Jaguars most important new car for years, the XE, has to be a prize fighter in the medium weight contest. It looks great and seemingly stands toe to toe with some very talented German rivals. It also brings back the option of three pedal motoring too.
Having the looks and the pedigree, has it really got the minerals to tempt Audi and BMW drivers from their traditional mid range motorway munchers?
I know styling is a very opinionated choice but I absolutely adore the look of the new Jaguar XE. Having a brief drive of an R-Sport model a few months back, I came away smiling… knowing that both Audi and BMW now had a bit of a thorn in their sides. Its lovely to drive at speed and provides well a sensible (and welcome) balance of pin sharp steering and a ride comfort that’s the ride side of compliant. The faster you go, the more evident the effort of the chassis engineers can be sensed through your fingertips and the brakes anchor the car with all the confidence for a novice or eager experienced press on kind of driver. First class damping was noted on some fast undulating Northants back roads… its one of the nicest and entertaining cars I have driven – simply put? Marvellous!
Early pre production cars could sometimes be found to have a slightly patchy build quality, but the test car came rattle free and seemed to be the best assembled Jaguar I have tested. Nothing in the cabin should come as any surprise to recent Jaguar drivers, but there again its different enough to the touch and view. There’s nice ergonomics, some pleasant textures to the fabrics and plastics no mention a driving position that’s almost millimetre perfect for most people. I noticed the A – post to be slightly intrusive into your personal space and some may find entry requires a little head stooping to avoid a physical reminder of the low sleek roofline. One thing I will mention though is the rather neat way the driving position and dash seems to wrap around you without making you feel hemmed in and claustrophobic… you really do feel connected to the car once settled in.
The press car came with a full sized panoramic glass sunroof, but I personally would avoid this option as it robs the headroom. As a consequence, I found myself sitting much lower down than I would normally prefer and I am an smidge over a thoroughly average 5ft 10. The short stubby gear lever falls straight to hand and once the driveline is warmed through, the shift action has a light if slightly spongy quality as you slot in and out of the 6 speeds. Pedal interaction and positioning is good and despite the seemingly wide transmission tunnel, there’s adequate space for the left foot to rest when cruising. The 2.0 UK built all new i4 engine seems well insulated (thanks to very supple mountings) from the interior but you can tell there’s only a quartet of cylinders. The gear lever wobbles noticeably when you initially move it from the neutral position or when looking at the exhaust tailpipes when its idling but in everyday driving its very refined and smooth.
Refinement is quite good for most of the time. Its only when you really drive hard and fast that undue harshness enters the cabin but in 180Ps flavour the outright performance is very strong with 60mph coming up in a whisker over seven seconds. As is the case with all current JLR product, you are given various drive options at the push of a button. Dynamic mode fine tunes the steering, damper and throttle response making the XE Portfolio quite sprightly and almost aggressive. But in normal or eco mode the shortcomings of a 2.0 four cylinder engine can be evident. In eco mode I found the car to be lazy and almost frustratingly unresponsive under my right foot. Thankfully dynamic mode is smile inducing – albeit at the slight expense of fuel economy.
If you are currently used to one of Jaguars biggest rivals – the BMW 3 series, you will appreciate the rear legroom in the XE… or rather the lack of it. Its quite tight in the back and if you are a taller driver the legroom becomes embarrassingly squashed. But I’m not going to dwell on this sufficed to day that many cars will be one driver fleet examples and if you demand the latter of the famed Sir William Lyons quotation of Grace, Pace and Space… the all new XF is there for your delectation – another extremely fine driving weapon. Boot space comes in at a touch over 450 litres – down on rivals like the aforementioned BMW but more than enough for the family or sale manager. The rear seats fold down reasonably flush to the floor but the rear flanks make for a narrow boot lid that might hinder and harass on that chore to the tip or when tackling awkward long items.
The usual Jaguar features of a deep and felt lined glove box along with decent sized door bins for every corner remain. You can stow away a fair amount of loose clutter from public view so despite it being a bit snug in the back, Jaguar have tried hard to add some novel features for ease of ownership and redress the accommodation grumbles. The way the rear seat fold down in three almost equal sections is worthy of mention and quite snazzy, something even volume hatchback manufacturers often miss out with. But overall I would say the XE is almost super cool and a superb weapon of choice for someone who yearns for some serious interaction in their cars dynamics without the image of arrogance that often comes with an Audi or BMW.
AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING: 8/10
The Humble Opinion:
“What a superb drivers car. Its accurate in its chassis dynamics, gifted in its ride and body control as well as being blessed with decent refinement too. Its almost as cool as a cryogenically frozen Michael Caine making the Jaguar adored by fellow motorists rather than being seemingly universally loathed as you can often find with some German rivals.
Badly needs more room in the back to be a true family car, but for a single person, couples who choose not to go in for the family way, those who’s offspring have flown the family nest or fleet user choosers, there’s no better way of putting your foot on the first rung of the ladder up into genuine prestige motoring. Not only that but its pretty decent value for money too and the build quality is not that far away from the Bavarians.
Smart looks, user friendly tech and being quite brilliant to drive – the 8 speed automatic possibly even more so, its yet another winner for Jaguar Land Rover”
Should you buy and if not why? Certainly… If space in the back bothers you that much, just buy an XF or better still… sell the kids on eBay and enjoy the ride, you wont be disappointed.
Model Tested: Jaguar XE Portfolio 2.0 i4 (180Ps) manual
Produced By: Jaguar Land Rover Group Ltd Castle Bromwich
Price: £33,675 excluding options
Engine: 2.0 “ingenium” i4D 4 cylinder Euro6 with DPF
Driveline: 6 speed manual RWD
Power: 180Ps with 430Nm torque
Performance: *0 – 60 in 7.4 seconds
Economy: *67.3mpg combined (54.8mpg on test)
VED / Co2: 109G/Km – Band B
Boot Space: 450 litres (seats up)
* = Manufacturers or Govt claimed data
THE HIGHS: Sleek smart looks – Unmistakably a Jaguar – Well equipped in Portfolio trim – Good economy – Good mid to top end performance – Laugh out loud chassis and body control – Almost flaw free & perfect driving manners – Impressive green appeal – Very refined and comfy – Ultra cool image – Decent value for money – A car with genuine talent – Entry level Jaguar maybe but still looks a million dollars.
THE LOWS: Rear accommodation space pretty poor – Optional glass roof robs headroom – A posts are overly thick and hamper forward vision at critical junctions – Narrow boot opening – Engine torque fall off comes very suddenly – Needs to be driven in dynamic mode to get the best from the driveline.
Thanks are due to Jaguar Land Rover Group and Sywell Aerodrome Northants.
For more information on the Jaguar XE CLICK HERE