Proof that our good friend, and regular ESM contributor, the Tame Geek will test stuff that isn’t made in Germany! Tonight he gives his thoughts on the new ‘baby Jag’ offering.
Now usually, most car reviews come with a plethora of clichés and when it comes to a review of the first actually baby Jaguar, it’s clear this is going to be a minefield of them. There’s also going to be a lot of comparisons talk but really, that’s what this car has always been about. How does it compare to class leader and the rest of the class?
Well, this is a TG review, so we shall use the tried and tested formula; what it is, then what it’s like to drive. The Jaguar XE in review here is the 180PS (178bhp) diesel with 8-speed gearbox in R-Sport trim. From what the Jaguar contact said, the Prestige trim is likely to be the most popular model for private buyers.
When you first clap eyes on the XE from the front, it is a bit tricky to tell it apart from its big sister, the XF. It’s really only when you move slightly round to the side and see the flanks of the car does its individual styling come to light. It’s even clearer from the back that the XE is its own car. In this segment of the market (are these really D-segment saloons now?) it’s typical that the lower price models can often look a bit cheap. Big tyres with small alloys, tacky trim and more blank button spaces than actual buttons.
The XE is brand-new and, right now, Jaguar doesn’t need to make a basic version. With that the XE makes many statements, the first of which is that it’s no cut-down car. The styling on the basic model is good and the Prestige just adds a bit more too that. The R-Sport adds on this with a little tail spoiler and some bolder arches. Honestly, unless you really wanted the R-Sport’s sharp skirts, there’s no real reason to go for it. This car looks great in all its trims. It really goes to show just how much work has gone in to Jaguar design. The XE is not the XF, but they share DNA and unlike the Audis and BMWs of this world, the Jaguars are cars in their own right. I’ve been considering for some time since driving the car and spending time with the new XF, that really, I would be happy with either. It’s not like you get an A4 because you don’t make enough for the A6. If you chose the XE, pulling up in the car park and placing it next to an XF will not make you feel like an underachiever.
To sum up the external looks of the XE, it’s easily the best looking car in its class and were it not for the older sibling, would be the best looking car in the segment above. Really, I think the only thing that will beat the XE on looks will be the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, but that’s a hard call until I’ve seen it in the metal.
The XE isn’t all about its good looks though, it’s made of smarter things. The new chassis that the XE (and XF) is built on is mostly aluminium, so are its body panels and the engine block. All of that makes for a light an efficient car. As EU regulations make the process of developing cars a lot more challenging, manufacturers are turning to whatever they can to improve efficiency. Lightness helps with that greatly (it also helps with the handling).
Inside the cabin is classy and clean. The centre console is topped off nicely with an integrated touchscreen display (8 inch as standard) that differs massively from say BMW or Mercedes, who have just decided to plonk theirs somewhere on the dash, like a forgotten iPad knockoff.
The centre console has plenty of buttons, including the ones for switching the driving modes and the all-weather system. As I mentioned earlier, the XE has very little need for plastic button covers, as there’s enough kit as standard not to warrant them. The steering wheel is sporty and quite small and filled with buttons. The wheel in this model also facilitates the paddles for the gearbox, which feel the same shape as the ones in the F-Type, but aren’t made of metal. But all in all, the interior of the XE is well laid out and feels like the premium product that it is. It would only be beaten by the Audi in plastic quality, but the XE as a package wins out. It also has some of the best seats, with just the right amount of support for when you get into the corners and comfortable on the motorway stretches. I would say that in cabin quality, it’s not quite Audi, but it’s BMW good and a decent place to wile away the hours.
Now for the other important bit, what it’s like to drive. Again, the XE faces tough competition from the rest of the segment. The dynamics of the 3 Series, the comfort of the E-Class and the ability to get up someone’s bumper like the A4.
With the XE being rear wheel drive, it’s got the edge over the A4 immediately when it comes to handling. When you compare the XE to the current 3 series though, it’s a different story. The BMW is somewhat sharper feeling, but after spending some time with the 3 series, that sharpness can get somewhat tiring. That’s where the XE sets a good balance point. Round some rather dipping and twisting B roads, the XE is direct and well settled on the road. It at no point feels skittish, it’s quite reassuring how planted on the road it feels, especially when entering and exiting a corner with spirit.
When you move on to what will be the XE’s natural habitat, the dual carriageway, it really does come into it’s own as a cruiser. It is comfier and quieter than anything else I’ve driven in this class. In fact, again, the XE reminded me of cars from the class above. I suppose this is one of those points where I walk face first into another cliché, but the XE does feel every part a Jaguar.
The other big story behind the XE, beyond its actual existence, is the new generation of engine from Jaguar Land Rover. The new Ingenium (don’t worry, Jaguar staff don’t know how to pronounce it either) engines are going to be truly massive for JLR. After decades of using engines from Ford and other manufactures, slapped together with their own changes and refinements, Jaguar’s smaller engines have been somewhat left behind in comparison to their German rivals.
The Ingenium engines are for the smaller (2.0-litre) engines from the JLR group and come in Petrol and Diesel flavours. The biggest selling drivetrain in the UK will undoubtedly be the base level 2.0-litre 160bhp Diesel with a manual gearbox. If that’s one you get, I’m sure you’ll be happy with it; given that it’s larger power 177bhp is such a great performer. The engine is smooth in its power delivery with torque in the right places. Considering there’s a torque vectoring system in the XE, it makes sense that the power delivery feels as good as it does. When paired with the 8-speed automatic gearbox, the efficiency of this engine is really well displayed. When at ‘motorway speeds’ with the car in 8th gear, it’s barely ticking over at under 2000 rpm. Given the smaller fuel tanks going into newer saloons, it becomes less of an oversight, considering how efficient they have become.
This 8-speed box by the way, is, as ever, great to drive with. I’m more and more inclined to think that the next geek mobile will come with a drivetrain setup like the XE’s. Manuals are great, but modern autos let you go faster and are easier in town (and it’s sentences like that, is why comments are disabled on the TG blog). This new engine and gearbox make me really want to get my hands on the Evoque with the new engine and the 9-speed box, to see how it copes with the extra weight.
It’s been some time now since my jaunt in the XE and that distance has given me some time to really consider it. I recently went up to Skye on an 860 mile round trip. On this drive I saw a number of XEs on the road. Turns out they were all brand new hire cars. I couldn’t help but feel jealous. There I was, on roads that have been copied and put in to Driveclub on the PS4 and there I am in a 2008 Passat. What I would have given for a rear wheel drive car, as light as the XE, for that trip?
All of that has led in to the Geek looking at what it costs to run. Jaguar will do a hire purchase scheme that would give you an XE Privilege with the 180PS engine and automatic gearbox on 20,000 miles a year for about £414 per month. That includes brakes and tyres. All you pay for is servicing, insurance and fuel.
Here’s the thing though, for the same trim level and the same deal, the brand new XF is only £4 per month more. With pricing like that, it’s clear that Jaguar are confident they are going to sell a lot of cars and that they want to take the fight to their German rivals. As I said after my time in the XE, after spending time with this, why would you want a 3 Series?
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