WE’VE been waiting a long time for Jaguar to give us a compact luxury car contender. They used to have one… the Jaguar X-Type but unfortunately it wasn’t quite up to standard with its German rivals. Now though Jaguar has unleashed its all-new XE model. Was the wait worth it? Is this car able to compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz? I went to Cape Town to find out.
Jaguar’s 3 Series rival?
Well, sort of. Jaguar South Africa says they are aiming more towards the BMW 4 Series GranCoupé rather than the 3 Series. I think it’s because of pricing – which I will attend to later- however, Jag reckons it’s because of exclusivity. Either way, the Jaguar XE is the brand’s entry level sedan model and on the face of it the XE sure does look as if it’s up to the task. England vs Germany, I know this story from somewhere…
In order to take on Germany’s big guns, Jaguar has pulled out all the stops on the XE. Not only is it built on anall-new platform, which features an almost completely aluminium body, it’s also assembled in a brand-new factory and Jaguar has even started producing its own engines.
Those seductive looks
The Jaguar XE sure does look good. In fact I’m finding it hard to find a new Jaguar that doesn’t look good. This new kitty features sharp, aggressive and angled styling features. It also takes some styling inspiration from the XF model. The XE’s strong, sculpted bonnet and focused front-end create a taut,muscular appearance. The very steeply raked windscreen and the rising waistline accentuate the streamlined, coupé-like profile, adding to the sense of movement.
The signature ‘J-Blade’ running lights upfront are another instantly recognisable Jaguar design. At the rear, the taillights feature a horizontal line, which is an iconic styling feature inherited from the iconic Jaguar E-type. The car looks good from just about every angle but I do have one issue… the lower apron at the rear. On the2.0-litre diesel and 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol derivatives the exhaust tips have been left plain. They look like two lost little pipes. I would have liked it if they featured chrome tips like on the supercharged version.
British hospitality inside
The dashboard sweeps elegantly into the door trims and this creates somewhat of a cockpit-like feeling. You sit low and as one would expect, you are cocooned in luxury. The new dashboard features an eight-inch touchscreen, which takes centre stage in the sweeping curves of the instrument panel. The infotainment system has been upgraded and is now easier to use. It’s not as involved or as sophisticated as that offered by the Germans but I found it simple to use. Jaguar’s unique rotary drive selector rises up from the centre console once the start button is pressed. The Jaguar XE offers ample space inside and with different trim options available you can customize the XE to suite your required taste.
Spoilt for choice
The Jaguar XE will be available with various exterior and interior trim levels, namely the entry level Pure, which is available on the 2.0-litre turbo diesel model, the R-Sport, which features sporty enhancements, a more luxury orientated Prestige model and then the most luxurious model is thePortfolio. As for the top of the range XE, well that will be the S model, which features more aggressive styling and purposeful enhancements.
About that start button
Jaguar is launching the new XE with an equally new engine family – Ingenium. I got to experience the first Ingenium engine in the Jaguar XE 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel with an output of 132kW and 430Nm. There is also a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit which has been used before in other models. It develops 177kW and 340Nm of torque. The top cat in the range is the 3.0-litre supercharged six-cylinder.
Go kitty go
The Jaguar XE has some impressing to do when it comes to its drive. It’s being positioned as a sporty sedanand we all know that BMW holds the crown in this segment. Well, I’m not quite sure for how long though because this XE model is mighty impressive. Under the skin the XE owes a lot of its underpinnings to the F-Type sports car. The front suspension is pretty much the same as is the 250kW supercharged V6 engine in the S model.
It’s light weight and has huge amounts of front-end grip. All models feature an improved electric power steering system and road-feel through the steering is impressive. What’s more, the XE also incorporates anadvanced torque vectoring braking system. This high-tech innovation mitigates the onset of understeer by lightly braking individual inner wheels as required to help keep the car on the optimum line through corners. All the models at launch featured the proven ZF eight-speed gearbox. The car also features different driving modes depending on your mood. Out in the mountain passes I had it locked in Dynamic mode, whichsharpens up the throttle and stiffens the suspension.
The sublime driving roads of the Western Cape allowed me the opportunity to exploit the car’s driving dynamics as well as its day-to-day driving characteristics within the city and I have been impressed. Jaguar has succeeded in creating a 3 Series rival and the wait has been worth it.