Jaguar XE: Driven

Feel XE they said. What does that even mean? Exceeding expectations, maybe? To exceed some of the more jingoistic ones fed by considerable pre-launch hype the XE would have to run on fresh air and feed the needy, all the while brewing the perfect pot of Earl Grey.

XE S uses F-Type's V6; when's the V8 coming?
XE S uses F-Type's V6; when's the V8 coming?
So maybe that's why the language is quite toned down in our briefing. Here we will experience, and maybe even 'feel', XE through one of the first 16 pre-production prototypes to roll off the new line. There are a lot of detail changes to be made yet, more on which below. But dynamically, we're assured, this is as good a sample as we can expect until the first cars tip off the end of the line in April.

Start at the top
Greeting the new XE S in pre-dawn twilight, it's easy to mistake the nose for a full-size XF. Maybe too easily for some, as the director's favourite could be mistaken for the sales manager's new whip?

It's only as you slide into the leather love-den of this bright red 340 S does the experience become a little more intimate. The reach across the cabin is shorter. That now de rigueur deep-dish Jaguar dashboard just a little bit closer to hand.

Does this interior feel XE? Sorry
Does this interior feel XE? Sorry
The test route is ambitious, and indicative of Jaguar's confidence in its product. Leaving from the outskirts of Lisbon we hit rush-hour traffic immediately.

The lack of manual gearbox is forgiven in the first 2km stop-start jam, and the calibration of the ZF eight-speeder praised. Of course, this powertrain already has a running start from the XF and F-Type.

Feedback loop
What's worth noting is that the engineers seem to have created a more urgent and satisfying tone in the XE. That V6 really does howl, and doesn't sound quite so bassy and 'big' as it does in the F-Type. Following another XE through the Portuguese traffic jam does at least permit time to muse upon the surprising anonymity of the back end though.

As the speeds increase, and the chaos is left in the rear-view mirror, the XE starts to deliver some serious sporting credentials. We've spoken about the aluminium-intensive chassis before and how weight saved in one place can be reinvested in another, rather than saved altogether.

The Audi A5 look hasn't gone quite yet
The Audi A5 look hasn't gone quite yet
As we skip across another set of expansion joints mid-corner, it's easy to see one place where those hard-won weight savings have been invested - the double-wishbone suspension up front and the feedback it delivers to the electric power steering. The EPAS is really a massive leap forward from what you may have experienced thus far, Jag's system now on a par, and possibly above even, the latest equivalents from Porsche.

Pull the pin
In the previous night's sermon, sorry, 'briefing' the EPAS point was raised like a hand-grenade with a wobbly pin. The poor engineers desperate to point out that they wouldn't have fitted the energy-saving system if it had threatened to compromise steering feel at all. In fact, they professed earnestly, it had to exceed hydraulic systems to win its place in the new car.

While it's hard to praise the steering feedback that highly, it's certainly not a dull steer. The ratio seems good and the feedback through every bump and turn is measured and controlled, though sometimes bordering on the noisy. As we cross another two-inch expansion gap, mid-turn, it's easy to imagine that you're feeling the very gauge of the steel passing under your wheels.

Ingenium diesel offered with 163 and 180hp
Ingenium diesel offered with 163 and 180hp
Did we mention the ambition of this route? The worst paved highway we've ever had the displeasure to tootle down at precisely 90km/h. Like a faster version of the old "highway to hell" from Eupen to Monschau, for you fellow 'ringers. Or the North Circular after another few years of budget cuts.

And to be brutally honest, the Jag suffers a little. Vertical movements are harsh and intrusive, though without a back to back in a nice new C-Class, it would be hard to pass true judgment. Adaptive damping is a technology that Jaguar seems to have mastered quickly and well, though the ability to distinguish feedback from noise could be called into question.

Back in the real world
At the halfway point we swap out for the new XE R-Sport 180. Powered by a somewhat gruff sounding Ingenium diesel, we're assured by the people that know final sound deadening, baffling and even balancer shaft specs haven't been sorted yet. Instead we're to concentrate on the performance and the dynamics of this, the second-most sporty set-up for the new XE.

The compact RWD Jag saloon returns!
The compact RWD Jag saloon returns!
To be honest, it's an instant hit. Unlike the S model, it's not an active chassis. It's just a carefully chosen spring rates and ride height, matched to a very progressive damper. Not only is this diesel-powered XE more comfortable than the S across the bad stuff, but its handling across the good stuff is every bit as involving. There are a lot of things that are hard to judge in isolation, without the blessing of driving different models back to back in a group test. But the XE feels much sportier and far more involving than any M Sport optioned 3 Series you'd care to mention, this side of the old E90.

Between short drives in limited numbers of cars, there was the opportunity to mess with the new InControl app and dashboard. Again, honestly, the screen is last-gen, not next-gen. You can see the pixels still. And the app crashed regularly while trying to connect. Pre-production, remember. Though Dan reported something similar on the Discovery Sport launch using the same tech. Other stuff more polished included the active safety systems like the radar-guided cruise control, and assisted braking all worked spectacularly whilst dodging Portuguese agriculture.

Certainly looks like a Jag - does it drive like one?
Certainly looks like a Jag - does it drive like one?
The new XE is no X-Type. It's not a tarted-up Mondeo. But neither is it a dumbed-down XF. Jaguar has created a new car, with the best bits of its sports brand and most of its luxury goals met too. It's a historic moment for the brand, on a par with the F-Type. But exceeding expectations that recent successes have set could prove to be the toughest challenge of all.



Previously on PH...
Jaguar XE - Full details
Jaguar XE - The full range
Jaguar XE - Powertrain info

XEcrutiating: PH Blog
XE range on Jag's official site

JAGUAR XE 2.0D 163
1,999cc 4-cyl turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive (8-speed auto optional)
Power (hp): 163@4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 280@1,750-2,500rpm
0-62mph: 8.4sec (8.2)
Top speed: 132mph
Kerbweight: 'From 1,474kg' (1,500)
MPG: 75 (NEDC combined) (71.7)
CO2: 99g/km (104)
Price: £29,775 (for SE. Add £1,000 for Prestige, £2,750 for R-Sport and £3,400 for Portfolio. Auto option is £1,750)

[Figures in brackets for auto]

JAGUAR XE 2.0D 180
1,999cc 4-cyl turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive (8-speed auto optional)
Power (hp): 180@4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 317@1,750rpm-2,500rpm
0-62mph: 7.8sec
Top speed: 140mph
Kerbweight: 1,550kg (1,565kg)
MPG: 67.3 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 109g/km
Price: £30,275 (for SE. Add £1,000 for Prestige, £2,750 for R-Sport and £3,400 for Portfolio. Auto option is £1,750)

[Figures in brackets for auto]

JAGUAR XE 2.0 200
1,999cc 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 200@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 206@1,750-4,000rpm
0-62mph: 7.7sec
Top speed: 147mph
Kerbweight: 'From 1,530kg'
MPG: 37.7 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 179g/km
Price: £26,995 (for SE. Add £1,000 for Prestige and £2,750 for R-Sport)

JAGUAR XE 2.0 240
1,999cc 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 240@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 250@1,750-4,000rpm
0-62mph: 6.8sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Kerbweight: 'From 1,535kg'
MPG: 37.7 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 179g/km
Price: £33,095 (for R-Sport. Add £650 for Portfolio)

2,995cc V6 supercharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 340@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@4,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.1sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Kerbweight: 1,665kg
MPG: 34.9 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 194g/km
Price: £44,870




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Comments (392) Join the discussion on the forum

  • W124 28 Jan 2015

    England Expects. But Jaguar struggles to deliver. Or maybe it's great. Can't quite tell from this.

  • Patrick Bateman 28 Jan 2015

    Didn't realise they were making a quick version too, I was just expecting diesels really.

  • CMYKguru 28 Jan 2015

    £44k for the 3.0 V6

    pull the other one

  • AER 28 Jan 2015

    It's a shame it looks like the love child of a 2005 VE Commodore and the old square Euro Accord. Pretty, but not terribly distinctive, nor very Jaguar apart from (possibly) that snout.

    Not good enough from the company that brought the world the E-type and the XJ

  • MadDog1962 28 Jan 2015

    This just doesn't look like a Jag to me. Inside or out.

    At first I thought the pricing looked steep. But really that can only be said for the V6. The 4 cylinder models are probably similar value to the 3 series of Audi A4/A5 etc.

    Hope it looks better in the metal, and feels better than it looks in the pictures.

    Edited by MadDog1962 on Thursday 29th January 04:20

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