The XE is the most important car Jaguar has made in recent times. It’s important because it takes the company into a new segment, bringing the idea of an ‘affordable’ Jaguar to a multitude of new customers, as well as introducing a new range of diesel and eventual engines.
Understandably, then, we couldn’t wait to welcome an XE on to our long- term fleet. It’s a mid-range R-Sport model, sitting between the lesser SE and Prestige trims, and the high-spec Portfolio and S models. It has a lot of equipment as standard including an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, R-Sport bodykit and sports suspension, chrome exterior trim, autonomous emergency braking, automatic headlights and wipers, rear parking sensors and keyless start.
Its biggest rival, the BMW 320d M Sport auto, also has an eight-speed automatic transmission as well as metallic paint and front and rear parking sensors. At the time of publishing (October 2015) the BMW was £33,835 - around £1000 cheaper than our £34,775 XE and, with 187bhp under the bonnet, more powerful, too. That price has now risen to £34,320 - making the price difference narrower.
That’s with the Jaguar in standard trim, too. Options on our test car raise its price higher still. We might not have chosen the Cold Climate Pack (which brings heated seats and a heated steering wheel) or the wi-fi hotspot ourselves, but since we were keen to get into an XE as soon as possible, we let Jaguar decide. Along with larger 18in alloy wheels, Parking Pack (which includes a rear-facing camera), electric front seats and metallic paint, the total price of our test car is £38,210.
We’ve been impressed with the XE in range-topping 335bhp V6 form, but the core of the range lies in Jaguar Land Rover’s Ingenium petrol and diesel engines. The 2.0-litre diesel in our model offers up 178bhp and 317lb ft, enough to see the XE to 60mph in 7.4sec and on to a top speed of 140mph. Jaguar says our XE should return up to 67.3mpg on the combined cycle, while emitting 111g/km of CO2.
Although a manual gearbox is available, Jaguar’s smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission seems to be more in keeping with the executive nature of the XE, so that’s what we’ve gone for.
Like all XEs, our car comes with the JaguarDrive Control system. It allows the driver to choose between Dynamic, Normal, Eco or all-weather Winter modes. Pleasingly, opting for Dynamic mode changes the colour of the XE’s part-digital instrument cluster from blue to red. Very Jaguar.
Our first impressions of the XE are good. Its cabin is comfortable and well appointed, if lacking the kind of technology and premium finish you’ll find in the C-Class or Audi A4. As you might imagine, it’s more snug than an XF, particularly in the back, so it’ll be interesting to see how four adults cope with a long journey.
Looking at the XE brochure, I reckon the £1000 panoramic sunroof option would have been worth ticking, because as without it, the cabin feels a little dark. Also worth choosing would have been the £235 front seat lumbar support. Its absence soon becomes noticeable.
Our reviewers say that although the engine offers strong pulling power, it’s loud and obtrusive. I agree. The noise softens as the engine reaches operating temperature, but from a cold start you notice it. It’s a blight on what has otherwise been a great first encounter.
In my company, the XE will be in for a varied mix of duties: short urban commutes during the week, with longer motorway journeys and A-road drives at the weekend. It must be able to tackle all of them with ease and do so with the dynamic characteristics we’ve come to expect from Jaguar.
No doubt you’ll have seen the car maker’s recent adverts for the XE, featuring actors Tom Hiddleston and Nicholas Hoult in the latest take on the brand’s ‘good to be bad’ theme. The next few months will determine if Jag’s new saloon really can ‘go forth and rule the road’, as the advert suggests.
The car: Jaguar XE
Run by Autocar since: October 2015
Needs to be: Engaging to drive, but comfortable and economical for the weekday commute
Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0 I4 180PS
Price £34,775; Price as tested £38,210; Options 10x10 way electric front seats (£765), Bluefire metallic paint (£620), Cold Climate Pack (£535), Parking Pack (£530), InControl Secure security tracking (£510), Wi-Fi hotspot (£300), Economy 67.5mpg (official combined); Faults none; Expenses none