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Driven: Jaguar banks on all-new XE

Feline good: The crucial new Jaguar XE is on sale on September 1, and kicks off from $60,400, plus on-road costs.

XE mid-size sedan arrives in Australia, marking a relaunch for the Jaguar brand

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Jaguar logo25 Aug 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

THE launch of Jaguar’s long-anticipated XE sedan this week marks a new era for the brand in Australia, not only in demonstrating its technical prowess and improving sales performance but kicking off a fresh wave of new models and customer service initiatives.

On sale from September 1 but available to view in some dealerships now, the all-new XE represents Jaguar’s return to the all-important premium mid-size segment – currently dominated by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class – since the demise of the poorly received Ford Mondeo-based X-Type in 2010.

Jaguar currently makes up just 10 per cent of Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) overall sales in Australia, but the British prestige manufacturer has ambitious plans to expand this to 30-35 per cent by the end of the decade.

This will come on the back of new models including XE, a redesigned XF, the all-new F-Pace SUV and a number of other still-secret models that will fill out a richer line-up for the leaping cat brand.

A renewed focus on aftersales is also expected to have a major impact on brand awareness and sales, with Jaguar introducing a five-year servicing plan priced between $1100 and $1350, depending on the variant, that is fully financeable and transferable.

It will also offer guaranteed future value in a 38- or 48-month plan through JLR’s financial services arm.

At the XE’s media launch in Far North Queensland this week, JLR Australia managing director Matthew Wiesner emphasised the importance of the new model, describing it as “absolutely vital for us”.

“It is about more than just selling a bunch of XEs – it’s also kicking off where and what we do with the Jaguar brand from here on,” he said.

“(This includes) taking a far more holistic approach to ownership and experience in and around Jaguar product and the brand itself. You will start to see some of these things flow into other things we do.” Mr Wiesner told GoAuto that the success of Mercedes with C-Class, BMW with its 3 Series and Audi with the A4 – that is, building a strong following from typically mainstream car buyers – has created an opportunity for Jaguar with XE.

“The beauty of what Benz, BMW and Audi have been doing, they have been expanding this segment. Because what they have done, the products they have got, the aspirational nature and the affordability means more people have come into the segment from below,” he said.

“It’s good to be launching into a pretty dynamic segment.

“What we bring is a choice that hasn’t existed before. We create a nice alternative to what the Germans have done so well over the years and we need to use that as an opportunity and an advantage to create a difference in that segment.” While Mr Wiesner said he has confidence in the XE to stand on its own, the introduction of the aggressively priced servicing program and overall improvements to aftersales service should remove any hesitation from people reluctant to switch from the German giants.

“By then taking out those perceptions of the past, whether it is servicing costs or affordability, by using service plans and financial service products, then effectively you are taking away all of those negatives,” he said.

“So the whole discussion comes back to the car, the product. How it drives and how it looks. And based on that, I think we have got those bits in pretty good shape.” In terms of sales, Mr Wiesner said it was “not at all” ambitious to expect sales of 100 units a month from XE, adding that there has been strong interest leading up to its arrival, despite the challenge of it being an all-new nameplate.

“We are seeing some pretty good response already. The amount of activity and the amount of enquiry we are seeing around the place is excellent. We have got a healthy number of pre-orders,” he said.

“The challenge has been (that) we don’t have a car in this space. The X-Type was about 10 years ago. That’s been the other challenge – not having a current thing we have replaced and working with an existing customer base.

“But at the same time … we are broadening our view, we want to bring younger, more aspirational types using a car like this. But obviously those who have been around the Jaguar brand over the years, we want them back.” As previously reported, the XE kicks off from $60,400 plus on-road costs for the petrol-powered 2.0t in base Prestige spec, which undercuts the equivalent BMW 320i and Mercedes-Benz C200 by $1100 and $500 respectively.

The diesel 20d Prestige adds $2400 to the price of the petrol at $62,800, while a more powerful 2.2-litre petrol sits under the nose of the 25t and in Prestige spec is priced from $64,900.

Mid-spec R-Sport is offered in 20t guise for $64,400, 20d from $66,800 and 25t for $68,900, while the 25t is also available in higher-spec Portfolio trim – a name Jaguar has borrowed from its Land Rover sister brand.

Jaguar Australia says R-Sport will be pitched similarly to the likes of Audi’s S line and BMW’s M Sport packages, offering sportier looks and tweaked suspension.

Sitting atop the Jaguar XE line-up is the V6 S priced at $104,200, and aimed squarely at the likes of the Audi S4.

An entry-level Pure variant is available in Europe that competes with the BMW 316i, but Jaguar Australia says it was aiming for a higher-spec range overall at launch.

The XE also introduces the Ingenium family of fuel-efficient powertrains to Jaguar’s Australian line-up. Initially it comes only with the diesel, but new-generation petrol versions will follow, replacing the current units.

JLR is vague on timing, but it could be part of a model update later next year or in 2017.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel produces 132kW and 430Nm, covers the 0-100km/h dash in 7.8 seconds and has the most impressive fuel economy of the XE range, sipping just 4.2 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.

This is slightly thirstier than the Mercedes-Benz C200d which consumes 4.0L/100km, but more frugal then BMW’s 320d which uses 4.6L/100km.

For now, the base 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol unit offers up 147kW/280Nm, with 0-100km/h acceleration of 7.7s and fuel economy of 7.5L/100km.

The more powerful 177kW/340Nm 2.0-litre petrol unit, which is found in the XF as well as a number of Ford EcoBoost models including the Australian-built Falcon, improves the 0-100km/h dash to 6.8s, and fuel economy sits at 7.5L/100km.

Finally, the performance flagship S uses a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 – lifted from the F-Type sportscar – pumping out 250kW/450Nm and capable of reaching 100km/h from standstill in just 5.1s. It fuel consumption is 8.1L/100km.

This compares well against the 245kW/440Nm 3.0-litre V6 Audi S4 that reaches 100km/h in 5.0s and has equivalent consumption.

All powertrains are matched with an eight-speed ZF 8HP automatic transmission with paddle shifters, seen in the XF and XJ.

Built using the Tata-owned brand’s new lightweight (75 per cent aluminium) platform that underpins the net-generation XF due later this year, the XE measures 4672mm long, 2075mm wide and 1416mm high, and rests on a 2835mm wheelbase.

It is slightly shorter, lower and wider than a C-Class. The boot can hold up to 450 litres of cargo, and the rear seats can be folded 40:20:40.

The XE has a double-wishbone front and ‘Integral Link’ rear suspension set-up, which the car-maker says makes for “the sublime ride quality Jaguar cars are famous for and the taut body control needed for agile handling”.

It also marks the debut of electric power steering on a Jaguar model, but the company says it has been calibrated to ensure “immediate response” and a “connected feel”.

Jaguar claims the new steering system has also helped cut CO2 emissions by three and two per cent for petrol and diesel engines respectively.

The brakes feature lightweight sliding callipers and large discs front and rear, with diameters ranging from 316-350mm up front and 300-325mm at the rear.

Another feature borrowed from the F-Type is the torque-vectoring system, which gently brakes the individual inner wheels as required to mitigate understeer, keeping the car in line.

Jaguar’s All-Surface Traction Control is standard across the range. It functions between 3.6km/h and 30km/h and once the driver selects the desired speed via the cruise control switches, the XE should drive smoothly without skidding as the driver maintains control of the steering.

Other safety gear includes a stereo camera that can detect vehicles up to 100 metres away that forms the basis of the XE’s standard autonomous emergency braking system.

The camera detects road lines and is used for the lane-keeping aid.

It also gets blindspot monitoring with close vehicle sensing, tyre-pressure monitor, front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera and automatic parking.

Starting with the Prestige, standard gear includes the InControl infotainment system with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, power folding external mirrors with auto dimming, keyless entry and start, bi-Xenon headlights, idle-stop, 18-inch alloy wheels, 11-speaker Meridian sound system, leather-facing seats with electric adjustment, a memory for exterior mirrors, steering column and driver’s seat, and dual-zone climate control.

Portfolio adds a different style of 18-inch alloys, more premium leather seats, leatherette-wrapped instrument panel and a rear window electric sun-blind.

On top of Prestige, R-Sport gains sports seats, different 18-inch alloys, sports suspension, R-Sport bodykit and branding.

Range-topping S gets different high-end sports seats, 19-inch alloys and red brake callipers, S bodykit, the sports leatherette-wrapped instrument panel, S branding, Adaptive Dynamics with sports suspension, and a bright finish pedal kit black headlining and tailpipe finishers.

A number of options or option packs are available, including adaptive cruise control, a laser head-up display with high-contrast colour images in the driver’ s line of sight, adaptive bi-Xenon headlights, automatic boot opener, DAB + digital radio, and a panoramic sunroof.

2015 Jaguar XE pricing*
20t Prestige (a) $60,400
20d Prestige (a) $62,800
25t Prestige (a) $64,900
20t R-Sport (a) $64,400
20d R-Sport (a) $66,800
25t R-Sport (a) $68,900
25t Portfolio (a) $70,400
V6 S (a) $104,200
*Excludes on-road costs

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