It was rumoured for a long time that Jaguar was working on a sports sedan sized like such competitors as the Lexus IS, Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series and one or two others. This is a hot-selling segment in the auto industry and it’s good to see Jaguar back in contention.
Some years ago, Jaguar launched its X-Type, which slotted into the midsize sports sedan category. It was a fine car in many ways but for whatever reason, Jaguar did not replace it when the time came to drop that model. Right now Jaguar is enjoying tremendous success all over the world and its cars are selling like never before. Clearly, the UK automaker decided to cover as many size segments as possible and take advantage of its resurgence. Having introduced its highly successful F-Pace SUV, the company now has several segments covered with some excellent products, the newest of which I’ve tried being the XE.
One look at this sleek all-aluminum sports sedan will tell you that it couldn’t be anything else but a Jaguar. It has several recognition features common to other Jaguar models from the XF to the XJ and even the F-Type sports. It’s very low-slung and somehow Jaguar has managed to get the floor quite close to the road so that climbing in behind the wheel is something of a sports coupe experience, making the car a dubious choice for older folks or anyone with lower back problems. It’s easy enough to get used to and once tucked inside, it’s very comfortable with all the controls within easy reach. It offers just about the perfect driving position for a car like this. This is not a large car by any means and for buyers who must regularly carry multiple adult passengers; Jaguar has more suitable choices in the XJ and XF. The trunk is huge (455-litres) and would easily take a family’s luggage for a weekend trip.
My test XE was powered by a 3.0-litre supercharged V-6 developing 340-horsepower. It’s a very refined and exceptionally smooth powerplant and if the need arises, the car will take off like a rocket on full throttle. The engine is mated to an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission which seemed the ideal choice to me. The shifts are quiet and hard to perceive when accelerating, though it makes lots of them on the way to a high cruising speed.
Unusually, there’s an interesting alternative engine in the form of a 2.0-litre diesel with 180-horsepower, which I plan to drive quite soon. It’s bound to have excellent torque and that may well make up for some of the “lost’ horsepower compared to the V-6. All versions of this car come with all-wheel drive, a nice security feature and one I was glad to have when I ran into a severe hailstorm on my Vancouver Island test run.
The car has a very sophisticated chassis design that includes all kinds of fascinating technical advancements. It certainly makes for a comfortable ride and endows the car with excellent handling characteristics. On winding roads it hangs in very well and feels stable at all times. Obviously, the design team was determined that the car should have sporty handling and they certainly scored in that department. The Sooke Road towards Port Renfrew is a great place to check out any car’s handling on a quiet day and the XE showed itself very capable.
As one would expect, the car has an array of convenience features suited to the luxury market (including a favourite of mine: a heated steering wheel). At the centre of the dash is a big eight-inch infotainment touchscreen and it functioned very effectively. It was easy to set up the navigation system and mobile phone hookup took seconds. The Meridian sound system was a pleasure to travel with when driving around on Vancouver Island.
This new Jag should prove an effective competitor for existing market leaders in this class. It has outstanding performance and handling and lots of that wonderful Jaguar ambiance which is often copied but rarely equaled.
BODY STYLE: Four-door sports sedan
ENGINE: 3.0-litre supercharged V-6
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic ZF
PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx. 4.9-secs (supercharged model)
PRICE: $57,500 MSRP, as tested