Jaguar has just revealed one of the most important cars in its 80-year history, the Jaguar XE. We drive it in sunny Spain to do our Jaguar XE Review and to find out what the future holds for the car and as a result, the brand.
The compact sports sedan segment has been a segment that Jaguar has historically not done well in. Its last experiment to enter the segment, the X-type, performed rather badly. Based on the Ford Mondeo, the front-wheel drive sedan was not much of a looker and the buying public was not fooled by the presence of the leaping cat badge on what was clearly a product not up to the standards set by its competition.
So, six years after the X-type ceased to exist, Jaguar is back with a brand new sports sedan to faceoff with some formidable rivals – the BMW 3-series, the sublime Mercedes C-class and the Audi A4 – a lineup that is fiercely competitive and highly capable. The reason for this is simple, the sports sedan segment has huge volumes and the manufacturers put the muscle of their resources to try and gain superiority in it. And that is the key to understanding Jaguar’s focus on the XE, for the Jaguar brand to grow further, it needs the volumes that the sports sedan brings and so the Jaguar XE is a key element to the future of the company.
So, in sunny Spain, we got our first glimpse of the new XE in flesh, and the early signs are positive, the design has all the hallmarks of the brand’s design language and is a handsome looking car. Of course, like most Jaguar sedans now it looks a bit too similar to its bigger siblings, but from a brand point of view, that maybe is not a bad thing. Given its slightly longer bonnet and short rear, it lends the XE an aggressive looks and it has a fair amount of presence on the road. The various details spread around the car, such as the headlights with daytime running lamps, the grille on the front fender and the tail lights add to the effect.
The design element carries over to the interiors too, with the dashboard featuring a unique sweeping design, which Jaguar refers to as the ‘Riva’ line in reference to the famous and gorgeous Italian yatchs. This means that when seated you feel like you’re in a cocoon with the design literally wrapping itself around you. The fit-and-finish of the interiors is quite impressive and the completely revamped multimedia system is far superior to Jaguar’s older systems. Space, however, is a bit of a concern, especially when it comes to the rear seat. Leg space in the rear is limited, and the combination of the rear vents along with the high transmission tunnel means that the XE is most suited to being a four-seater. And this is an aspect where the C-class dominates the XE.
Out on the road, the XE delivers a lot of positives, the ride is very polished on the Spanish roads and the car handles very well. There are three suspension options available globally – comfort, sport and active – and in all three the XE behaves very well. Which suspension option makes it to India is something we will know once we do our Jaguar XE Review in India, but in either case the ride is quite supple, and yet the car handles quite well. With the supportive seats, it makes travelling in the car quite a pleasant experience.
The one big shift that the XE provides is the brand new series of engines that the car features. Fitted with a engine lineup consisting of 2-litre four-cylinder engines in both petrol and diesel, the Ingenium series marks a major progress point in Jaguar’s history. The petrol version of the two, with its 237bhp, is very refined and easy to drive, while sounding quite pleasant. More importanty for our market though, the 178bhp diesel engine delivers well too, providing ample power and grunt for urban and high speed commutes. However, a defining charateristic is the linear power delivery of both engines, which at times can make one feel that they are a bit too tame. But when you look at the speedo to see the speeds you’re doing, its clear there’s enough power to make the XE fun to drive. Adding to the driving appeal is the standard-fit eight-speed automatic tranmission which works brilliantly in both auto mode and when you change gears via the steering mounted paddles.
So, the new XE offers a very attractive package both in terms of design, the detailing of the interiors and the driving appeal. It is going to prove itself to be a tough competition to the existing players of the segment, and with the Jaguar brand gaining prominence around the world, this should prove to be a good volume seller for the brand. However, the relatively smaller interior space could prove to be a issue for potential buyers. I think the comparison test of the XE with its direct competitors is going to be a very fun and tense event, with four very closely capable cars vying for the top spot, but that is something we will know only when we do our Jaguar XE Review in India.