A couple of hours with a Jaguar XE

Posted in DriveL by Richard Porter on Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

After starring in 57,000 Autocar scoop stories, the baby Jag is here at last.

AWWXE1The XE is sitting in a car park. At a casual glance, it looks like an old XF. At a more formal, paying attention sort of glance it looks lower and wider than an old XF. From the side, the wheelbase appears longer and the cabin further back. The proportions have changed and the details are different but the overall effect is familiar, a bit like the new Golf compared to the old one. Or meeting an old friend who’s lost weight and bought better glasses. Jag seems to have avoided anything radical for two reasons: Firstly, it wants to build up sense of design continuity. And secondly because the world of small saloons like this is quite conservative. By which I mean, it likes familiarity, rather than because it hates the NHS and thinks Ed Miliband is a twat.

The inside of the XE isn’t radical either. Recently Jags have featured all manner of shenanigans with moving air vents and touch sensitive glovebox buttons but there’s none of that here. It’s rather ordinary. There’s a large rubber mat in front of the knob-o-matic gear selector to keep your phone in place but that’s about it for delightful features. No wait, the button on the touch screen that goes to the phone menu has a red telephone box on its background. It’s quite sweet and apparently American and Chinese buyers soil themselves with delight at this ‘British’ touch. The rest of the screens and menus work well enough but the graphics are drab and Android-y rather than crisp and Apple-ish.

This XE is the S version, which has the supercharged V6 petrol engine from the F-type. Because of that, I was expecting it to start with an almighty BRAAAAAAH! and then grumble and snarl to itself, as if digesting a handful of treacle and rocks. But it doesn’t. It’s very quiet at idle. It’s very quiet when you set off too. Someone from Jag told me they made an XE prototype with an F-type level of fruitiness but it just seemed wrong in a saloon. Also, to get the full F-type shouting experience they’d have needed a bigger exhaust system which would have eaten into rear seat space. (Later in my time with the XE I stopped in a lay-by and got into the back. There’s enough space back there for a grown man. A lorry driver parked in the same lay-by seemed confused as to why such a grown man would briefly get into the back of his own car. Like most things that happen in lay-bys, he probably assumed it was something to do with dogging.)

AWWXE2Off we go then, for a bit of a drive. The XE is one of those cars you can settle into very quickly. It’s comfy. It’s smooth. It’s quiet. But it feels sharp at the edges yet not intrusively hyperactive. It’s what used to be called a sports saloon, before everyone started trying to be sporty. The ride is firm, though not uncomfortable. Better than an Audi, worse than a Rover 75. The damping feels expensive and well judged.

There are winding roads ahead and the chance for some bitch spankery. Knock the car into sport mode and it gets a bit fightier. But not much. The accelerator is more sensitive, the ride becomes firmer, it’s 19 percent more helmsmannish. You can complete the set-up by putting the gearbox in S and then titting about controlling the 8-speed autobox on the paddles. And then you’re off, zooming around corners, revelling in the chassis control and the grip and at how much traction it finds, even if you really hoof it. It’s a very, very easy car to drive in a brisk manner and quite satisfying as a result. At some point in the rev range the engine takes on an aggressive, hollow sound that reminds me of an old XK straight six. Maybe they’ve done this deliberately. Or maybe I’m talking bollocks. Anyway, it’s nice. At other levels of revs the V6 actually sounds a bit flat. You cease to care too much about this as you slice through the countryside, enjoying the splendid balance of the chassis, clicking crisply up and down the gearbox, marvelling at the excellent ratio and weight of the electric steering and how it doesn’t feel electrically assisted at all. There’s an agility to it too, which could be ascribed to the aluminium body except that some of it – the doors and the boot floor – are still steel and actually, the whole car weighs 1665 kilos which is 70 more than BMW claims for 335i, strangely. Even so, it’s genuinely lovely to drive.

AWWXE3After some wheelwrightmanship I stop for a moment and have a bit of a stare at the XE. There are a few nice details on the outside. The wide, hidden third brake light above the back window and the headlights that look like camera lenses, for example. Or the subtle ducktail built into the bootlid. But overall, it seems knowingly discreet rather than showy and flamboyant. Then I feel compelled to check the rear seat space, a lorry driver probably thinks I’m coming on to him, and it’s time to get back on the road.

A bit more driving. A bit more enjoying the unflustered way you can hack around bendy roads at a right old lick. It feels like a good car in which to tackle a massive journey. You’d have fun on the back road bits and remain untroubled at a cruise. It’s relaxed and relaxing. Only a couple of things annoy me. The head-up display works off fricking lasers and looks terrific but its dashtop gubbins reflects in the screen in an annoying way. And the touch screen is hard to use accurately, especially if you’ve got the suspension in jiggle+ mode.

Overall though, I liked the XE a lot. I’d like it even more if the interior was jazzier but I suppose Jag has been wilfully cautious to avoid frightening people used to the equally plain dash in an A4. On the plus side, the XE S drives with a vim and a lightness of touch an Audi can only dream of. Not that this is strictly relevant, since I can’t imagine many people buying a 3-litre V6 petrol. They’ll get the diesel. But if the XE D is as good as the supercharged version, it’ll be very good indeed.

The car talked about here is the Jaguar XE S. It has a 3-litre supercharged V6 engine making 336 horsepower. Jaguar says it can go from 0-60 in 4.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph. It costs £44,865.

 

29 Responses to “A couple of hours with a Jaguar XE”

  1. Steve says:

    It’s great to see Jaguar on such good form. With the German Three moving their brands ever downmarket, I wonder how long it’ll be before these become the Thing To Be Seen In?

  2. name (required) says:

    Is this a good time to say that a guy I met in the pub’s brother knew someone who used to work for Kwikfit and that this Jaguar has the same thread on the valve caps as a Mondeo!!!

  3. Ivan Tobrake-free says:

    ‘…it’s genuinely lovely to drive’.

    This, more than the 0-60, CO2, rear legroom and all other metrics BMW drivers get so worked up about; makes me want to try this car more then ever.

    Is single-person dogging ‘wanging’?

  4. Ivan Titall says:

    Isn’t single person dogging ‘Wagging’?

    So 50 years after it was introduced, the Rover 75 still represents the nirvana of working mans ride quality.

    Although fair play to Jag – the boggo XE is classissifified as Band A, which means no tax until the next ’emergency’ budget in 3 weeks time, where Road users have to be punished without a fair and novel method of charging people for the miles they drive. But thats off topic.

  5. Ivan Urrok says:

    Ivan Titall, I’ve sat in a few newish luxury and near-luxury cars over the years, but it probably says a lot about the direction we seem to be going in that the most comfortable was far and away a mate’s mum’s cloth-seated 1996 E-Class. The world just seems to have forgotten how to do damping properly.

  6. cheradenine says:

    What precisely posessed them to start writing “J A G U A R” in clunk-o-matic letters underneath the perfectly adequate, understated and recognisable leaping jaguar ?

  7. Paul Morgan says:

    I worry that Jaguar are trying a bit too hard to be German.

    – All Jags now look the same (in small, medium and large options), just like Mercs and Audis.

    – The ride is firm, just like ze Germans.

    – The dash is dour, a la Deutschland.

    – The XE diesel’s specifications are IDENTICAL to the BMW 320d… Which is from Bavaria, in Germany. Anyway, you see where I’m going with this.

    Having said all that, German executive cars sell like, er, German executive cars, so I can’t really blame Jaguar for the new approach.

  8. Sniff Petrol says:

    No, I’m afraid they’re just chasing the money and you can’t blame ’em for that. I hope it works and that for the next generation they can start to follow their own path.

    cheradenine, the lettering has made an appearance on the current XF and XJ too. We take for granted that everyone knows what the Jag badge looks like but apparently in many countries they don’t recognise it, hence the lettering. They tried it before on the old S-type which had JAG and UAR either side of the boot release button. Come the facelift the button was moved because Americans kept asking, ‘What’s a Jagouar?’

  9. Hugh Janus says:

    I do not like BMW, I definitely would not contemplate buying this one. I like the wheels though, they would look good on a decent Jag.

    My attention is really drawn to the new upcoming car brand “Much of muchness’ and their new car which is very similar to this BMW.

    Looking forward to the new Jag which is bound to be something great and different and (ahem, this is actually the new Jag – Ed) oh, whoops, very sorry about that, where is the back button?

    :-/

  10. cheradenine says:

    So my XF (’09) has ‘Jaguar’ inscribed into the chrome line on the boot. It’s there, but understated and in-keeping with its “premium feel”.

    The new text just looks…. tat. Akin to merc writing “BENZ” in crayon under the 3-pointed star tat. Offputting to me as a potential repeat customer level tat.

  11. Yugguy says:

    “The ride is … better than an Audi”

    Shouldn’t this be inserted into any and every non-Audi car review?

    This XE sounds really nice. Capable but doesn’t have to shove it in your face like a lot of others.

    8 speeds? I expect 99% of drivers to play with paddles for 5 minutes and then just stick it in D. I’m not sure I could be bothered to keep track of which of the 8 gears I might be in.

  12. Will M says:

    @cheradenine

    The current Merc practice of putting a ridiculously blingy logo in the middle of their grilles puts me off. I remember Mercs as classy, with chrome slatted radiator grilles and the badge as a bonnet ornament.

    Why can nobody build a compact exec that is comfortable? Last car of this size that was comfortable was the Xantia.

  13. Rose Tintedspectacles says:

    All this talk of comfy cars is tosh – the most comfortable car ever was the Renault 16 TX. It was also the fastest and by far the most reliable; in the 3 months between buying it off a mate and writing it off mine didn’t break down more than once. And it had an alluminium spoiler which would look good on this Jagouar.

  14. Couldn’t agree more with cheradenine.

    I noticed it on an XF the other day.

    Volvo has started doing it too. Nasty individual letters across the boot that look like they are from eBay. I have literally seen the display carousel in Halfrauds of which all the letters hang for sale.

    For Volvo, I think it is trying to resemble the bonnet of an Amazon, but that reference is understood by 0.0002% of the car buying market.

  15. Mathias says:

    That’s a *baby* jag? FFS it’s HUGE!

    Why can’t any decent car-maker make a car that’s not a ginormous penis extension?

  16. Jimbo Jones says:

    Bore off cheradenine. If the badge styling on the rear of the car is enough to put you off a potential purchase then an XE will be wasted on you anyway. Go buy a nice bog standard Audi or BMW that won’t offend your delicate styling sensibilities.

    Plenty of people with slightly more relevant priorities are queuing round the corner to get their hands on the XE, so I don’t think Jag are going to miss your sale…

  17. Grace Quirrel says:

    Ooh, you bitch!

    Anyway, I had a ride in a friend’s ‘new’ C6 today. It was frigging excellent: unbelievable ride, big seats, stonking acceleration and a very well assembled cabin. 2008, 42,000 miles, all for six grand. Oh, and the spoiler pops up over 50. We likey. Guaranteed future classic I say.

  18. Jennifer Warts says:

    I’ve been lucky/unlucky enough to have driven lots of different vehicles over the years (most of which I could never afford) and in my very humble opinion, admittedly slightly biased, the single most comfortable one of them all is the SAAB 9000… you may beg to differ, probably vociferously.

    Shame the cabin on this Jagwaar looks about as inviting as a wet weekend in Morecambe.

  19. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Having the brand name etched into the rear of my XF bothers me not at all, it is positioned at just the right height to reflect the four rings of the Audi perpetually sat on my back bumper back at it, which confuses the poor drooling simian.

    I would disagree with Paul Morgan on the dash being dour too, all neat and tidy with electric blue lighting makes it anything but, just my preference but I am a fan of the interior. We won’t mention Mrs Jag-Nav and her hopeless sense of direction, but that would be my only complaint.

    Was invited to a recent ‘static test drive’ of the XE (i.e. stand around with a glass of champers and look at one) and it looks nice, good to read that it is another good Jag.

  20. Paul Morgan says:

    In response to Lord CS..

    Having now had opportunity to have a proper look at the interior of the new XE, I would like to revise my description of the dash from “dour” to “sober”.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Jaguar interiors having something of the “cad” about them. When the XF was launched back in 2007, I looked at the interior of that car and thought “ding dong!”

    That’s the sort of reaction we should be having to Jaguar interiors, in my opinion.

  21. Jennifer Warts says:

    I wish someone would give Mr Porter some more cars to “review”… I have some very witty remarks (allegedly) saved up and nowhere to use them.

  22. Maybe he actually IS Trentham Sleaves and has been banned by every major (and minor) car maker in the world. Maybe we could have a pedal car test???

  23. Wafty Cranker says:

    Perhaps he refuses to do any more until Roy LAnchester returns his “Driving Whiskey”.

  24. Alastair says:

    Oh no, is the jaguar XE to be the last ever car featured in a Sniff Petrol test?

  25. Auld Phart says:

    I drive a Rover 75 and it accomodates all my dogs and walking sticks with aplomb. I love its unfussy retro retard look. Well done Rover. By the way, I can’t find the phone number for my local Rover dealer. Have they changed their name back to BMC ?

  26. Chubby Wordsmith says:

    Unfortunately, no, Sniff… The XE D isn’t anything like as engaging as the car you drove. It steers nicely, but, er, that’s it.

  27. Johnny Joystick says:

    @Jennifer Warts: please post somephotos. Maybe I will take you up on that wet weekend in Morecombe.

  28. gary says:

    A supercharged 3 litre Jaguar that can go 155mph. Oooh, I hope it’s got nice seats and cupholders. Wise up and get to church.

  29. Termie Nate says:

    Bent in a way that reminds of of something.

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