Jag ups the ante

It’s a car that’s been a long time coming. Jaguar’s model range has thus far comprised two sedans and a sportscar, and that's never been enough to keep up with the German Joneses on sales numbers. And finally, there’s this, the new XE, Jaguar’s entrant into the increasingly popular and high-volumes entry luxury segment, alongside the 3-series, A4 and C-class. It’s a car Jag just has to get right.

No complaints at all about the way it looks, which is like a smaller, tauter version of its attractive bigger siblings, the XJ and XF. It’s got a lovely long bonnet with a bulge at the centre that leads into a curved roof and a very short tail, all of which reinforces its positioning as a rear-wheel-drive ‘sports sedan’. There’s a smart design for the 17-inch wheels too, although we hope Jaguar offers larger options for those who don’t mind sacrificing a bit of comfort for a bit more style. The ‘J-blade’ signature LED running lights on this car look great at night, making the XE seem a lot wider than it is, as do the LED accents in the tail-lamps, designed to mirror those of the F-type.

Jaguar has chosen to launch the XE with only a petrol engine for now, with the new ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre diesel engine coming later on. The 2.0-litre petrol engine however, is available in two states of tune - the 198bhp, lower-spec ‘20t Pure’ trim, and the fully loaded, 238bhp ‘25t Portfolio’.

The sporty demeanour of the exterior is reflected inside, the way the dash is laid out – It’s simple and classy, with a wide central stack incorporating AC controls and the InControl touchscreen, culminating in Jaguar’s signature rising ‘hockey puck’ gear selector, which will be a great novelty in this segment.

The seats look rather simple, but slip into them and you’ll find they’ve been beautifully engineered. Snug, well cushioned, widely adjustable and with incredible support, it’s easy to get comfortable here. What’s also easy is seeing out the front of the XE even if you’re short, thanks to a nice and low dash. Quite the opposite is the visibility behind - the rear deck is high and the windscreen small, meaning you only see the tops of cars coming towards you. Get used to using the wing mirrors and the rear-view camera, which, incidentally, is not available on the ‘Pure’ trim. Quick mention has to be made of Jaguar’s new InControl touchscreen system, standard on all XEs. It’s a huge improvement on the earlier system you’ll find in other Jags and Land Rovers, with better functionality and smoother, quicker operation. However, it’s still a little off the high benchmark set by the likes of BMWs i-Drive and Volvo’s new touchscreen.

As for the all-important back seat, bench is placed low to get enough headroom out of the swooping roofline. This makes ingress and egress a little tedious, and it’s not helped by the really long rear door and the fact that the seat is placed a bit far back in the cabin too - you effectively have to climb around the rear wheel arch.

Once you’re here, it’s a solid experience - good thigh support, good legroom and decent headroom too. But a tall, wide transmission tunnel makes the rear seat best suited for seating two. The flat, wide boot is very usable.

A few significant things to note about this car are its aluminium intensive monocoque chassis - a segment first, its trick integral link suspension that allows greater stiffness without compromise to comfort, and its electric steering - Jaguar’s first ever.

About the engine, it’s the same one we’ve sampled in the XF and the XJ, and even in those big cars, its 237bhp and 34.67kgm felt ample. As you can imagine then, it makes the small, light XE feel like a rocket ship. Even in mundane city driving, there’s enough pep low down in the rev range to make smooth progress, and for the most part, the eight-speed ZF gearbox does a good job. It does, however, hesitate sometimes when you want a sudden change of pace at part throttle - it will shift down, giving you a huge hit of power when all you need is a small increase in pace. But then again, there isn’t an issue that the paddle-shift can’t solve.

Apart from this Sport mode for the engine and gearbox, there are also four drive modes you can choose from - Eco, Normal, Dynamic and Winter - which affect the steering, engine and AC performance. There’s also stop-start for eking out that little bit more fuel from your drive.

As for driving impressions this is one of the best driving sedans around. And it manages to do this while being incredibly comfortable, luxurious and well equipped too.

The catch is the price. At Rs 46.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the XE 25t Portfolio is more expensive than its rivals, coming close to the segment above. For that you get a strong and punchy engine, brilliant dynamics and all the equipment you could want. In this segment of powerful, compact, rear-driven petrol luxury sports sedans, however, driving pleasure is paramount, and for that reason, we would say the extra spend is worth it.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 5:08:31 PM |

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