2017 and people have long forgotten about the X Type. Probably a good thing as that was not one of Jaguar's perceived finer moments. Based on a modified Ford Mondeo platform, the car existed for just a single generation during Jaguar’s “Ford days” and received little praise, mainly due to its shared platform which received a lot of flak from long term Jaguar fans. The car was Jaguar's foray into the hotly contested compact luxury sedan segment then dominated by the 3 series BMW.
Roughly a decade and a half down the line and under new ownership, Jaguar has decided to pay more attention to its baby, now called the XE. Still battling in the same segment, the competition has got a lot tougher with more power, more space and features that were previously the reserve of their respective larger siblings. Obviously then, Jaguar had their work cut out for them, so they started from scratch.
You would be forgiven for mistaking an XE for an XF at a distance. But looking like a shrunken XF is no bad thing. Designed by Ian Callum(Aston Martin DB9, Jaguar F Type, Jaguar C-X75, Volvo C70, to name a few – quite the CV),the near vertical front grill gives it a presence that belies its size. You've probably heard the criticism that this, and the rest of the range, do not look "Jaaag" anymore, but this is the new Jaguar and it’s here to stay - Mercedes cars of today look nothing like they did twenty years ago but no one bats an eye.
Look again at the entire range and it becomes clear that this is in fact the new "Jaguar" - an almost German looking range of cars and compact SUVs that are ever so slightly more stylish, more analogue and with a strong dose of sportiness intentionally injected.
Now that that rant is out of the way, we will continue along the lines of the XE's design, pun intended. The proportions of the car are near spot on to my eyes, barring a seemingly excessively short boot lid. Touches like side vents however add oodles or character seldom seen on a base model compact sedan although our test car having concealed tail pipes left the rear looking a tad vague. Jaguar does however have one of the best selection of rims on offer to fix that.
Mechanicals & Technology
Unlike its closest German rivals, the XE does not offer a 1.6-liter variant, with the range starting from a 2-liter four pot. This does not help pricing here in Sri Lanka but as the saying goes – there’s no replacement for displacement. This engine also benefits from turbocharging and comes in a relatively mild state of tune, putting out just under 200hp, so you know it hasn’t been stretched to its limits. The engine also comes standard with all the usual gubbins like direct injection, continuously variable valve lift and dual independent variable cam timing. This is transferred to the rear wheels (yay!) through either an eight-speed auto or an honest to goodness six forward manual - our test car came with the former, with Jaguar’s rotary gear selector first seen on the first gen XF.
Pushing the pulsating start button, I was surprised. The car quite frankly growls to life, instantly reminding you this is not your typical compact luxury A to B sedan. This is a car that wants you to drive it – and exploit it. Thankfully, this is where the XE shines. In addition to rear wheel drive, the car’s aluminum suspension components and, most importantly, a monocoque aluminum structure give the XE incredible torsional rigidity, elevating the balance afforded by its near 50:50 weight distribution. Sports car drivers would not feel out of place behind the wheel of an XE. While the accelerator pedal has a surprisingly long travel, burying it in the carpet leaves no doubt about the car’s 7.7 second claim to 100kmh. At the upper end of the rev range, the XE emanates very audible turbo spool that makes the driver want to hit the red line just to hear it.
Living with it
Comfort is more than acceptable, with all but the worst of potholes leaving the car relatively unfazed. One little niggle that I am not the first to notice however, is the position of those side ac vents. Not quite sure what inspired that, but they will only cool either your knuckles or kneecaps, whichever you prefer. Technology is as expected from a car in this segment with Jaguar’s “Touch” command centre as standard with either an 8 inch or optional ten-inch display. The ten-inch display is capable of dual view for the driver and passenger and a virtual instrument display like that in the XJ is also on offer. Rear seat legroom is still decent even though this is the smallest Jaguar, and boot space is fairly good too.
Fuel Economy & Price
Fuel economy is conservatively estimated at 10-12kmpl within our bustling city. That aluminum structure will no doubt aid this figure on longer drives.
Price, due to the aforementioned larger than competitor entry level engine, comes in slightly above its competition, starting from Rs.17mn – not cheap, but this is hands down one of the best driving cars in the segment. SML also offers a cracker five-year warranty and five years of servicing up to 150,000kms. Which basically means all you’ll have to spend on throughout ownership, is petrol.
The XE comes standard with automatic emergency braking, many airbags and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Blind spot monitor, park assist and a surround camera system are some of the other gadgets available to you, if you have the wallet for it.
The XE is not cheap, but, as a driver’s car, it is the most involving luxury compact car in the segment and even in a few others. While the Alfa Romeo Giulia is said to be as good, absence of an agent here limits our brand-new choices. Between the XE, A4, 3 Series and C Class, personal preference has a massive role to play. But if it were my money, I’d put in on the cat.
The Other Cats
XF – feels immediately longer and more luxurious than the XE, with an exhaust burble borrowed from their sporting cousin the F Type. While not the most technologically advanced in its segment, certainly the most entertaining in base form.
XJ – makes you feel accomplished. No other full-sized luxury car blends old school charm and present-day tech as well as the XJ does. The new 2-liter engine is a revelation – the smoothest four pot ever experienced by me – better than some six cylinders. This was no doubt helped by some trick sound deadening and engine mounts. Small steering and aluminum frame make the car feel light and nimble in a fashion that absolutely belies its size.
F Pace – diesel engine a tad too coarse for the badge on the bonnet – the petrol would be preferred. Also use the saving on tax from the petrol to spec more options as the base model is a bit spartan for the price. Driving dynamics leave you wanting little more but, as an all-round package, Q7 and XC90 are very tough competition.
2.0 litre, 4-cylinder 16 valve
200bhp @ 5,500rpm
320Nm @ 1,750-4,000rpm
Rear wheel drive
Front – Double Wishbone
Rear – Integral link
Front – Ventilated Disc
Rear – Ventilated Disc
Wheels & Tyres
17inch alloy rims “Turbine”
0-100km/h in 7.7 seconds
Top speed 237km/h
Length – 4,672mm
Width - 1,967mm
Height – 1,416mm
Kerb Weight – 1,530kg
Fuel Tank – 63L
Boot Space – 455L