It was 10 years ago when Ford-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the esteemed British manufacturer introduced the world to their serious attempt to design and build a mass-market performance-oriented sedan—the Jaguar X-type. Based upon the European success of the Ford Mondeo sedan, the design and final product failed in every way imaginable.
Fast forward: Ford no longer has an ownership stake: that distinction now falls to Indian automaker, Tata Motors. So when Jaguar Land Rover started to leak news of a similar project a couple of years ago, there was, to say the least, a little skepticism.
Any doubts were soon slowly removed as vehicles became available for sale—initially in Europe and then in North America. It would appear to most that Jaguar will succeed with the introduction of the XE, an obvious threat to the likes of the Audi A4, BMW’s 3-series, and the venerable Mercedes-Benz C-class: notice has been seriously served.
This 4-door sedan rides on an all-new platform and introduces the Ingenium family of in-house engines to an eager and receptive driving-enthusiast public.
A Lone Voice of Dissent?
As much as most, including myself, find the XE a breath of fresh air in a seemingly cluttered category, my wife had some reservations about my enthusiasm.
By way of full disclosure, I probably drive between 40 and 50 new vehicles every year, generally for one week at a time—not withstanding manufacturer-sponsored drive events. Invariably, at some point in the assigned time frame, she is often a passenger, a sometimes vocal observer in every vehicle tested. For the record, she has driven in many Jaguars over the years.
This model was not among her favourites. The reasons? As trite as they may be, she was not a fan of the Caesium Blue paint job on the vehicle I had on loan. She said it reminded her of a Mazda! Further, she felt that for just under $70k, the interior could have looked and felt better. And, the length of the seat cushion was not to her liking: you see, in most JLR products, there is the ability to adjust the length of said seat cushion to suit the personal seating position of the individual. To her, this model Jaguar did not have the same Jaguar “feel” she had become accustomed to.
Was she wrong? No of course not. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. There were other aspects of the car she liked, but overall, her negatives would not sway her to make this purchase.
Does it matter? Always. The point is, regardless, there is no such thing as the perfect vehicle, one which everyone adores and clamours.
A Car for the Driving Enthusiast
However, on balance, there are more positive things about the almost minimalist approach that JLR appears to have taken with this premium, dare we say, entry-level sedan.
Like every other modern day Jaguar, this car is built around an aluminum-intensive architecture which provides a rigid yet lightweight foundation. Consequently, as expected, safety, stiffness, and Jag-like composure are in its DNA, all a mark of JLR’s rich heritage.
When equipped with the biggest engine and all-wheel drive (AWD) such as the model we drove, this car weighs in at just under two tons, a smidge less than a comparably equipped Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It also weighs less than a BMW 340i xDrive with an automatic transmission. However, the XE is slightly heavier than the Cadillac ATS or even Audi’s new popular A4 sedan
We Canadians do like our AWD regardless of whether it’s in an SUV, CUV—or yes, even in a sedan.
This 3.0 L engine produces 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. It’s smooth, responsive and, all in all, reasonably efficient. Ride comfort is also pretty good, with the suspension serving a firm, yet absorbent ride that nicely cushions occupants from major bumps.
The excellent ZF 8-speed automatic transmission—also used extensively by BMW and Audi—affirms this choice of transmission, Enthusiasts will, of course, prefer a manual transmission, but in this particular optioned-out configuration, it is hard to criticize.
At the end of the day, no matter how you slice it, the XE is a driver’s car. Bear in mind that much of the technology in this auto is shared with the F-Type sports car and that’s not a bad thing!
In addition, Jaguar offers a veritable cornucopia of driver-assistance aids: options on the XE, including autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, land keeping assist, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, park assist, blind spot monitor and reverse traffic detection, adaptive cruise control, and a surround camera system and persistent audible warning.
The XE is designed for mass appeal and it works. The seats are comfortable, sporty, and well bolstered, offset with some very nice accent stitching. The major downside, however, is in the rear seats: getting in and out takes a little extra care. Once inside, it’s a little snug: a tall person will likely find their head very close to the material used on the cabin roof interior. And if you have large feet, they may feel a little confined. We heard that complaint from friends who spent four hours in the vehicle one day as we drove into Toronto and back.
Furthermore the hard plastic surrounding the centre console will likely, politely remind you that you did not upgrade to the Jaguar XF.
The new Jaguar InControl Touch Pro infotainment system is quite appealing and user friendly, too. The system used on most Jaguars and Land Rovers before now was best described as twitchy, even frustrating. Now there is an optional, wide 10.2-inch screen offset by black piano-like plastic that to me, worked; it fit the overall interior aesthetic.
This option is part of the $2,700 technology package included in this vehicle, which also includes an 825-watt Meridian sound system.
While the number might impress, it is above average, sound-wise to my ear. However, I have heard and appreciated better highs, lows, and tones from less powerful systems. There is specific music that I like to play through my smart phone in every vehicle I take out. While I do not profess to be an audiophile, per se—I do know what I like. There’s a lesson here: the more power a system generates, like an engine, does not necessarily make it the better solution. Sometimes, as Hemmingway once pontificated, “Less is more!”
If you are in the market for a responsive, driver-oriented performance sedan, the Jaguar deserves to be on your list. Do you prefer Teutonic overtones in your ride, or a little bit more tradition and English heritage?
Just as my wife has her opinion, so do I. Like many things we encounter in life, on this vehicle we differ. And that will be the case with many who cross-shop this capable car.
Body Style: Compact four-door sport sedan
Drive Method: Front-engine, AWD
Engine: 3.0 L supercharged V6, 340 hp, 332 lb-ft of torque, 8-speed auto
Passengers: While Jaguar states 5, 4 is best
Cargo Capacity: 455 L
Fuel Economy: 10.2 L/100 km combined, 11.8/8.2 L/100 km city/highway
Price: $68,100* as tested
*Includes freight and PDI. HST extra
David Taylor is an independent automotive lifestyle writer, producer, and editor based in Barrie, Ontario who is fascinated by innovation and technology which enhance the overall driving experience. He’s also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter @Omemeeozzie or on Instagram @hugoscaroftheweek.