Having struggled through some painful moments and had to grapple with consumer disaffection, Jaguar continues its recent climb back on the strength of the excellence of its latest models and buoyed by a resurgence of its sales figures. These last don’t yet approach those racked up by the company’s American, German and Japanese competitors, but that seems to be just a question of time. To help its cause, it was important for the leaping-cat brand to offer consumers a car able to compete with the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Cadillac ATS, just to name a few.
The Jaguar brain-trust has been aware of this hole in its lineup for several years, and did in fact make an attempt to gain a foothold in the segment with the X-Type, which proved to be a resounding failure. The manufacturer had had the ill-advised notion to dress a Ford Mondeo up as a Jaguar, with all the limitations that implied in terms of the technical possibilities and the driving experience.
Now operating under the banner of Indian conglomerate Tata Motors, Jaguar has taken inspiration from the XF and XJ sedans to produce the smallest sedan in its lineup, known as the XE. Among other things, this means the body of the new model is all-aluminum, as are several of the car’s other components. All the same, despite the use of this light material, the weight difference between the XE and the 3 Series is a mere few dozen kilos. On the other hand, the rigidity of the platform is quite impressive.
Surprise, a diesel engine!
Few consumers would associate this British brand with diesel-engine technology; rather it’s the powerful 1970s-era V12s or the legendary 6-cylinder inline used in the just-as-legendary XK-E that come to mind. But as the diesel-engine market is very strong in Europe and in some other corners of the globe, Jaguar decided to tap into that market by placing a diesel engine under the hood of the XE and try its luck in North America.
If you’re not tempted by this technology, rest assured you can opt for a 3.0L V6 gasoline engine, which generates 340 hp. As is the case with the 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo engine (180 hp), a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission (controlled by a large rotating button mounted on the console) completes the set-up. In certain markets, the XE is offered with a 6-speed manual box, but at the risk of disappointing driving purists, the automatic version does a better overall job, particularly when wedded to the diesel engine.
On the road, the stop-start system connected to the motor saves a few millilitres of fuel every time the vehicle comes to a full stop; the result is a fuel-consumption rating of just over 6.0L/100km. Also, as you’d expect in a luxury car, most of the main electronic safety systems out there on the market are included in the car.
The Jaguar X-Type may have slipped on the proverbial banana peel over a decade ago, but the 2017 XE makes an altogether more convincing case for itself. Looks-wise, it features contours that don’t stray much from the XF and XJ, meaning it shares the same relatively long hood and truncated rear end. These have the effect of giving the sedan a sportier demeanour, which is in line with the current industry trend toward coupe-style 4-door cars. Of course, the price for this elegance is paid in the smallish openings of the rear doors, requiring some bending over in order to get in. And once seated on the relatively comfortable rear bench, legroom is fairly limited for taller occupants. This will entail calling on the good will of the front-row passengers to gift you some additional space. In front, meanwhile, the story is one of generous space and comfortable seats, although the lateral support these provide could do with some improvement.
It’s actually been a while since Jaguar dropped its use of exotic wood in favour of metallic and plastic finishing elements. The decor of the XE is certainly more modern-looking, but the front passenger is obliged to contemplate a vast universe of plastic of undetermined colour. The driver, meanwhile, will likely find the dashboard interesting but lacking much pizzazz. Just a bit of eccentricity would have been appreciated, methinks.
Less mitigated is the success of the XE when being handled on the road. The diesel engine may not deliver breathtaking acceleration, but it is more than acceptable. It takes just under 8 seconds to go from 0-100 km/h. It’s worth noting the excellence of the automatic transmission box, which shifts gears at just the right moment – a crucial element with a diesel engine. This allows the driver to get the car up to an interesting speed in relatively short order, though given its demonstrated abilities on the road and the precision of its steering, we’d have loved to get our hands on the XE S, which generates 380 hp and can go from a stop to 100 km/h in 5.6 seconds.
The 2017 Jaguar XE in a nutshell
The XE 20d AWD (starting price: $45,000) is the most staid model in the lineup, but it’s also an opportunity to drive a prestige-brand car, get very reasonable fuel economy and enjoy first-rate road handling that will have you seeking out secondary roads made for sporty driving. And for those who prefer a gasoline engine, the XE 35t AWD version ($48,500) is a very viable option as well.