Jaguar XE first drive

Jaguar XE

Jaguar XEAfter much media hype the long awaited Jaguar XE four door compact saloon is now finally starting to arrive in the hands of eager UK customers

with prices starting from £26,990 and rising to £44,865. Officially the XE went on sale in June this year and already 5,000 UK orders have been placed for it. 

The all-new rear wheel drive XE is arguably the most important car Jaguar has produced its 93 year history. The brand originated as the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922 before becoming Jaguar in 1945. Jaguar along with Land Rover came under the ownership of the Indian conglomerate Tata Motors in 2008 to become Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). Whilst Land Rover and Range Rover global sales have gone from strength to strength with the addition on new models, Jaguar with its line-up of niche cars has been a slumbering giant. 

JLR total global sales last year were 462,678 vehicles, a growth of 9% and the fifth consecutive year of expansion. Out of that total Jaguar’s global sales were just 81,570 units of which 18,401 were to UK customers. 

Why is it the new XE Jaguar’s most important model ever? Because it should allow the company to compete for global volume sales in the compact executive car sector against the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes Benz C-Class. 

Jaguar’s last venture into the compact executive sector was with the underperforming X-Type which used underpinnings from the Ford Mondeo as Jaguar was owned by Ford at that time. The X-Type was launched in 2001 as a four door saloon and then with the Sportwagon being added to the line-up in 2004. Production continued until 2009. 

When it comes to talking about expected or projected sales numbers for new models, some car company executives get nervous in case they underachieve. Suffice to say at the media launch Jaguar were not officially saying in what numbers the XE would sell in the UK market but the hinted indication was it will double their existing sales – so roughly 18,000-units. 

With the new larger Jaguar XF executive saloon range also about to go on sale, the revised XJ limousine already on sale and with the SUV version of the XE called F-Pace planned to make its world debut this autumn with sales starting next spring, the billions of pounds spent by Tata Motors on Jaguar looks to have given the British Jaguar brand a very bright future and that is good for UK jobs. The XE is built at JLR’s totally modernised Solihull plant near Birmingham. 

Back to the all-new XE. Initially the three-month order bank from UK buyers shows 90% of customers have chosen a diesel model and there is a 50-50 split between retail and fleet/business customers. The best selling variant so far is the new 2.0-litre, 180hp turbodiesel with R-Sport specification priced at £33,025 for the manual and £34,775 for the automatic with the auto being marginally the most popular. This is one of Jaguar’s own new generation Ingenium diesel engines. The Combined Cycle fuel economy for both manual and auto versions with 17-inch wheels is 67.3mpg with CO2 emissions for both at just 109g/km. This means VED road tax is £0 for the First Year rate and then only £20 for following years. For company car drivers the Benefit-in-Kind tax is 19%. 

The Ingenium turbodiesel four cylinder 2.0-litre engine line-up for the XE is either the 163hp unit with CO2 emissions of 99g/km and 75mpg with a manual gearbox or the 180hp version with 109g/km and 67.3mpg. When it comes to petrol engines these are still Ford based but with Jaguar’s involvement and these are the 2.0-litre, 200hp, turbo unit with 179g/km and 37.7mpg, the 240hp turbo 179g/km, 37.7mpg option or the 3.0-litre ,V6, 340hp supercharged engine with 194g/km returning 34.9mpg. The existing four cylinder petrol units will in due course be replaced by Jaguar’s own 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engines. 

When it comes to choices of specification there are two channels depending on the engine of choice. The SE, Prestige and Portfolio levels offer comfort and refinement but there is the more sporting channel with R-Sport and S derivatives. The S level is only available with the 3.0-litre supercharged petrol engine which is also used for their F-Type sports car. 

Jaguar XE Jaguar XE Jaguar XE Jaguar XE Jaguar XE

Core to all XE models is an aerodynamic four door sports saloon body with rear wheel drive which uses a lightweight aluminium monocoque platform and body structure. It also uses weight-saving aluminium suspension components for the double wishbone front assembly and integral link rear system. Around 75% of the XE’s body structure is aluminium content and much of the aluminium is recycled material which Jaguar claims is a world-first. 

Styling wise the new XE looks very similar to the larger XF, a sleek but muscular body with sculptured panels, a coupe side profile and fastback rear end design which looks like a tailgate but is in fact a boot. At the front is the now familiar Jaguar signature grille which is the starting point for the design of all the brand’s models says Jaguar. The J-Blade running lights are also Jaguar signature styling features. 

Inside the front of the cabin retains the familiar Jaguar cockpit design with a deep but curved fascia panel linked with a deep centre console. There is an 8-inch touchscreen for the new InControl infotainment system. The touchscreen is also used for the sat-nav system which is standard across the range. For models with automatic transmissions Jaguar’s familiar rotary drive selector rises from the centre console. Also positioned in this area is the familiar Jaguar Drive Control with Eco, Normal, Winter and Dynamic modes. 

The snug front seats are mounted low creating a sports feel and sports car driving position. I found the seats a little on the tight side and the seat squabs on the small side. The chunky transmission tunnel also restricts up-front space. In the rear the 2.5 seats are 40-20-40 split-fold which can increase the load carrying combinations. The rear legroom for adults is not the roomiest in this sector and the headroom for six footers in the rear seats is in the tight side. Overall the interior is beautifully styled, really high quality with a comprehensive list of standard equipment and with a further wide range of high-tech options. It is classy but cosy interior environment. 

But being a Jaguar, the XE experience is more about driving and my first-drive experience, albeit a relatively short one hour test drive at the UK media launch, was in the 2.0-litre, 180hp turbodiesel, Jaguar’s own Ingenium four-pot turbodiesel. The specification was the top of the range, in the comfort channel, Portfolio version with the revised and slick changing eight-speed automatic gearbox. Price of this model is a competitive £35,425. 

The 180bhp power output gives a very respectable top speed of 140mph but it is the torque of 430Nm (317lb ft) from 1,750rpm that gives it the real shove for acceleration with zero to 62mph taking an impressively low 7.8-seconds. It certainly lives up to its sport saloon status. The new in-house Jaguar engine is also very refined, it has a growl but it is not intrusive and once in ‘the cruise’ engine noise becomes more hushed but road noise intrusion becomes evident. It seems to be the case that aluminium body structures do transmit slightly more decibels than steel ones. With the eight-speed auto gearbox the engine is always in its sweet-spot for instant power delivery so mid range acceleration is immediate which is very good for overtaking slower traffic. In slower driving conditions around town the engine is quiet and very flexible. The Stop-Start system on our test car sounded harsher and less smooth than other similar models such as the BMW 3-Series when cranking the engine into life. Our fuel economy, driving some open but winding Wiltshire roads coupled with some early morning stop-start commuter travel, was 43.9mpg, not very close to the official 67.3mpg Combined Cycle but I would expect longer runs on motorways to see this figure improve to the mid 50mpg region. The low CO2 emissions, 109g/km with 17-inch wheels, increases to 111g/km for the Portfolio version which comes with 18-inch wheels and means VED road tax for this model is £0 for the First Year rate increasing to £30 for Year Two onwards. Company car drivers will pay 20% Benefit-in-Kind tax for this model with its larger wheels. 

In terms of ride comfort and handling the XE offers fast and precise change of direction handling and the steering is well weighted with good feedback to the driver. The ride is generally on the comfortable side but ripples in the tarmac and potholes can unsettle the overall calmness the XE offers. 

There is no doubt that the XE is a fine car and it is was no overstatement by a Jaguar executive you said at the media launch, “The XE allows us to mix it with the German brands.” 

The ‘cat’ has certainly now got its claws out in the fight for compact premium brand car sales. 

MILESTONES: Jaguar XE Portfolio 2.0, 180hp, turbodiesel, automatic. Price: £35,425. Engine/transmission: Ingenium, 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder 180hp turbodiesel with 430Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 8-speed auto. Performance: 140mph, 0-62mph 7.8-seconds, Combined Cycle 67.3mpg (43.9mpg on test), CO2 111g/km (with 18-inch wheels), VED road tax £0/£30, BIK company car tax 20%. Insurance group: 27E. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,672mm, W 1,850mm, H 1,416mm, boot 455-litres. For: Strong and responsive new Jaguar engine, CO2 efficient so its tax friendly, agile with class-leading ride and handling, good residual values, high specification, quality interior, great kerb-appeal. Against: Snug interior space especially for rear seat leg and headroom, some road noise intrusion. Miles Better News Agency

Written by