In partnership with: North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Jaguars entry level into their exotic world of supercharging comes in the form of the XE-S. Its a wonderful package of performance, amazing road manners and state of the art body engineering that’s best summed up in one sentence…
Grace, Pace (but not much) Space – but DON’T let the latter put you off!
It grinds my gears somewhat when I hear people trying describe the XE. Only just a few days ago I heard two people desperately trying to understand each other when one person said to the other: “oh you know the XE? Its the little Jag“. Firstly playmates, the Jaguar XE isn’t little, for sure it doesn’t fill your driveway akin to RCIs Harmony of the Seas coming into dock but nonetheless it isn’t a small car. The car is best described as Jaguars antidote pill to the C class and three series… and its an antidote that’s easy to swallow.
Even in the lower trim levels the XE flashes past you on the motorway, as the 3/4 rear view fades into the distance, you cannot help admiring the short but high rear rump. In fading light the view, in my opinion, looks even better thanks to those pretty curving L.E.D tail lamps. The nose with its expansive grille looks on one hand rather glam and on the other a touch aggressive thanks to the sweeping headlamps. Viewed side on, I think it looks ever so slightly anonymous but the wheel at each corner hints towards a well balanced chassis.
With the company now being highly skilled with aluminium engineering, it comes as no great surprise that a huge quantity of the vehicles overall shell construction is created from this. Despite this fact, the car feels robust and solid with a meaty clunk reassuring the driver or occupant of its solidity when a door or the boot lid is closed. But engineering has to blend with craftsmanship so you’ll be pleased to know every exterior panel gap and plastic component line up and match one another with very effective tight tolerances.
The test car came adorned with optional 20 inch “propeller” alloy wheels that virtually fills every inch of wheel arch space. Before I had even hopped inside I thought I would be in for the same kind of ride comfort I experienced thirty odd years ago flying down Sugar Hill bank in the snow on a tea tray… more about that later. But as a visual experience, you know this supercharged XE is going to excite you long before the seat belt is clipped in. For sure its sporting but the guys n gals at Jaguar have neatly once again and ever so slightly reigned in the sporting overtones excess to err on the side of opulence.
As you will find in the entry level F Type Coupe and Cabriolet, the XE-S is supplied with a 3.0 quad cam V6 24 valve supercharged unit. In terms of power and torque there’s 340PS and a useful 450Nm at the drivers disposal. It sounds wonderful when fired up, in fact I think it sounds even better than their 5.0 550PS V8 unit. You’re never far away from the knowing that there’s a hell of a lot performance on offer. Even trundling around the town or city a distinct burble emits from the tailpipe from around 1500rpm. Its not overpowering or a threat to conversation but its there, its noticeable and its lovely.
As with every single JLR product there are no problems with the electronic ZF 8 speed automatic gearbox. The gear changes are almost imperceptible, no jolt, no shudder – just a change of engine note and a small twitch of the rev counter. Driving around in normal environments is as effortless as any other Jaguar – it really is, but when you push on and demand some adrenalin the XE-S gets on with the job in hand. The level of handling, ride and control cannot be explained in a two dimensional word explanation – you really need to get out there and get inside one.
Firstly there’s the steering. My word its amazing and even though electronic assistance often blunts or totally eradicates feel on some cars, the XE-S is quite possibly features the best EPAS system around on a sub-supercar level. Dial in the dynamic mode and it gets even better – almost to operating theatre scalpel sharpness… I’m not kidding either. Whether its a hairpin bend, a R -road switchback or a bend at the bottom of the lane, so long as you are within the laws of physics and there’s grip on the tyres, the XE can seemingly change direction as swiftly as the famous Light-Cycle scene in the movie Tron.
The chassis is where its at in this car. As a driving experience its a joy to behold thanks to zero body roll and not so much as a hint of understeer. That supercharged V6 provides all the gutso and enjoyment you could need in a car of this nature. And yes other rivals offer more power and speed perhaps – but not the same level of enjoyment. Oh and in some cases, the XE-S is over £10,000 cheaper too than some of the German klasse-mates. But once the real world of civility comes calling once again, its good to know the ride quality, though firm it may be, is never unbearable… wow! a really impressive chassis.
Well they say you cannot have your cake and eat it (even if that never really made sense) its on the inside where the XE looses a few points. A typical Jaguar driving position where the driver is slightly cocooned isn’t the major issue here. Its mainly down to the rear legroom – regardless what you may hear it is a little bit tight. Well actually, if the driver is long in the leg then the rear legroom is bordering on cramped. Headroom isn’t exactly class leading either – many drivers will find themselves sitting lower down in order to compensate this.
Other mumbles and grumbles include the low roof line and A pillar positioning. A little care needs to be taken getting in and out of the car unless you particularly want to knock your head on the aforementioned pillar. Once you have done so (and you will… mark my words) a couple of times, you soon learn, adapt and overcome. Also the shape of the dashboard means the outboard air vents are oddly positioned – especially the drivers side. This means the vent serves little purpose and is difficult to position adequately for face level ventilation, it does however do an admirable job of warming / cooling your lap.
Any unfortunate soul sitting in the centre rear seat will find the bench cushion rock hard almost where it rises over the transmission tunnel. Not only that but the large centre console robs foot space as both feet have to awkwardly placed either side of it. At the extreme rear boot capacity seems just about okay. At odds with many rivals however, the seat backs don’t fold down – if you want this facility you have to pay extra for it… which for a £45,000 car could be seen as a bit mean. On the plus side though there’s extremely supportive front seats, effective climate control and a cracking stereo system.
Ergonomically speaking the Jaguar is an easy car to pilot. Familiar knobs and twiddly bits will be easy to fathom for those experiencing the XE first time from its relatives like the XF, XJ and so on. The multi function steering wheel features duplicated controls for the audio / phone as well as paddle shift controls for the ZF gearbox – though these do feel a bit cheap and flimsy to the touch although alloy finished items are available at extra cost. Minor moans aside, the XE is generally a well sorted car and in S flavour with optional Phosphor blue exterior, the blue and black leather trim works really well.
To summarise, if space is not your top priority but driving pleasure is, the XE-S is one hell of an impressive motor car in almost all areas. Some interior fittings fail to make the premium grade in terms of solidity or quality – notably the column stalks and some plastics around the centre console but none of which are bad enough to make you shudder. A great deal of the cost comes from the alloy body, suspension components and other hidden engineering attributes. XEs engineering is what its all about and as a package, a driving experience and sheer enjoyment I’d say its worth almost every single penny.
- AUTOBRITANNIA.NET RATING: 8/10
THE HUMBLE OPINION
I just knew this was going to be a good drive but wasn’t prepared for just how good it actually turned out to be. The XE has been a tremendous hit for JLR and those talented UK engineers and designers certainly seem to have that Midas touch with each new model that’s introduced.
Stunning handling, incredibly good steering for an E-PAS set up, a sweet revving engine with rather credible emission criteria along with strong and savage performance allied to excellent brakes brings it all together that strictly from a drivers point of view is only a cats whisker away from being perfect… honestly!
Off the boil, only the tyre roar erodes away at its serene refinement, while at warp factor eight, its as agile as a kitten and adrenaline inducing as a Super One Series Karting event. Even the ride comfort is good enough to mop up those long motorway miles – its not limousine standard of course, but the balance between bruising and cruising has to be experienced – it really is quite remarkable.
Other rivals such the AMG or M series may offer bigger bangs but they don’t have the coolness or the value of the XE-S. Think of it as a slightly flawed diamond and you’re there. Yes the quality in some interior areas could be improved but its not poor enough to cause deep concern – it could just be notably better, and as mentioned, rear space is far from commodious.
But as a pure drivers joy? well… its got what it takes – end of.
I loved every moment of it.
MODEL TESTED: Jaguar XE-S (RWD model)
Price: £44,995 OTR excluding options
Power Unit: 2995cc 24v V6 Supercharged petrol
Driveline: 8 speed ZF electronic auto with RWD featuring torque vectoring, adaptive dynamics and all surface progress control. Standard paddle shifters on steering wheel
Power / Torque: 340PS / 450Nm
Performance: *0 – 60 in 4.9 seconds with 155mph max (limited)
Fuel Economy: *34.9mpg combined (33.8mpg on actual test)
*= Govt or manufacturers claimed data
WHATS HOT: Superb performance – Impressive all round engineering – Kart like cornering ability – Marvellous handling / ride compromise – Impressive emissions for the power and performance – Brilliant steering feel – Supportive front seats – True Jekyll and Hyde characteristics at the twitch of your right ankle – Almost perfect driving position – Great exhaust note when in full cry – Reasonably economical when just cruising along.
WHATS NOT: Rear space far from commodious – One or two plastics inside feel low rent and cost engineered – No folding rear seatback as standard – Thick and obstructive A pillars easy to obstruct driver / passenger entry and visibility – Lack of voice activation on Sat-Nav.
For more information on the Jaguar XE simply CLICK HERE