The XE is perhaps Jaguar’s first serious effort at making a proper Audi A4/BMW 3 Series/Mercedes-Benz C-Class competitor.
The XE is based on Jaguar-Land Rover’s aluminum-intensive iQ[Al] architecture which is described by Jaguar as not so much a platform-sharing strategy as a process-sharing strategy.
Similar if not identical components can be bonded together at common work stations, effectively allowing a wider range of less-expensive models to take advantage of the benefits of the lighter metal.
Jaguar’s larger XF sedan and F-PACE SUV already use this system.
Actually, you have a clue that this is a fine automobile before you get in, as this is a handsome piece. Ian Callum’s design team has been nicely treading the fine line between family resemblance and me-too-ism; the XE is clearly a Jaguar, but unlikely to be mistaken for any other model.
As seems to be demanded by the market, you will be fully connected in the XE. The “InControl Touch Pro” system in my tester has a 10.2-inch screen with all the pinch-and-zoom functions of your smart phone.
The rear seat headrests are massive, and can (and should) be folded flat when the rear seats are unoccupied. The headrests in Land Rover’s new Discovery can be remotely flopped down; let’s hope this technology migrates across the product range.
Two engines are available. The 20d has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder Diesel — finally, a model designation that makes sense — with 180 horsepower and 318 lb-ft of torque.
Then there’s the 35t — no, not a 3.5-litre Turbo, as the badging would suggest, but a 3.0-litre V6 with a supercharger.
It produces 340 horses and 332 lb-ft of torque.
All XEs in Canada come with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and full-time four-wheel drive.
Under normal driving, about 90 per cent of the torque goes to the rear wheels for that classic sports car feel. Depending on available grip, up to 90 per cent can be directed to the fronts.
A host of driving aids is standard. There are the nanny systems like lane-keep assist and the self-parking, as well as the more important features (especially for a sporting car like this) such as emergency braking and torque vectoring, which helps reduce understeer in quick corners.
An All-Surface Progress Control system is sort of like cruise control for lousy weather. Set a speed between 3.6 and 30 km/h, push the button, and the car will try to maintain that speed by utilizing its traction control and ESC systems while you focus on steering.
Three trim levels are on offer, Premium (i.e., base), Prestige, and R-Sport.
The V6 delivers sparking acceleration with a wonderful exhaust note.
Many automatics with this many ratios (eight here) often have trouble finding just the right one, since there are seven wrong answers and only one correct one.
Not here. Shifts are quick, imperceptible, and spot-on accurate.
Want them even faster? Paddle your way up and down the gearbox.
You can also dial up ‘Dynamic’ drive mode for quicker response from all the major systems.
Jaguar has long been a leader in ride-handling balance, and the XE once again takes this lead.
The double-wishbone front/multi-link rear suspensions, again aluminum-intensive to reduce unsprung weight, deliver superior handling precision.
Jaguar has wisely eschewed run-flat tires, so while it is only a Mickey Mouse spare under the trunk floor, it is a proper spare.
And even with massive 20-inch diameter high-performance Pirelli P-Zero tires, ride quality is still outstanding.
Firm, sure, but with none of the filling-rattling you’ll get from competitors who have drifted down that run-flat primrose path.
The electrically assisted power steering (EPAS) should erase any qualms some may have about steering feel with EPAS — yes, this one is light, but direct, and with excellent feedback.
Jaguar XE: 4-door, 5-seat, compact luxury sport sedan. Full-time four-wheel drive.
Price: 20d Diesel — $45,000; 35t (gasoline) – $48,500; as tested (35t R-Sport with all options): $66,500.
Engine: 20d — 2.0 litre, inline four, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable exhaust cam timing, turbocharged Diesel; 35t — 3.0 litre, V6, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, supercharged, gasoline.
Power/torque: horsepower / lb-ft 20d — 180 @ 4,000 r.p.m. / 318 @ 1,750 — 2,500 r.p.m.; 35t — 340 @ 6,500 r.p.m. / 332 @ 4,500 r.p.m.
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
Transport Canada Fuel Consumption City / Highway (L/100 km): n/a
What’s hot: Excellent handling and ride; strong performance; we have a new leader in the compact luxury sports sedan segment.