Jaguar’s XE is a welcome replacement for the dismal 2000s-era, Ford-inspired S-Type. Pitched as a true BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Lexus GS, Mercedes C-Class and Infiniti Q50 competitor, it’s a sharp, stylish and wonderfully made small luxury sedan.
The XE S is the cat’s whiskers of the Jaguar XE range. Under the bonnet is a 250kW, 450Nm supercharged 3.0-litre V6 engine that makes this model the most agile yet to wear the leaper’s badge. It is priced from $105,066, or about $5000 more than its BMW-badged equivalent, the technically brilliant BMW 340i.
- It has a finish line flag mode. You can flick the XE S between economy, normal and dynamic modes – the latter signified by a chequered flag. Flick across to it, and all of a sudden the throttle becomes more responsive and the steering weights up. Flick the gear-shift dial into “S” mode, and the gears hold for longer, too.
- Litheness. The Jaguar XE’s body is made from lightweight aluminium, and you can feel that in the way the car rolls into corners, sitting flat rather than leaning out of them. That low weight helps knock the 0-100km/h sprint down to a quick 5.1 seconds.
- Our test car was sitting on big 20-inch, 20-spoke alloys replacing the default 18s for $1850. Usually stepping up to a lower-profile tyre ruins a car’s ride, but the XE S didn’t seem to suffer. The wheels also looked the business with the contrasting red-painted brake calipers inside them.
- Real-world fuel economy is pretty close to the official figure of 8.1L/100km. Even driving it like a sports car, our numbers didn’t rise past the low teens.
- It’s genuinely fun to drive. A powerful front-engined, rear-drive car weighing 1600-odd kilograms reads like a good combination, and it is. The XE S will happily wag its tail if you push it a bit too hard around a corner in the wet. In a straight line from a standing start it will struggle to lay all its traction on the ground. All the while, the car’s electronic brain is stepping in to keep things safely in check.
- There’s no manual transmission option. You could argue a true driver’s car is one where you shift gears yourself, but the eight-speed automatic gearbox transmission available.
- The sound of the engine doesn’t quite live up to the theatre. Tap the engine’s performance, and there’s a little bit of bark from the exhaust, but not much. Its bigger brother, the XF, has a cracking exhaust system in its S equivalent that’s as quiet as a churchmouse when it needs to be, and at the press of a button turns into a snarling, popping, crackling monster. The XE S misses out on it.
- The big, wide, centrally mounted multimedia screen is too low on the dash. Jump into other cars, and rivals are trying to place their interfaces as high on the dash as possible to minimise the amount of time drivers have their eyes off the road. A head-up display that can show turn-by-turn navigation instructions goes some way to fixing this.
- There’s no Apple CarPLay or Android Auto interface.
- There are plenty of optional extras swaying our judgement of this car. The list price for the XE S is $105,350, but the price as tested blew out to $127,880 by the time the bigger wheels, more sporty front seats, a better sound system, adaptive cruise control, an electrically operated boot lid, a few driver assist systems, interior and exterior bling and even deeper-pile floor mats – and more – were factored in.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
We’ve already mentioned the BMW 340i. Its 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine, like the Jaguar’s, is mated to an eight-speed automatic, produces 240kW/450Nm, and at 5.0 seconds is 0.1 seconds faster than the XE S from 0-100km/h. It has everything the XE S has, but importantly, something that the XE S lacks – an alluring exhaust rasp when you tap the engine’s performance. It also gets some of the gear you pay for in the Jag for free, such as heated front seats and adaptive cruise control. Be aware, though, that it has a similarly long, and expensive, options list.
Lexus, meanwhile, has the V8-engined GS-F. However, that V8 burble will cost you in the area of an extra $50,000.