The Jaguar XE has already established itself as a front-running challenger in the company car market, taking sales from the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class in a way that the old X-Type never had a hope of doing.
We’ve already driven the 2.0-litre XE and came away impressed with its all-round excellence. But does the considerably more potent supercharged V6 take the fight to its sporting rivals as effectively? We find out…
You have to hand it to Jaguar. The X760-generation XE has burst from the starting blocks as an all-new car from the ground up and, aside from a few minor irritations, it’s pretty much perfect for the job in hand. It looks good, handles well and is hugely efficient in diesel form. However, given that a slow, but serious shift away from oil burners is now underway, it’s clear that the petrol versions have a very important role to perform.
On paper, the signs are good. What is currently the fastest XE is powered by the same supercharged V6 that you’ll find in the F-Type, and the industry-wide march towards portliness has been staved off, thanks to its all-new 75 per cent aluminium architecture. So it should be able to make the most of its generous 335bhp and near 50-50 weight distribution.
Although the XE is not much lighter than the German opposition, it’s still a very impressively thought out design, with its high-strength pressings, extrusions and elegant thin-wall castings. Much of the suspension is aluminium, too, which is comprised of double wishbones at the front, an integral link design at the rear. So, a very impressive set of ingredients, which are now also being put to good use in the XF and F-Pace.
Inside, it’s the same snug story as any other XE. The interior, which lacks the wood ‘n’ leather that no one really wants anymore in their new cars, features good ergonomic design and a very appealing set of instruments which have been lifted from the F-Type. Yes, it’s lacking in anything out of the ordinary, and most controls – from the cruise to the infotainment system – are easily mastered without any real period of acclimatisation.
Yes, the stalks feel low-rent on first use – but you don’t think about them again. The same with the plastic paddle shifters for the transmission. Besides, if you don’t like them, Jaguar will upsell you a set of aluminium ones. The infotainment system deserves a little more comment because, although Jaguar has stuck with the same system it has used in the rest of the range for years, it’s now much quicker to operate, works seamlessly with iPhone or Android and the sat-nav works flawlessly – largely.
Beyond that, the driving position is excellent (aside from the usual caveat of a bulky A-pillar), the control weights are all first rate and, when you fire it up, the same bark from the V6 greets you and reminds you that you’re no turbodiesel conformist. Luckily, it’s a little more muted than its F-Type cousin, which will frighten pedestrians at 400 paces.
Once underway, it soon becomes clear that the petrol V6 transforms the character of the XE. It might be likeable in turbodiesel form, but this powered, the car is seriously addictive. Let the engine and transmission warm through, wait for the first national speed limit sign to appear and – bam! – acceleration in a refined, but guttural wave, almost linear in feel. 0-60mph comes up in a claimed five seconds, while the maximum speed is limited to 155mph – all highly plausible from the way it feels. The V6, which is set an an agreeable volume level in daily driving, hardens usefully and the ever-so-muted supercharger whine kicks in – if you’re listening for it. In all, it’s hugely enjoyable.
Its eight-speed ZF transmission marries beautifully with the engine – so much so that you really don’t need to worry about paddling for your gears too much. Besides, there are eight ratios to choose from and, for much of the time, you’ll be less capable of changing gear at the right time than the car is. Having said that, changing down manually in preparation for an upcoming bend, when you’re properly on it, is a real joy.
Fuel consumption was also very reasonable for the performance on offer. In our week-long trial, we averaged 28mpg on a brim-fill, which mainly encompasses fast A-road and motorway driving.
Dynamically, the XE is exceptional, too. The steering’s EPAS has been set-up with sublime weighting and gearing for most occasions, even if it lacks the high-resolution road feel you get with more traditional hydraulically-assisted systems. However, given that there’s so much grip to play with – this car comes on optional 20in alloys – steering feel becomes less of a concern than it might have done in the old days. Maybe less so when the tyres wear down.
As for handling, it’s neutral with incisive turn-in and, in the dry on public roads, you’ll need to be going some even to get the DSC light to flicker. To have the rear end getting playful, wait for rain, or simply start abusing it on the least well-maintained B-road you can find. Having said that, nothing came close to taxing it on our usual – secret – test route. More impressive than its overall levels of grip and balance is its damping refinement – it’s firm but controlled, and has clearly been honed on, and for, British roads. On motorways, it purrs along at less than 2000rpm at the legal limit, with barely a rustle of wind noise in accompaniment.
Equipment levels are good and, given its performance and overall desirability, the basic list price of £44,865 is more than competitive. It’ll look good on your drive, and should impress your friends at the gym/cycling club/golf club/motorway services. Fast drivers will be happy to gain torque vectoring, active damping and lowered suspension, while gadget fans will love traffic sign recognition and autonomous braking systems.
Being a press car, this one had been further loaded up. So much so, that it would cost you a cool £55,163. Okay, so the optional Italian Racing Red paint and 20in alloys look good and are probably worth the outlay, but would you really want to pay an additional £1000 for the optional heated/cooled seats or head-up display? Still, it’s nice to have the choice. The big question that remains to be answered is whether you should buy this instead of the more obvious Audi/BMW/Mercedes-Benz?
It might be no better (and certainly no worse), but the XE has heart, soul and charisma. It’s definitely worth buying – just be careful when speccing it up!