Jaguar's XE is much improved. Jonathan Crouch drives the volume D180 diesel version.
The Jaguar XE continues to deliver a slickly executed take on the mid-sized executive genre, offering something different to the usual German suspects in the BMW 3 Series / Audi A4-segment. On paper at least, this revised version seems to have the design, technology and ambition necessary to succeed in this segment, with the dynamics of a BMW and the luxury of a Mercedes, plus all the efficiency and connectivity modern business buyers now expect. It's a strong contender.
Think Jaguar and you probably think of unashamedly high-end cars, raffish, elegant and rapid. It's not a company that's given to lowering the bar and chasing volumes. It tried that in 2001 with the dismal X-TYPE, a rebodied Ford Mondeo that languished in the range for eight years, the public never really enamoured by a Ford wearing a pastiche of Jaguar styling. In its best-selling year, it sold half of Jaguar's initial 100,000 per year estimate, the Brits grumbling that here was a car they never wanted, hastily foisted on them by Ford's top brass in Detroit.
It's took Browns Lane until 2014 to come back with a second stab at the mid-sized 3 Series / Audi A4-dominated executive saloon sector, but the XE showed that the brand had learned from the X-TYPE and done things rather differently. It was - and still is in this improved form - a serious contender to the likes of the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
When you compete in the same class as the BMW 3 Series, it's a measure of real confidence to bill your contender as "the driver's car in the global mid-size saloon segment". Yet that's exactly what Jaguar has done and a closer look at the XE reveals the reasons behind their bullishness. The chassis is a 75 per cent aluminium monocoque, light but immensely strong. The design utilises a classically correct longitudinal engine and rear-wheel drive architecture. Jaguar reckons that this XE has the best electric power steering in class and there are plenty of chassis goodies like torque vectoring by braking.
Automatic transmission is now non-negotiable and the car continues to be available in rear and all-wheel-drive variants. Jaguar's advanced torque on-demand all-wheel drive (AWD) system and Intelligent Driveline Dynamics technology maintain the XE's rear-wheel drive handling feel and agility while improving performance, traction and driver confidence. This revised XE, as ever, is available with a choice of Ingenium petrol and diesel engines. The 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol is available with 250PS and 300PS outputs, badged P250 and P300 respectively. The 300 PS petrol engine, equipped with all-wheel drive, accelerates from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds (0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds). While the efficient 180PS Ingenium diesel, badged D180, delivers 430Nm of torque and decent pulling power.
Jaguar has lightly updated the look of this XE to give it what the brand hopes is a 'more assertive' appearance, with smarter front and rear bumpers, advanced all-LED headlights and tail-lights with distinctive LED signatures. The cabin's much improved too, with the twin 'Touch Pro Duo' infotainment system centre-dash screens from bigger Jaguar models making an appearance on upper-spec XE models, along with a 12.3-inch interactive driver display to replace conventional dials in the instrument binnacle.
The interior now feels more up-market too, thanks to extensive use of soft-touch materials, premium veneers and new door trims that improve usability and practicality. Jaguar claims that every aspect of the cabin has been enhanced for increased convenience, improved stowage and better passenger comfort. The first-in-segment ClearSight interior rear view mirror improves safety and convenience by ensuring the driver has an unobstructed view of the road behind. Using a wide-angle rear-facing camera, the system feeds images to a high-definition screen within the frameless rear view mirror; unhindered by tall rear passengers, poor light or rain on the rear screen. A revised steering wheel, shared with the all-electric I-PACE, features hidden-until-lit graphics and capacitive switches for intuitive, tactile control of key functions. As before, space in the rear is fairly tight. And there's a 450-litre boot. The rear seats can be optionally heated and offer a 40:20:40 split-fold and a through-loading feature.
Jaguar's taken a scythe to the XE range, slimming it down to the models that sold in reasonable numbers the first time round and deleting versions that didn't. As before, there's only a single saloon body shape and the brand's 8-speed ZF auto gearbox is now mandatory. D180 prices start at around £35,000. XE buyers will be choosing between three levels of trim - 'S', 'SE' or, as here, 'HSE'. Whichever you prefer, your dealer will then give you the option of specifying your car with an optional sporty 'R-Dynamic' pack for around £1,600 more.
To give you a perspective on the value proposition, let's take as an example what will probably be the line-up's strongest seller, a D180 'S'-spec variant fitted with that 'R-Dynamic' pack, a car that at the launch of this revised XE line-up would set you back just over £36,000. Jaguar's keen to point out this version's list price to be £670 less than a directly comparable D180 'R-Sport' variant in the pre-facelifted range, despite the fact that over £1,100-worth of extra equipment has been added to this revised design. That's a customer saving of £1,770.
As before, it helps the XE's cause that its structure is relatively light weight, thanks to the fact that over 75% of the structure of the car is fashioned from aluminium. The efficient 180PS Ingenium diesel, badged D180, is the engine most XE buyers will choose and it delivers combined fuel consumption of up to 57.6mpg (WLTP-rated, converted to NEDC2). The XE D180 RWD model has been optimised for certification as RDE2-compliant in a segment-first move by the brand. For company car buyers, RDE2-compliant diesels don't attract a 4% supplement to the Benefit-in-Kind tax, offering substantial savings.Jaguar's latest diesel engines have approximately 25% better fuel economy than petrol engines, produce around 15% less CO2 and emit around the same amount of NOx. For drivers that travel more than 12,000 miles a year, a diesel engine is often the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice. What else? You get the usual unremarkable three year warranty. And service intervals are set at 21,000miles or every 24 months, whichever comes first and it would be sensible to consider one of Jaguar's Service Plans that cover you for virtually everything in advance. There's a 'Standard Mileage Service Plan' that covers you for five years/50,000 miles. Or a 'High Mileage Service Plan' that covers five years/75,000 miles.
Bold, innovative, forward-thinking and able to level with the class best, this XE has proved to be the most credible Jaguar sports saloon we've seen since the Sixties. It chases bigger sales but unlike some of its predecessors, hasn't diluted crucial elements of brand credibility. On the contrary, it's a model company founder Sir William Lyons might have been proud of. He sought to make cars that made their owners feel 'alive' and the objective of this one is exactly that.
Failings are few. Yes, buyers will lack a little when it comes to boot space and some may find selected areas of the styling approach to be slightly conservative. There's nothing wrong with the fundamentals of this design though and the aluminium underpinnings that lie beneath that taut bodywork are pretty sophisticated. Potential business buyers will also note that in important areas like safety, connectivity and residual values, this car is difficult to better in its class, plus they'll also struggle to improve upon this model's diesel efficiency figures, thanks to Jaguar's impressively clean and frugal Ingenium technology. Yes, there's tough competition in the BMW 3 Series-sector. But this improved XE looks better set to size up to it.
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