Yet my own experience with the original R-Sport – in which I amassed most of the car’s quick and easy 9000 miles in what seems a flash – has been almost entirely positive. The XE has turned out to be one of those cars you quickly grab when there’s a job to be done, because it’s fast enough, convenient enough, economical enough, compact enough and easy to park. Aside from drabness, for us the car has two major faults: road noise and ride.
Surface noise has dogged the recent strain of Jaguars too much. I can remember shortening a UK F-Type holiday to Yorkshire with my wife simply because the road noise was too intrusive. I even remember Norman Dewis, the famous Jaguar test driver who was an instinctive road tester until the day he died, complaining about road noise while riding in one of his company’s creations well past his 90th birthday. On its optional 19in wheels, our blue XE R-Sport is noisy, and no mistake. The ride issue is less clear cut.
The R-Sport is a tautly suspended car, brilliant in roundabouts or for neat, quick changes of direction. Also great in long fast corners, where stability is paramount. The low driving position of the car, in contrast with all the SUVs we now drive, is mostly very enjoyable: the car feels efficient and sure-footed.
However, our original XE is also one of those cars in which your fellow occupants’ comfort becomes a serious issue: you notice the person beside you is affected by bumps more than you’d like and has to talk over the surface noise. It’s not relaxing and at times it’s downright destabilising: I’m not sure I’d have been quite as enthusiastic about this car if my miles had comprised more family motoring and fewer one-up dashes around the country.
When the mileage on our original XE was nudging 9000, the second-series XE arrived. It wasn’t a matter of like for like. Our 197bhp version of the 2.0-litre engine had been dropped, and along with it the R-Sport trim. The replacement is an all-wheel-drive R-Dynamic XE in Eiger Grey with the 296bhp (thus 50% more powerful) version of Jaguar’s 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engine.
Jaguar’s launch of its revised XE – which was going on at the time of our second car’s arrival – boils down to two major things: better looks and “more plushness”. From outside, the car now looks a lot more sporty and rakish than its predecessor, following improvements to its body, exhausts, side skirts and fitment of impressive 20in, 10-spoke, diamond-cut alloys.
Inside, the car is much brighter, now using light-catching metallic brightwork and better-quality trim materials. But its most striking feature is the adoption of a stylishly simple lower info screen just ahead of the newly adopted gearlever, now favoured over the twist selector.