The XE is the new base model of Jaguar. The XE is intended to be a classy alternative to everyday cars like the Ford Mondeo or Volkswagen Passat. Jaguar certainly isn't the only one, the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Lexus IS are also premium cars in the D-segment.
Jaguar distinguishes itself with its image. While the German cars look sleek and the Japanese offer innovative technology, the Jaguar offers a unique British charm.
Emphasis is on sportiness, the XE isn't meant for the cigar smoking and cognac drinking grey haired men with which the brand is often associated. By opting for sporty looks, Jaguar clearly focusses on a younger clientele.
That's why the XE is jam-packed with modern technology. Except for automatic high beam, this Jaguar offers all the luxury and safety features the big brands offer as well. Examples are head-up display, keyless entry, radar guided cruise-control (automatically keep a safe distance), a camera that reads traffic signs, blind spot detection, a power tailgate and more.
A unique feature is ASPC (All Surface Progress Control), which has been "borrowed" from sister brand Land Rover. Thanks to this special mode of the traction control, the XE is more stable on slippery roads at low speeds.
Following the latest trend, the possibilities of the "infotainment" system can be extended by installing apps which run on the smartphone of the driver. These so-called "InControl" apps are still being developed at the moment of writing. Also, the apps seem to be outdated already because of new phenomena like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (both of which are not supported by Jaguar). Do notice that satnav is always an extra option, even if the car is fitted with a display and audio system.
What's lacking is the luscious and privileged feeling that is typical of driving a Jaguar. The occupants simply don't have the feeling of being in a special car. The used materials and build quality aren't "premium" and not even better than those of an everyday brand. That isn't because the Jaguar is so bad, but because today's other brands are so good. Even the sound quality of the audio system from specialist Meridian (80 watts version) is hardly better than a base system from a basic brand.
Instead, the XE favours sportiness over luxury. The driver sits very low and the dashboard is wrapped around the driver and co-driver. The steering wheel has been carried over from Jaguar's sports car: the F-TYPE and gives the XE an extra sporty feel.
Headroom is limited and the pedals are very close together. In the rear both the head and legroom are poor. The black upholstery of the test car adds to an almost claustrophobic experience.
To make the XE affordable, Jaguar opted for relatively small engines which deliver a big punch thanks to a turbo. For example, the test car has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine which develops 240 PS / 340 Nm. This power is transferred to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The character of the engine strongly depends on the chosen operating mode. When the driver chooses the "eco" mode the XE is dead slow. The throttle response is indirect and even to come along with traffic one really has to push the car. This seems strange, but in fact it makes the car more comfortable because one can carelessly operate the accelerator.
How fierce the turbo engine can be, becomes obvious when the sports mode is engaged. The speedometer and rev counter turn red and even the slightest move of the throttle now results in instant acceleration. Because Jaguar opted for a turbo engine, the power doesn't build up gradually but instead bursts out all at once. Spectacular!
This second fastest XE on the price list is seriously quick and really lives up to the sporty credentials of the model. It's just a shame about the modest engine noise, which doesn't match the performance at all.
The weight of the car is distributed almost perfectly 50/50 over the front and rear wheels. And Jaguar saved weight whereever possible to improve performance, fuel efficiency and handling.
However, during the daily commute one hardly notices this at all. The XE has rather firm suspension and on bad roads the underpinning makes a lot of strange noises. Steering is okay, but not especially sharp or communicative as to be expected from a sporty car. In other words: in daily traffic the XE offers no extra value over similar cars from less noble brands.
The XE only shows its true colours when driving in a more than sporty fashion. Not in a fast corner, but only in an extremely fast corner one finally experiences how well the car is balanced. Not in a slalom, but only when brutally turning the wheel "torque vectoring" kicks in and the power is distributed perfectly to raise grip levels even more.
Only when driving like the open road is one big racing track does one notice that the XE is far more capable than any basic sedan. The XE is easier to control, more focussed and simply more capable than any basic sedan.
Is the Jaguar XE a serious alternative to a D-segment car of an everyday brand? Yes and no. The good news is that the XE has no deal-breakers making the Jaguar brand affordable to a bigger audience.
When it comes to specs and features the XE can compare to the big brands. Regrettably, the fun is affected by unreliable electronics like trigger-happy safety features and an unpredictable alarm. The 240 PS version driven here is more thirsty than comparably powerful cars from other brands, making the XE more expensive to buy and run.
Only when driving like a real hoodlum, the XE can prove its qualities. Only then the XE is more lively, more eager and more dynamic than the average sedan. In all other cases the driver knows he/she is driving a Jaguar, but the privileged feeling is lacking. A shame, but nothing to be afraid of.