Jaguar sources may sound cautious about committing to a BMW M3-rivalling version of the XE, but that’s more to do with anxiety over how the car will stand up to the 3 Series as a whole.

The fact is that Jaguar knows it needs halo models to fulfil its brand mantras of luxury and speed. It is, after all, a sports car company and it’s bound to market itself as such in expanding markets like the Middle East and Asia.

The warnings that it will take “18 months” for this year’s new product to bed in and bring the increased sales to unlock investment in higher-end editions is probably no more than a guide to the timeline involved in development.

The Jaguar supercharged V8 already fits in the XE - they admit as much - and even the more modest version of this engine could trump the M3’s twin-turbo unit on power and response, if not torque.

The XE already feels like the most agile small executive saloon, too. Nor is ZF’s eight-speed transmission likely to trip up the package, because Jaguar has already shown with the F-Type R that it can integrate this gearbox effectively into high-performance products.

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