The foray into the sports sedan category is a challenging one. It becomes even more so if your vehicle is in the luxury sector and even more so if you are in the compact luxury sports sedan sector.
Jaguar has a long history of building luxury vehicles that are remarkable, not just for their performance but for the elegant design. Taking styling cues from the Jaguar F-Type performance sports car and combining them with other styling elements of Jaguar’s elegant sedans designers and engineers at Jaguar have given us a compact luxury sports sedan that just might change the category for all the others.
The long awaited XE is arguably the first endeavor into the compact luxury sedan market. We say arguably because it depends on who you ask. You see, back when Jaguar was under the tight scrutiny of Ford Motor Company, the folks at Ford attempted to use the Jaguar name to launch a smaller luxury sedan based on a existing Ford platform. Ford attempted to capitalize on the Jaguar aura. No surprise it didn’t work out so well. Jaguar has not really ever forgotten that page in their history.
Following Jaguar’s separation from Ford and under the freer thinking of Tata, Jaguar began building on their heritage and strong banks of talent within the company. Jaguar began developing strong contenders in the larger luxury sedan market. Then they moved into developing a sports car, both hard top and convertible that would take the brand leaping above the XK that had proven Jaguar was able to sell attractive, capable and reliable vehicles that buyers wanted.
That brought about the fabulous F-Type ultra-performance sports car that sent auto journalists and enthusiasts spinning. It rarely begot critical reviews for much more that complaints that we could not get one of our own.
All of that success and the need to expand its appeal, Jaguar determined there was a need, not only for their brand but for the market, for a well designed, attractive and capable luxury sports sedan in the compact category. It would give younger, aspirational buyers a door to the Jaguar brand.
After spending two days in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with the the new car, we can say they have achieved the first phase of their goal. The Jaguar XE is an attractive automobile that holds the tradition of elegance and sexy design both inside and out.
The Jaguar family design begins at the front grille which in itself says this car is proud to be a Jaguar. The front head lights and fenders have a form that carries rearward along the doors ending in a rear design that is fully Jaguar and pleasing to the eyes.
Ian Callum, Jaguar Director of Design sums up the XE design, “Our mission was to create an exciting and dynamic design clearly reflecting the XE positioning as a serious driver’s car. The cab-rearward proportions and tight packaging achieve that and give the XE the appearance of movement even when it is standing still. It bears a strong family resemblance to the F-TYPE and will stand apart in the crowd.”
Obviously, when undertaking a project such as this there are compromises, however there are little to notice on the XE. If we had one issue it would be the aperture of the front door openings. We are big guys and it is tough to stuff us into a small opening. We learned the correct technique after getting in and out of the car numerous times throughout the day and it became a non-Issue.
Once we were seated behind the steering wheel, the XE began to lure us further under its spell. The front buckets seats are not overly stiff but are supportive even driving more aggressive twisting country roads. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good in your hands and the XE signals back to the driver what the suspension and tires are doing as they work the road.
The optional dynamic ride feature allows the driver to adjust the suspension, transmission shifting, steering with just the touch of a button located on the center console. From ECO, which makes the most of these settings to get the best fuel economy, to Normal which fits most driver’s needs to Dynamic that offers up the highest performance level. There is also a setting for snow and ice for those less than perfect driving conditions.
Even with the performance elements, the Jaguar XE offers a comfortable ride that is pleasant to its passengers. This is a luxury sedan after all. Driving along roads that see less than perfect maintenance and plenty of ice and snow over the winter, the XE isolated the cabin from an overly offensive road. Jaguar engineers found an excellent balance between first-rate handling and ride comfort.
A double wishbone front suspension features aluminum spindles produced by a patented production process. The rear suspension features an integral link which in tandem gives the XE its precise handling and comfortable ride.
Jaguar is making the XE fit a wide range of buyers and driver profiles by offing three engine choices and four trim levels. The engine choice begins with a not so basic 25t 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine and moves to Jaguar’s 20d 2.0-liter Ingenium diesel, with the top choice a 35t 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 gasoline engine.
Trim levels will offer a variety of features and packages to allow buyers to virtually pick their level of luxury and sportiness. Models begin with the base XE moving up through the models with XE Premium, XE Prestige and XE R-Sport. All XE models are rear-wheel drive with all-wheel drive available in 2.0 diesel and 35t.
Although the 35t offers the highest level of performance in the XE line up the other offerings are not to be discounted, and although we did not get the chance to test the 240-hp 20t, as it comes out a little later, we found the 20d, with 180 diesel horsepower to be just fine with acceleration and passing. As for quenching our power thirst the 340 horse 35t XE did just fine. It was quick to respond from a stop or to pass slower vehicles as we traveled through Colorado’s mountain passes.
The ZF eight speed automatic is linked to each of the engines and provide a smooth and sure transmission from gear to gear. The two models we drove both were equipped with steering column mounted paddle shifters which certainly elevating the performance factor.
Jaguar did not forget that owners want more convenient features throughout the passenger compartment. With Jaguar’s InControl infotainment system found in the XE all the latest technology is available. Through the 8-inch capacitive touch screen you find access to Bluetooth, audio streaming and USB connectivity. Voice controlled features use normal commands to get the information needed. The system allows iOS and Android smart phones to connect so that functions such as remote start, heating and cooling, locking and unlocking the doors can be accomplished remotely.
With XE pricing beginning at $34,900 we are certain Jaguar agonized at getting the base as moderate as possible considering the full content each vehicle contains. Taking into consideration the XE is a luxury compact sedan makes it the Jaguar luxury value.