hug. However, Jaguar has designed the door trim with three different tiers – the aforementioned window line, a mid-tier where the window controls are and a lower arm rest with a small storage cubby – but each level is either too high, too low or too small to comfortably rest your arm.
Luckily, the steering wheel has telescoping and tilting functionality, so finding the perfect position for your arms is never a problem when steering the XE.
However, our favourite element of the XE S cabin is the attention to detail.
All the touch points feel premium, the contrast stitching on the seats and door trims are position perfect, and the way the gear select knob lowers to sit flat when the car is turned off and slowly rises when the keyless ignition is switched on is lovely.
So everything is all well and good for the driver and front passenger, but how is it for people in the second row? Snug is the probably the word to best describe the rear seat space. There is ample room for two and a half small children (the transmission tunnel eats up a large chunk of leg space for the middle occupant), but six-foot-plus adults may find leg and headroom tight.
Engine and transmission
A lot of people will buy an XE S solely based on its 250kW/450Nm 3.0-litre supercharged V6 engine, the same donk powering the entry level Jaguar F-Type.
This makes the XE S good for a zero to 100km/h sprint time of just 5.1 seconds and will carry the luxury mid-sizer on to an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h.
Thanks to the twin-vortex Roots-type supercharger, acceleration is brisk and peak torque hits at a relatively low 4500rpm, giving the XE S enough grunt to easily overtake at any speed.
Power is fed through an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, with steering wheel-mounted paddles, and while shifts at slower speeds tend to be a little jerky, self-shifting at higher revs is an absolute delight.
However, we do wish the Jaguar had a deeper bark to match its bite. The current exhaust note is a little too quiet for our ears at lower revs. It really comes on song in the latter half of the rev band, but we wish there was just more snap, crackle and pop from the XE S.
Fuel consumption is rated at 8.1 litres per 100km, but our figures showed a higher 10.9L/100km figure due to heavy city driving.
Ride and handling
If you expect a Jaguar’s ride to be comfortable and compliant, then the XE S will not disappoint. However, what you may not know is the XE S has a torque-vectoring system and adaptive dampers to make the most of the sportier engine.
The systems do a great job at putting power down – especially the torque vectoring system, which can brake individual wheels in corners – and the staggered 19-inch wheels also help traction and grip in the rear end.
The larger wheels can be quite punishing over potholes and uneven roads though, and for our tastes, we found them to be a little lacklustre in design. Jaguar offers a 20-inch wheel option that improves on the look, but we imagine would be an even harsher ride.
Jaguar has used a double-wishbone front suspension set-up, while choosing to go with an Integral Link rear suspensions system to keep handling taught and comfort levels high.
Its stiffest and slipperiest car yet, the XE has a drag coefficient of 0.26 and uses electric power steering, which is tuned to reduce unwanted friction and maximise fuel economy.
The best way we can describe the XE S’ handling characteristics is eager. It is quick to turn in (sometimes too quick for our liking) but is still playful and communicative enough to sneak the tail out and have loads of fun.
Safety and servicing
Mechanically, the XE is built with high-strength aluminium alloys in the front to protect occupants in front end collisions, and also comes standard with autonomous emergency braking (which can detect vehicles up to 100 metres away), lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, a tyre pressure monitoring system, from and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and the ability to automatically park.
The best part of Jaguar’s safety suite is that while the technology is there, it never feels intrusive. When straying from a lane, there is no loud beep and big red sign that lights up the dash, there is a gentle vibration in the steering wheel to remind you to stay between the lines.
The XE also utilises an All Surface Progress Control system derived from Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, and while we didn’t get a chance to test it on snow, Jaguar claims it will maximise grip on slippery surfaces.
If this is what Jaguar has come up with to compete against the likes of Audi’s S4 and BMW’s 335i, we reckon the British marque is on to a winner.
As you would expect, the XE S has timeless styling, outstanding performance and brilliant road manners, but what makes the XE S properly great are all the little things and the attention to detail.
The way the steering wheel controls angle outward and are perfectly positioned for your fingers, the way power is delivered to the rear wheels in a linear and controllable fashion, the way the long bonnet and nose is unmistakably Jaguar.
If you were in the market for a mid-size luxury saloon with a bit of poke that oozes style and refinement, we think you need to take a long hard look at the Jaguar XE S.
Audi S4 from $104,610 before on-road costs
The closest competitor in terms of price, performance and market, with a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 unit that produces 245kW and will accelerate from 0-100km/h a fraction faster at 5.0 seconds thanks to its all-wheel-drive system. Getting a little long in the tooth, Audi is set to update its A4, including the S4, next year.
BMW 340i from $89,900 before on-road costs
Although almost $15,000 cheaper than the XE S, BMW’s extensive options list means speccing up closes the price gap considerably. Power comes from a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-pot, sending 240kW to the rear wheels.
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