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Driven: Jaguar XE ‘safe for now’

Despite falling sales, Jaguar XE remains ‘core pillar’ but radical successor mooted

9 Aug 2019

THE long-term of the Jaguar XE as we know it remains unclear, as slowing demand in a shrinking segment globally prompts a rethink as to what will replace the series once production of the existing generation ceases by about 2023.


However, despite the relentless proliferation of SUVs, a sedan-silhouetted successor remains likely as key Asian and European markets still prefer their premium vehicles that way, while their advantages in terms of heightened efficiency and dynamics, and lower consumption are also said to better align with fundamental Jaguar brand values.


Speaking to the Australian media at the launch of the X760-series XE facelift in Byron Bay this week, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) overseas region regional director Martin Limpert said that although JLR is in the business of achieving growth and profitability, it is listening very carefully to what all consumers want moving forward in order to ensure this goal happens.


“Yes… the XE is a core product,” he said. “We obviously try to develop the right products for the markets, and looking into those segments, where do we see growth, profitable growth? We don’t want to be playing in segments where there is no profit for the business.


“But, quite frankly for the moment, there are no plans to further reduce. We are at 13 nameplates at the moment. With Defender, we’ll be at 14 and there will be more development in the pipeline.


“It is also a worldwide question market-by-market to look into. We have markets like South Korea and the Western European countries where sedans in the premium segment still represent 60 to 70 per cent of the overall automotive segments.


“So, in other markets, yes, the decline is stronger and the mid and large SUVs are picking up, but on a worldwide scale, we have to make sure we are competing in the right segments and in the right markets.”


JLR Australia managing director Mark Cameron echoed Mr Limpert’s remarks, explaining exactly why the XE and its ilk remain vital to the brand and even his expectation that the sales erosion will stabilise and perhaps even recover – but only if the brand moves with the times and offers something uniquely Jaguar.


“Sedans are still going to be around,” he said. “If you look at the rates of decline in the Australian market over the last 10 years, it’s gone from roughly 60 per cent to 30 per cent over that time, but I think it’s going to plateau.


“For many customers, the sedan is still the best car. Yes, people love SUVs and the benefits of SUVs, but (things like) the aerodynamics aren’t as good and the driving experience in many cases isn’t as good. So, we’re certainly not abandoning segments.


“But we have to do things differently and not follow others.”


One of the hotly speculated developments that might reshape the XE’s 2023 reinvention is that Jaguar’s BMW 3 Series competitor is expected to grow so it also acts as the replacement for the larger but slow-selling XF range, consolidating the two models into a single, sports-luxury five-seater proposition.


It is understood that this second-generation model may even eschew the classic four-door sedan format for a possible liftback look used by the Tesla Model S and others.


Additionally, and speaking of electric vehicles, all future JLR powertrains will move to some form of electrification, from internal-combustion engines featuring mild and plug-in hybrid assistance to full EVs.


This includes recently-announced powertrain partner BMW providing at least some of their ICE engines alongside JLR’s Ingenium four-cylinder and inline six-cylinder units.


However, with the XE’s replacement still up to four years away, a refresh is now here to help stoke demand for the current sedan unveiled in September 2014 and launched in Australia the following August.


As revealed at the Geneva motor show back in early March, the Series II facelift was about providing some much-needed upgrading of the interior (including the abolition of the trademark rising rotary transmission dial for a conventional gear level with accompanying paddle-shifters), instrumentation, multimedia system, heater and ventilation controls and equipment levels.


Material quality is said to have risen substantially, and the front door cards have been completely redesigned for improved ergonomics – addressing a long-time XE bugbear.


F-Type sportscar-evoking slimline headlights featuring LEDs, larger lower-bumper grille openings, redesigned tail-lights, revised alloys and an assortment of other refreshed detailing betray the newcomer’s visual alterations.


Keeping the iQ AI (D7a) platform that underpins the XF, F-Pace and Range Rover Velar, the British-built XE’s body retains its riveted aluminium structure construction, with the double-wishbone front and integral link independent rear suspension systems also carrying over as before.


Slashed from 14 models to just two late last year with a last-minute reshuffling of the outgoing Series 1 range, the XE facelift forgoes the modern Ingenium turbo-diesel and (old Ford-sourced) V6 engine choices for a single, high-performance four-cylinder turbo-petrol powertrain, offered in SE and HSE variants, with both wearing the striking R-Dynamic sports package.


Dubbed Ingenium P300, the 2.0-litre unit delivers 221kW of power at 5500rpm and 400Nm of torque between 1500-4500rpm.


Driving the rear wheels via a ZF-sourced eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission (as before), the XE hits 100km/h from standstill in 5.9 seconds while on the way to a top speed of 250km/h in European spec.


Conversely, the EDC2 fuel consumption figure calculated from Jaguar’s own Worldwide harmonised Light vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) numbers is 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres, while carbon dioxide emissions are 157 grams per kilometre.


Other modernisation moves for the XE include new sports seats with contrast stitching, while the redesigned steering wheel and Jaguar’s Touch Pro Duo infotainment system in the higher-spec HSE (featuring two integrated touchscreen displays offering Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity) are poached from the I-Pace EV SUV.


The SE includes power-adjustable leather seats, front and rear parking sensors, lane-keep assist and 18-inch alloys, while the HSE brings inch-larger wheels, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), further front seat adjustability, a power-operated steering column and an audio upgrade.


Also available is JLR’s innovative ‘ClearView’ camera-based rearview mirror system, as well as a quintet of option packs including Dynamics Handling, Cold Climate and Technology, with the latter bringing updated items like a head-up display, digitised dials and wireless smartphone charging. 


In a segment that was down 22 per cent year-on-year, XE sales slid by a worrying 33 per cent last year, to just 524 registrations, compared to the bestselling Mercedes-Benz C-Class’ 5055 sales, though that was down 41 per cent over the 2017 results.


In contrast, at 247 units, the Jaguar’s year-to-date tally to July is only 4.6 per cent off, while the C-Class has enjoyed an 18.3 per cent rise in popularity to reach the 4170 mark.  


2019 Jaguar XE pricing*

R-Dynamic SE (a) $65,670
R-Dynamic HSE (a) $71,940

*Excludes on-road costs

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