Keeping composure while prowling the backstreets.
First published in the November 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia's most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
THE big city. Is it any place for a loping Jaguar more naturally predisposed to prowling freeways and open highways?
This month there were no long runs to once again stretch our XE 20d’s legs (and fuel mileage), but instead a period of forced captivity within a 10km boundary of the CBD. Short trips only.
Home is within an inner-suburban labyrinth of cobblestone alleyways and sardine-tight backstreets, festooned with speed humps and potholes. Some are more like sinkholes. Great for short-cuts, these rat-runs are nowadays crucial in avoiding the many traffic snarls Melbourne’s long-promised Metro Tunnel and level-crossing removal programs have delivered. It’s commuter warfare out there. So is the Jag a catfish out of water, or is it merely water off the current segment dux’s back?
Turns out the XE is streetwise. In regular Drive mode, the 132kW/430Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel’s performance is best described as solid and strident, but press the (awkward to decipher) toggle switch to Sport and twist the trannie canister to ‘S’ and it lunges off the line like somebody has stomped on its tail. Very handy. A set of paddles for manual manipulation also helps.
Sport kills the otherwise prompt idle-stop, but back in Drive we’re grateful for it since it brings some tranquillity in long queues. Not that the engine is noisy.
Furthermore, the XE’s alert steering expertly balances feedback and effort, the brakes are scalpel-sharp, and a taut chassis possesses an astounding ability to iron out the bumps – a feat highlighted by a visiting Mercedes C300 Coupe’s inability to match it despite being on similar rubber.
The ride is crucial in understanding why our R-Sport has clawed its way so high in our estimation. Every XE we’ve driven offers a suppleness that original XJ6 owners might recognise, infused with an athleticism drivers of previous Jaguar sedans wouldn’t. Though the suspension is hardly ground-breaking – double wishbones up front and an integral link at the back – the way the chassis gels is a work of genius.
City schlepping isn’t all champagne and cashews – the thick A-pillars and huge mirrors do their utmost to hide SUVs let alone cyclists and cars, and the nose occasionally scrapes bigger speed humps –
but weeks filled with many boring short trips just could not dull the XE’s lustre.
Completely unfazed by what the inner city can throw at it, there’s plenty of alley-cat guile in this multi-faceted Jag.
Ghost in this machine
British cars have a reputation for dodgy electrics, and having experience with Austin, Morris and Rover to draw on I’m constantly expecting something to stop working... or start of its own accord. This month, the XE finally showed its true heritage by doing just that. Inexplicably, one evening while driving, the sunroof whirred open. It was pretty creepy and a tad inconvenient, being winter and all, but luckily no rain got in. And it has never happened again since. Spooky.
Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0d
Price as tested: $80,400
Part 3: 670km @ 7.8L/100km
Overall: 2972 @ 6.6L/100km
Date acquired: May 2016