First drive: 2016 Jaguar XE in Spain
Well, is it better than the 3-Series? Let’s get rid of that obvious cliched question first. We don’t know if the all-new 2016 Jaguar XE is better, but it is certainly equal to BMW’s often-mentioned benchmark, at least when it comes to the driving factor. We had to slum it out all the way in Navarra, Spain to figure that out.
The mostly-aluminium XE doesn’t look impactful in photos, but it’s a pretty handsome little sedan in person. We can’t find fault in the styling, although designer Ian Callum seemed to lose interest by the time he reached the tail lamps, going for a conservative motif rather than the flamboyance of the XJ.
There are several trim levels to go with several petrol and diesel engine options, with visual differences mostly limited to the front bumper intakes and wheel designs.
Inside, the interior looks simple at first glance, but then you notice the oddly unique design traits, such as the speedboat-inspired edge that wraps around the dash and doors, and the dual levels for buttons on the door panels. The latter is ergonomically confusing initially, but then we appreciated the straightforward capacitive touchscreen for the multimedia-nav system, with a new simple-to-use interface that debuted in the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Jaguar makes good use of premium materials, available in a wide variety of colours. We liked the padded stitched-leather coverings on the dash and doors, but they also left certain hard-plastic areas as is, such as the glove-box cover and everything below the waist, which is something BMW didn’t skimp on.
Space up front is fine, although rear passengers won’t enjoy their accommodations too much if tall front passengers move their seats back. There are the usual number of exposed cup-holders and pockets, while the boot is of a good size.
Having landed at the small Vittori airport, we drove right from the terminal in an XE with a “25t” badge, which meant it had the 237 hp turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-4 petrol engine with 339 Nm of torque, mated to an 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel-drive. It’s the same motor found in the Range Rover Evoque, except that it feels more potent in the smaller XE.
There’s great initial torque for a good kick at low speeds, followed by a gradual increase in power. It is also adequately quick for overtaking at highway speeds, and feels like it is all the engine this car ever needs. But then there is the subtly-named XE S version, with the 335 hp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with 450 Nm of torque, plucked from the base Jaguar F-Type.
The boosted V6 is a remarkable engine, with tons of low-end as well as high-end kick, and has a slight grunt on full throttle that isn’t quite as brutal as the F-Type, but suitable for a sporting executive sedan. Just like the smaller-engined car, the gearbox is great in both normal and sport modes, responsive and smooth for the most part. Unfortunately you can only get a manual gearbox with the diesel engines.
So Jaguar’s got the powertrains right. What about the ride and handling? Well, after two days of cavorting around Spain’s twistiest mountain roads as well as a racetrack, we think they’ve nailed it.
The XE, whatever trim it may be, takes corners confidently with tons of grip and minimal body roll. The handling is beautifully neutral without being boring, unlike heavier cars like the Lexus IS 350 which seem to border on understeer most of the time unless you man-handle them. At the right entry speeds, it is possible to completely avoid any hint of understeer with the Jag’s sharp turn-in prowess, while the rear feels more stable than the last BMW 335i we tested, devoid of unintentional oversteer. If it’s the electronic nannies controlling this behaviour, they’re doing a darn good job.
Some credit also goes to Jaguar’s newly-developed double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, although Jaguar’s aluminium car isn’t a whole lot lighter than the steel-bodied German competition, some of it possibly due to that complicated suspension.
In the age of electric power steering, Jaguar’s own system is pretty good, relatively better than what BMW or even Porsche has cooked up. It’s direct, responsive and has just enough weight to be an easy steer without being vague, in addition to offering some semblance of feedback. Switching to “dynamic” mode firms up the steering by only a tiny bit, as well as firming up the suspension by a smidge.
The brakes are great, with strong and linear stopping power, but the pedal feel is lighter than you’d expect for a sports sedan. It would seem there are minor compromises to make the XE a comfortable daily driver.
To that end, they’ve done well to make the ride quality fairly smooth, given its handling abilities. There’s some jitter when going over bigger cracks on the road, but it’s not jarring at all considering the low-profile tyres.
The Jaguar XE is a massive effort from the Indian-owned independently-run British company, easily their best car yet, and one that properly takes on the Germans in the compact sports-sedan stakes. This was one segment that Jaguar had unceremoniously exited with the death of the X-Type six years ago, but they’re back with a bang now. A very big bang.
For UAE prices and GCC specs, visit the Jaguar buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury & Jaguar
Dear Mr. Mashfique Hussain & team,
First of all I would like to appreciate your work on reviewing most cars, Although I would like to request you and your team to kindly provide updates pros and cons and known issues with the cars as per year, as I find the same being mentioned for cars in all the years, except for a few; with this information its very difficult to rely and it creates a big dilemma while buying one as to which car we should go for.
As of the latest offering from Jaguar the XE which most people are so excited for knowing its facts and the price at they r being sold in competition to its German rivals. Here in U.A.E, they are selling cars for a much higher price than the same being sold in other countries, isn’t it?… are there any particular reasons for this?. As far as I know after inquiring with the sales here the BMW maintains its price the same as other countries unlike the Mercedes Benz, Jaguar and Porsche. I honestly have no idea on this. Could you please explain?..Thank you in advance.