If you’re a motorist looking to follow the crowd, it’s probably best to stop reading now. On the other hand, if by chance, you’re a motorist looking for an alternative to German giants BMW and Mercedes-Benz you're in for a treat and should read on.
This is a review for those chasing something different, something special, something unique.
Here we have a 2017 Jaguar XE R-Sport 20t, a car that has that special something often referred to as the x-factor. This is a car with character.
Before we get to the substance of this review, it would be impossible to write a Jaguar piece without paying due respect to the brand’s owners. Under the corporate umbrella of Indian conglomerate Tata, the brand from England has been reborn and is taking advantage of a fresh start. It could be said, that under the ownership of Ford, the dreary models and retro styling had accounted for at least eight of the cat’s nine lives.
The Jaguar range is now one of innovation, performance, style, and importantly, desirability. All the characteristics that made the brand prosper, back in the day.
The first thing to notice about the XE is its shape, the gorgeous lines provide subtle, yet masculine proportions. The stance of the XE is amplified by the brilliant Italian racing red paint.
It’s a design that gets the emotional details right. The leaper logo on the rear, for instance, inspires an emotional response in a way the three-pointed star no longer can.
There is no need for a key, the drive is preceded with keyless entry and start. Inside the cabin, there is a sense of occasion. There is also a little bit of theatre with the pulsating start button. We are told, the 72 per minute double beat is identical to the heartbeat of a jaguar cat at rest. Now let's get to the good stuff.
This is a cat that purrs as power is delivered via a 2.0 i4 turbocharged petrol engine. It’s capable of producing 147kW of power and 320Nm of torque, it's all the engine you will ever need in Australia. Acceleration is brisk and the response to the driver’s foot is instant. There was no sign of any turbo lag on test.
While throttle response is excellent, the engine provides a very good balance between performance and economy.
Built on the brand's lightweight aluminium architecture, the chassis is tuned for a sporty drive. It’s tight in the bends, which makes cornering lively. The calibration of the sports suspension strikes the right note. It never feels unsettled, even on the optional 19-inch alloys.
Electric power-assisted steering is sharp and provides quality feedback. The Jag’s handling also benefits from a near 50:50 weight distribution.
The ride and handling of the XE is not only capable of going toe-to-toe with the long established cars in the class, it can set the standard. It’s obvious a considerable amount of time and expense has gone into the development of the XE, it’s not just in the segment to make up the numbers. The level of accomplishment on show here can't be overstated.
It’s a refreshing experience to be behind the wheel of a sporty rear wheel drive sedan after so many SUVs. It demonstrates those sitting high are sometimes missing out. In the XE, the driving experience provides something for everyone. It is comfortable as a daily driver or clawing through long hauls – on test, the XE proved to be a relaxed highway cruiser. But, importantly, the XE also has a playful side that can be exploited when you hit the right road.
For the transmission, Jaguar has utilised a brilliant ZF 8-speed automatic. It has a well-deserved reputation for smooth and precise shifting, and it lives up to this standing in the XE. Manual gear shifts are also possible via steering wheel paddles.
To provide greater choice over the driving experience, the JaguarDrive Control system gives drivers the ability to select one of four preset modes - Normal, Eco, Dynamic or Rain/Ice/Snow. Each mode does subtly change the steering feel and throttle mapping.
Normal and Dynamic modes are the best bet for providing a refined or sporty drive. Normal for cruising or city commute and Dynamic for the winding roads.
Jaguar has made the XE a great car to drive, it shakes off the old-timer image that plagued Jaguar. In fact, based on its ride and handling, the XE should appeal to a wide demographic.
From the driver’s seat, noise, vibration and harshness levels are low. The overall refinement of the XE is one of the real highlights. It’s a quiet place to enjoy a podcast while appreciating the drive.
Analysing the interior, the cabin is nicely trimmed with a good selection of materials, though some of the plastics are not as soft as those found in its rivals.
The seating position is low, but spot on in terms of keeping in tune with the sporty nature of the car. The front sports seats, that offer a 10-Way electric adjustment, provide a high level comfort and support.
The two-tone black and red leather that covers the seats and door cards provide a great link to the exterior paint.
The layout of the dash with its reva hoop design provides a clean look. The general layout of the dash and centre console bring some character and individuality to the car. It’s more interesting than the surgical look in other premium cars.
Take the pop-up gear selector, it offers a point of difference. Some say it’s a novelty, one that offers no real benefit and one that will wear thin in time. However, the thinking behind offering a different option shouldn’t be dismissed, it should be encouraged.
There is a minimalist approach to controls, with buttons in the centre kept to the essentials. The dash is dominated by a large touchscreen infotainment system. This is an option, but it’s a box worth ticking. The 10.2-inch screen, as part of the InControl Touch Pro Pack, is clear with a fast response time to user selections.
This option also incorporates an impressive 17 speaker, Meridian Digital Surround Sound System and satellite navigation. The system allows users to customise the home screen – a simple, but nice addition.
With so many options available in terms of infotainment, it’s puzzling why Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto are not offered.
It’s hard to determine how many potential XE buyers wear shorts. Tall drivers in shorts will notice their knee rubbing on the speaker cover that forms part of the door card. It can be annoying.
With the XE, it’s important to think carefully about those you might carry in the rear. If you need to regularly taxi family and friends in the back, it will be a squeeze. There is no disguising it, interior packaging is disappointing. For a 4,672mm long car, on a wheelbase of 2,835mm, there is a lot of missing space. Recently, Car Conversation has tested cars with a smaller wheelbase, yet they have used the available space to greater effect. The rear packaging is more coupe than sedan.
There is also a large transmission tunnel that makes it near impossible to carry three in the back.
Another, issue the XE struggles to get away from is the options required to add the icing to the cake. Our test car was loaded with over $18,000 of optional extras, pushing the price, before on-road cost beyond $82,000. In many cases, these options are necessary to lift the car beyond all expectations.
Things like the Head-Up display, sliding panoramic roof and the powered boot lid help make the luxury argument.
Pleasingly, the Jaguar XE has achieved a 5-star ANCAP safety rating. Our test car was overflowing with safety equipment, although, some of it was optional. Headlining the Jag’s safety credentials are autonomous emergency braking with brake assist, lane departure warning and ISOFIX anchor points. There is also a blind spot monitor and reverse traffic detection, a crystal clear rear-view camera and the full gamut of airbags.
For a car that offers such a dynamic drive, economy hasn’t been forgotten. Over our week with the car over 1100km were covered. Highway and city driving returned a consumption figure of 7.2 litres for every 100km of travel. This is below the official combined figure of 7.5l/100km. It should be noted that highway stints consumed only 5.9l/100km.
In terms of ownership costs, the XE requires servicing every 12 months or 16,000km. Jaguar offers a service plan for $1,350. The plan offers scheduled servicing over a period of up to five years or 100,000kms. At an average of $270 a service, the plan does represent brilliant value in the premium segment, and outside of it for that matter.
Jaguar supports the XE with a 3-year unlimited kilometre warranty. The brand also provides a 3-year roadside assistance package. This is an area for improvement, the XE should have a longer warranty.
Jaguar are making some impressive cars at the moment, the XE is one of them, with its multiple personalities, there's something for everyone. Comfortable in town or the open road, and ready for the twisty stuff when the situation presents itself.
So where does the Jaguar XE fit in a crowded mid-size premium segment? It’s logical to call the XE an inbetweener. Sitting between the driving dynamics of a 3-Series and the comfortable drive of a C-Class. For buyers unsure of which way to lean, the XE provides an opportunity to blend the best of both worlds.
There’s lots to like about the XE in the R-Sport configuration. For those who haven’t considered a Jaguar before, times have changed. It is a legitimate rival to the offerings from Germany. The XE possesses all the necessary attributes to warrant serious attention. The important boxes of handling, performance and refinement are all ticked.
Along with the essentials, the XE comes standard with an often overlooked and undervalued part of the premium segment - exclusivity. Jaguar is a brand that can still offer buyers a slice of exclusivity. Having a small range that doesn’t compete in every category ensures the leaper badge will not be found in every shopping centre or private school carpark.
The Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3-Series are all too often the default choices when it comes to the premium mid-size segment. However, before committing to follow the Joneses and play it safe, test drive something with claws.
2017 Jaguar XE R-Sport 20t Specifications
Price from $64,400, plus on-road costs Engine 2.0L 4 cylinder turbocharged petrol engine Power 147kW @ 5500 rpm Torque 280Nm @ 1750-4000 rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 7.5L/100km Tank Capacity 63L Performance 0-100km 7.7 seconds Length 4672mm Width 2075mm Height 1416mm Wheelbase 2835mm Weight 2120kg Turning circle 11.7m Service Intervals 12-months or 16,000km Warranty three year/unlimited kilometre
Options fitted to test vehicle
Sliding panoramic roof - $1850
Powered boot lid - $880
Metallic paint - $1340
Perforated Taurus Leather Sports seats - $2220
19" Star 5 Twin-Spoke alloys - $1240
Jet headlining - $470
DAB+ radio - $560
Lane Keep Assist with Driver Condition Monitor - $940
InControl Touch Pro Pack with Meridian Digital Surround Sound System (825 Watts) - $3760
Road Technology Pack – consists of Head-Up Display, Infrared Reflective Windscreen and Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist - $3520
Cold Climate Pack – consists of heated front windscreen with heated washer jets, heated steering wheel and heated front seats - $1080
Black Pack – consists of Gloss Black radiator grille and surround, side power vents, side window surround and body kit blades on R-Sport - $730
A special thank you needs to go to the staff at Olivehouse in Kialla West, Victoria, for access to the property to photograph the Jaguar XE.
Let’s start a Car Conversation, how do you feel about the often overlooked Jaguar XE? Does its exclusivity make it even more desirable? Have you purchased a premium sedan recently, if so was Jaguar on the short list?
More: All Reviews