Once bitten, twice sharp – that’s what Jaguar is trying to convey with its massively anticipated XE, the BMW 3 Series-baiting, rear-drive replacement for the unloved X-Type. Here we take a look at the mid-range 2.5t version.
WHAT IS IT
Jaguar calls its new medium-size sedan a four-door F-Type – fanciful thinking after the innocuously nice X-Type that preceded it last decade. But even a brief drive will reveal a special chassis tuned to please the keenest driver, along with a gutsy 177kW 2.0-litre turbo in the 2.5t. Is all that enough?
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
When Jaguar abandoned the Ford Mondeo-based X-Type half a decade ago, nobody believed the firm would return so soon – or so promisingly – with an aluminium-intensive, rear-drive sports sedan with such close ties to the fabulous F-Type. But it has, the car is here, and we’re hungry to learn whether the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class should be running scared.
Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo S60
THE WHEELS VERDICT
If you cherish cars with exceptional steering, handling and roadholding, then the Jaguar XE 2.5t should be at the top of your to-try list. Backed up by a spirited 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine and eight-speed automatic, the British-built BMW 328i rival comes alive in all the right places. It looks great, too – if a little too much like a watered-down big-bro XF for some tastes – and includes sufficiently roomy and practical packaging. But there are detail flaws that infuriate, because the XE comes that close to being a spectacular return to form for a Jaguar sedan.
PLUS: On-brand dynamics with superb steering, handling and roadholding; presence
MINUS: Off-brand dash quality; derivative design; no manual gearbox; expensive options
THE WHEELS REVIEW
REMEMBER that famous Enzo Ferrari quote about buying the engine and getting the rest of the car thrown in for free? Well, there’s a bit of that going on with the new XE, but in this case you’re paying for a cracking chassis rather than the engine.
Impressively, its technical specification reads – and ultimately drives – like a sedan version of the F-Type. Double wishbone and Integral Link suspension is contained within a stiff, aluminium-intensive rear-drive platform prioritising optimised weight balance, all topped by a strong and mostly aluminium body that is Jaguar’s most rigid and aerodynamic ever.
In 2.5t Prestige guise, the result is utterly invigorating, thanks to the sort of intimate and connected (yet electric!) steering feel you crave for but don’t experience from rivals today, backed up by agile and controlled handling and reassuringly planted roadholding (on Pirelli P7 225/45R18 rubber). You can slide the tail out progressively at will, and then tuck it back in with just the throttle and seat of your pants. This car shrinks around you. Attention BMW E36 328i owners, your long-overdue replacement is here at last.
Yet posteriors will also appreciate the XE’s civilised and isolating ride, providing a gliding quality that brings to mind having cake and eating it too. Just wow, Jaguar.
We can also thank Ford for supplying the 2.5t’s energetic 177kW 2.0-litre four-pot turbo-petrol, which is paired to ZF’s supernaturally seamless eight-speed auto. Masking any low-down torque shortfalls with the right ratio every time, the auto provides rapid off-the-mark throttle response, matched by muscular acceleration right up the rev range.
Putting aside the absence of a manual version and the dashboard’s dreary presentation, for Jaguar to have raided the Land Rover parts bin for the XE’s instrumentation (Disco Sport digital screen bookended by clashing traditional dials with a usefully easy but cheap-looking touchscreen display) is an own goal against Audi’s sophisticated A4. Slapdash fascia finishes combined with occasional rattles in a Lexus IS rival is sheer lunacy. Beware some depressingly high options pricing, too.
It’s a pity because the solid cabin is an otherwise inviting place for four, cocooned in well-ventilated comfort, surrounded by lots of standard safety and convenience features, and rounded out with a useful 450-litre boot.
Don’t get us wrong. Solidly handsome, spacious, practical, powerful and well equipped, the XE 2.5t would have to make the final cut for every premium medium sedan shortlist. This segment stars no truer sports sedan. We just wish the interior detailing was better.
Model: Jaguar XE 2.5t Prestige
Engine: 2.0L 4cyl, 16v turbo
Max power: 177kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 340Nm @ 1750-4000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed auto
0-100km/h: 6.9sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 7.5L/100km
On sale: Now