ON THE evening of September 8, 2014, Jaguar unveiled the XE, its long-awaited successor to the long-forgotten X-Type. And I, for one, didn’t quite know what to make of it.
First published in the Summer issue of Wheels magazine, Australia's most experienced and trusted car magazine since 1953.
Those first hero shots of the sedan in the desert, finished in Italian Racing Red and propped on 20-inch Propeller 10-spoke alloys, looked for all the world like the lovechild of the original XF (Jaguar, not Falcon) and VE Commodore SS… which, though boldly macho yet beautifully proportioned, also seemed somewhat derivative. When your rivals include the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4, a striking first impression is non-negotiable.
Would the new Cat on the block have enough cut-through?
I needn’t have worried. Nearly 12 months later, at the Australian launch, the XE persuasively lured me in with its handsome presence, and then had me completely the moment I turned the first corner. Whether it was the base Mondeo-engined 147kW 20t or the supercharged S with its 250kW 3.0-litre V6, it was clear Jaguar had engineered something superlative. That the ride also possessed a supple lushness no rival still cannot match sealed the deal.
The XE’s inclusion in our long-termer fleet became a priority, particularly after scoring a 2016 Car of the Year award podium finish.
Six months and 6000km later, it’s time to bid farewell to DCY-85W, the Jet Blue 20d R-Sport with Jaguar Land Rover’s lauded all-new Ingenium 132kW/430Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, driving the rear wheels via a ZF eight-speed auto, and sitting on hot 19-inch black alloys. If you’re buying one, make sure to tick the $1800 adaptive damper option to maintain that double-wishbone and multi-link suspension lushness.
Like a broken-hearted fool whose lover has left him, I’m going to spread smack about my XE experience first, starting with that stupid kneecap-cracking dashboard extremity, which necessitates a measured entry and exit strategy for long-legged types akin (apparently) to mounting a horse sidesaddle.
I grew to accept the cheapo instrument dials, which were clearly nicked from the Land Rover Discovery Sport parts bin, mainly because of the extortionately priced ($1770!) head-up display – though you would expect it to actually be visible through polarised sunnies. I became accustomed to peering over my frames like an unimpressed Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.
There was the odd mysterious electrical malady, too. Twice during the many otherwise effortless cross-country drives we undertook, the multimedia system refused to stream music and would eventually shut down; one time the sunroof opened and closed by itself; and the cruise control occasionally forgot to maintain the set speed, especially on declines where speed cameras would invariably lurk. Annoying.
Worst of all, though, was the Jaguar’s rear-seatback pull cables, which are held in by flimsy clips that break away all too easily, and also don’t release half the time. I’ve tugged harder than Steamboat Willie to get them to fold. A speedy solution is in order.
But I’m longing to have one last interstate blast in that XE R-Sport, and not just because of the effortless urge from its smooth and economical diesel powertrain, its fluent steering, athletic handling, soothing ride, brilliant seating, superb driving position or rock-solid build quality inside.
It dawned on me that the XE possesses an X factor that nothing else in its class can match. Is it the exclusivity that comes from going for days without seeing another? Or maybe the smugness knowing how tantalisingly close Jaguar has come to hitting the medium sports luxury sedan brief after only its second attempt.
Whatever it is, this 20d R-Sport deserves to be at the shortlist pointy end for every A4, 3 Series, Q50, IS or C-Class buyer. That 08/09/14 date marks the rebirth of Jaguar cool.