The Jaguar XE Against the CompetitionJaguar's new XE compact executive model is making a very bold challenge to some very talented competition. Has it got what it takes to go up against the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class?
Historically, this sector has not seen Jaguar shine. In 2001 the X-Type was a half-hearted attempt, but its origins as a rebadged Ford Mondeo were only too evident, and the car-buying public was not convinced. This time around, Jaguar has started from scratch and built the XE from the ground up, using an all-new diesel engine and some of its well-respected petrol units.
Compared to its class rivals, the XE does come up a little short on cargo space. Its boot offers 455 litres of space compared to 480 litres from the three Germans. Fortunately, that space is well designed, with a low loading lip and wide aperture. Split folding rear seats are available as an optional extra.
There is room for three adults in the back - just about and not particularly in comfort. However, the front of the cabin is a different story, where the driver and front-seat passenger can stretch out, relax and enjoy the ride. The latter is something Jaguar has got right with the XE, which is very composed and confident even on poor road surfaces. The engines are all impressively refined, although the diesel unit does make its personality known at times. At speed, however, there's barely a whisper and, with the supremely comfortable seats, it all adds up to a very relaxing drive even on longer trips.
The XE's dashboard is modern and well laid out with plenty of high-tech gadgets - certainly, it's a match for the competition in terms of quality and design. Rear visibility is slightly compromised, but the driving dynamics are so good that you're unlikely to be bothered. The controls respond quickly and smoothly, but the eight-speed automatic gearbox provides a more elegant driving experience than the six-speed manual unit.
In fact, it's behind the wheel that the XE really plays its trump cards, because the others simply can't match it for handling. Given how high the bar has been set here, that's quite an achievement. The rear-wheel-drive layout returns accurate and well-balanced steering, while the chassis is more agile than anything the XE's German rivals can offer. With the range-topping supercharged petrol V6 under the bonnet, the XE offers spectacular performance, while even the 2.0 litre petrol turbo is impressive. The diesel model is less powerful but is nonetheless rewarding to drive, albeit a bit more dignified.
The diesel does, however, return some of the best fuel economy figures in its class at 74mpg combined. The petrol models are more performance-focused and economy takes a hit as a result, but this is a common compromise for buyers of these sorts of cars.
It's hard to say how the XE will fare in reliability tests, as it's too new to count. This year's JD Power reliability survey put Jaguar as a brand lower than Audi but higher than BMW, but the XE's three-year unlimited-mileage warranty demonstrates confidence. Similarly, it's too early for the XE to be given a crash test rating by Euro NCAP, but there is plenty of safety equipment on board, including Jaguar's new All Surface Progress Control traction and stability system. It would be a big surprise if the XE did not achieve the expected five stars.
The XE is priced in line with the competition. Residual values are expected to remain strong, and CO2 emissions of 99g/km for the entry-level model will make it a popular company car choice. Jaguar also offers a fixed-price servicing package to help buyers keep ownership costs down. You do get plenty of equipment on all trim levels as well.
Overall, the XE is a very convincing rival to its German peers. If the cramped rear cabin might put off some buyers, others will be tempted by its superior driving dynamics, while its elegant looks are likely to appeal to all. The XE will surely make a big splash in the compact executive sector, which is one of the most important market segments for premium brands.
Posted by Edwin Miles on