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Jaguar’s new driving force in pursuit of XE-llence

09:12 23 October 2015

Elegant XE compact executive saloon is a true Jaguar combining rewarding dynamics, refined ride quality and an understated upmarket and tasteful interior.

Elegant XE compact executive saloon is a true Jaguar combining rewarding dynamics, refined ride quality and an understated upmarket and tasteful interior.

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Jaguar has set out to make its stunning new XE saloon the driver’s car in its class and it doesn’t disappoint. Motoring editor Andy Russell drives the British marque’s highly-desirable newcomer.

Bright future

Five years ago a Jaguar dealer was bemoaning the luxury brand pulling the plug on the X-Type leaving a three-car range - new XF, old XJ saloon and niche XK grand tourer. And Ford had also sold Jaguar Land Rover to Indian motoring giant Tata adding to fears for JLR’s future.

Nothing could have been further from the truth - both brands have been turned round with Jaguar launching an all-new XJ, XF Sportbrake estate, F-Type convertible and coupe, compact XE saloon and an F-Pace performance crossover arrives early next year.

Jaguar XE

Price: Jaguar XE Portfolio 2.0 i4 180PS automatic £35,425 (range £26,995 to £44,865)

Engine: 1,999cc, 180PS, four-cylinder Ingenium turbo diesel

Performance: 0-60mph 7.4 seconds; top speed 140mph

MPG: Urban 56.5; extra urban 76.4; combined 67.3

CO2 emissions: 109g/km (18in wheels 111g/km)

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 19% (18in wheels 20%)

Insurance group: 27 (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 4,672mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,075mm; H 1,416mm

It’s got that look

You might think the XE is a scaled-down XF but put them side by side and the XE looks sleeker and more youthful.

The front is dominated by that huge Jaguar grille but at the back you can see hints of the F-Type sports cars.

With Jaguar’s expertise in and extensive use of aluminium in the structure, the XE is the smallest, lightest and stiffest Jaguar saloon and that boosts driving dynamics.

So how does it drive?

Jaguar engineers set out to make the XE the benchmark driver’s car in its class, a big ask with rivals including the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but they have delivered. And so does the XE.

Unlike the old Ford Mondeo based X-Type, the XE feels like a real Jaguar with its sophisticated chassis providing a sublime blend of agile handling and absorbent ride quality, and I suspect the few times the XE was caught out on really poor roads was partly down to the bigger optional 19in wheels.

In a first for Jaguar, it also has electric power steering, tuned for responsiveness and feel.

Under the bonnet

The big news are the new 163 and 180PS Ingenium 2.0-litre turbo diesel engines which are so superior to the old 2.2-litre units they are replacing in other Jaguar Land Rover models.

Mated to six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes, these Ingenium units can challenge the best in the class with good refinement, performance and environmental credentials with up to 75mpg combined and CO2 as low as 99g/km.

The more potent 180PS version is surprisingly brisk – keep an eye on the speedo as it picks up so easily - yet returned a worst of 50mpg and a best of 59mpg overall.

The only gripe that is a slight delay before the auto box kicks down at low revs but you can either switch to sport mode or take control manually via flappy paddles on the steering wheel.

Those preferring petrol have the choice of 200 and 240PS 2.0-litre turbo petrol and a 340PS 3.0-litre supercharged V6, the latter only in the S model.

Space and comfort

There’s no denying the XE’s cabin is a very pleasant place but you’d rather be in the front than the back. Leg and headroom is sufficient for six-footers in the back but you soon learn to duck your head getting in and out to avoid catching it as the roof slopes down to help create that slippery body shape.

While the boot offers 455 litres of space without a spare wheel it’s awkwardly shaped with the floor sloping up towards the back and barely-painted exposed metal at the top of the boot catches the eye for all the wrong reasons.

My test car was fitted with the optional 40/20/40 split-fold rear seat backs but, despite remote releases in the boot, they had to be pushed down manually.

At the wheel

There’s something tastefully upmarket, but understated, about the fascia of the new-generation Jaguars but they’re now more technical than traditional.

The dashboard is distinctly defined with clear dials and straightforward, push-button controls and a hi-tech touchscreen infotainment system but what they all have in common is that they’re intuitive and easy to use on the move.

With a quality look and feel to trim and materials, the cabin has a cosseting feel in the way the fascia wraps round into the front doors.

Final say

There’s no denying the desirability of the new Jaguar XE – it looks stunning, especially in bold, bright colours, and is delightful to drive but space in the back and boot mean it is not quite so easy to live with if you regularly need to carry four people and loads.

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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