Review of: 2017 Jaguar XE 4dr Sdn V6 SC R-Sport
2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD R-Sport: Swinging for the fence
By Dan Heyman
Jun. 23, 2017
Horrible pun intended, the Brits are really on a roll right now.
You have the Land Rover brand, whose latest Discovery SUV remains a capable off-roader, but one that is going where no Discovery really has before: the soft road, in a purposeful way with the ability to properly fit seven and with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a luxury SUV. Range Rover has the gorgeous Velar coming and every day, it seems that McLaren is releasing another supercar that actually has what it takes to take the fight to the establishment on both the road and track.
Which brings us to Jaguar, the folks responsible for the blue bombshell you see here, the XE. It brings Jag into a segment – compact luxury sedan — that they’ve made a right mess of in the past; remember the Ford-based X-Type? No? Good. That’s how Jag would like it, I’m sure.
So, under all those sexy lines, those flash two-tone wheels and Caesium Blue paintwork, is the engineering there to deliver a car worthy of the competition?
Pros & Cons
- + Acceleration
- + Sharp handling
- + Driver's seating position
- - Rear seat space
- - Bland rear-end styling
From the front three-quarter view, it’s the best looking car in the segment, bar none. Rare is it that we can make so gregarious a claim, but it’s well-deserved, here. The headlight lenses sit just on the right side of menacing, and the black-mesh grille they flank is oh-so-pretty. The 20-inch wheels, meanwhile, help the XE hug the ground. From the rear, the big twin-outlet exhaust makes no bones about the car’s performance intentions. It almost looks aftermarket, but not quite.
So why no better than a 7.5? It’s all about that back-end. It is just so tame compared to the rest of the car, almost lifeless. The way the taillights on the larger XF wrap around a chrome strip is such a great detail. Here, they’re somewhat lifeless globs of red.
Of course, we often associate Jags with “old money” interiors draped in rich wood and leather, but that’s not quite the story with the XE. In fact, the multi-coloured environs of our particular tester stand at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes what a luxury car’s interior should look like. They also serve as a testament to the “new Jaguar” that the XE represents.
You tell me; would you have ever expected to see seats with body-colour matching inserts in your granddaddy’s Jag? Especially when said body colour happened to be a very bright shade of blue? Well, feast your eyes on the Smurf-ization of our tester, which also gets matching contrasting stitching. I seriously had to look twice when I first opened the door, to make sure the light wasn’t playing tricks on me and I was actually looking at a somewhat bluish shade of gray. I wasn’t; those are blue leather inserts, all the way.
They do cover a comfortable pair of front seats, that’s for sure; they come power-adjustable at all levels, and while the lower cushions may be a little short, they are supportive and provide a nice driving position with the wheel just a single 90-degree bent elbow away. I’d actually say the seatback is the bigger highlight, with perfectly-sized side bolsters and nice shoulder support as well as four-way adjustable lumbar support, standard on our car’s R-Sport trim.
While the rear seats may get the colourized treatment, they are quite flat – a necessity since the rear seatbacks fold – and legroom is at a premium. The rears in both the 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class are more comfortable.
The XE gets Jag’s all-new infotainment interface and while it remains a little less intuitive – and slower – than the top competition from the likes of Lincoln’s SYNC or BMW’s iDrive offerings, it’s a big step up on what we used to have. The graphics are nicer, the touchscreen is more responsive than previous and the menus are intuitively-aligned. Our R-Sport trim also adds InControl apps, which include Spotify, Stitcher, weather, and even free audiobooks. Audiobooks! How’s THAT for excitement?
Nothing like actually driving the thing, I’ll tell you.
The XE is offered with three engine choices, one a common 2.0-litre turbo unit, but two that are a little more unique. First of all, there’s the 2.0-litre diesel lump you get at base, which is not something many would expect, especially with the war on diesel that’s going on in the industry right now.
Our car’s plant was a more traditional V6 example, but not one without its own X-factor; we see a lot of turbocharging these days, but supercharging? Not so much. The XE has a supercharger, and it joins standard AWD and an eight-speed auto transmission to help the baby Jag make 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, enough to cut the 0-96 km/h sprint down to a claimed 5 seconds. Not too shabby.
While it doesn’t quite go about its business in the same manner as say an F-Type R would, there’s still a pleasing sound through those two potato cannons Jag call exhaust outlets when you really get on it. It’s accompanied by an oh-so-slight-but-not-quite-imperceptible whine from the supercharger up front as you sail toward that 7,000 rpm redline, banging home another of the eight cogs with a quick flip of the right-hand paddle. You’ll want to be making a lot of use of those; it’s the only way to fully enjoy this rocket of a Jag. That, and “S” mode, of course, selected by first pressing down on the transmission dial and turning one notch right of “D”. That sharpens the transmission, for even more whizz-bangery on up- and downshifts.
There’s also a dynamic mode; let “S” handle gearbox duties, while dynamic modifies your suspension, steering, and traction control settings to sharpen things up even more.
Sharpen up, that is, to a razor-like preciseness. Yes; the steering is electronically assisted but it’s so well-tuned, that doesn’t even matter. It transmits what’s going on beneath the front wheels to the steering column, chunky wheel and finally your fingertips at levels rarely felt at this level, even with top-flight stuff like the BMW M3 or Cadillac ATS-V.
The suspension, meanwhile, is quite firm in dynamic mode but it does well to match the powertrain’s grunt with its neutral body control. Bend after bend is dispatched, the driver keenly aware the whole time as to what’s going on beneath them, how much grip they have, and how much lock needs to be applied to perfectly clip that next apex. It feels immediate, it feels telepathic , it feels… like a BMW, before BMW softened the 3 Series to be more accommodating. Evidently, Jaguar has taken the compact luxury sedan segment very seriously this time around.
Well, to put it bluntly – and to once again endow this piece with yet another fantastic pun — it’s right on the money value-wise. For starters, all XEs in Canada get AWD as standard, which is not something that can be said for the US. The same goes for both the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, but while both the 340i and AMG C 43 go for around the same as our $57,500 tester, they make less power and in slightly more lazy fashion thanks to their being turbocharged as opposed to supercharged.
For what seems like eons, it’s been 3 Series versus C-Class. Yes, the Audi A4 has staked its claim in the segment too, but it’s always had a more loping executive air than the other two. Cadillac has also come to the plate with the ATS, but it’s Jaguar that’s really taken the best shot. Not only has it taken it, but I have no problem saying that it’s hit the bulls eye like no other before it in the segment. Jaguar has a real player here, folks, and it looks to continue the impressive run those plucky Brits have been on lately in the car game.