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First drive: Jaguar XE 2.0i 240. Image by Jaguar.

First drive: Jaguar XE 2.0i 240
The full production Jaguar XE is here - and it's really rather good.

   



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Jaguar XE 2.0i 240

4 4 4 4 4

Having driven early pre-production Jaguar XEs recently, this was our first chance to get behind the wheel of the finished article. And the good news is that early XE promise has translated into genuine ability, although - excellent as it is - we suspect the 240hp petrol model will remain minority interest here in the UK. Nevertheless, BMW, Mercedes, Audi et al should take serious note of the XE; it's nothing like as underwhelming as the old X-Type was, instead putting on a thoroughly competent executive saloon display.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Jaguar XE 2.0i 240 Portfolio
Pricing: car as tested £33,740; XE range starts from £26,990
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic transmission
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 179g/km (VED Band I, £350 first 12 months, £225 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 37.7mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
Power: 240hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 340Nm from 1,750- to 4,000rpm

What's this?

Jaguar's contender in the marketplace that's become the key battleground for brand prestige in the UK. The XE will hope to join the massed ranks of those regularly seen motorway cruisers, such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class; supposedly 'expensive' cars that have usurped the traditional repmobiles like the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat. Premium is where it's at these days and for the XE to properly succeed, it will need to erase memories of its only true ancestor, the X-Type - a car that never won glowing acclaim.

With Jaguar Land Rover on the crest of a sales wave right now, it's clear to see the funding is going into improving products so that they can genuinely compete with the Germans. That the XE is good-looking on the outside isn't any huge surprise - lithe and athletic, with a coupé-like stance, it's another great design from the Ian Callum-led JLR design stable - but the interior has come on leaps and bounds, even compared to recent Jaguar models. A large part of that in the XE is the inclusion of the new InControl infotainment system, which uses software that means Jaguar no longer looks like it is stuck in 1998. InControl works superbly through its clear eight-inch centre console screen, easily matching iDrive, MMI and Comand for usability - and, to quote Richter, it's about goddamn time.

The rest of the Jag's cabin is particularly easy on the eye, while the seats are pleasingly easy on the backside (if that doesn't sound odd). It's a comfortable and quality place to be, with only a few details annoying - like the optional laser heads-up display rendered in bizarrely strident reds and greens that don't quite gel, or the drive select indicator light that's utterly illegible in bright sunshine. Also, the XE's rakish exterior leads to a rear bench seat that's not the most capacious, although four six-footers should be able to fit inside the Jag with some strategic shuffling of the front chairs. It's a big thumbs-up in general, though, because the XE's cabin is up there with the best-in-class and it has one detail that marks it out from the herd - the 'Riva Hoop', a dramatic sweep running along the base of the windscreen to each of the front doors. That's a nice signature feature and it's unmatched by the classy-but-staid Teutonic interior design on offer elsewhere.

How does it drive?

Excellently, but then no one is ever going to know that about this 240hp petrol in the UK, as the 'Ingenium' diesel models will cream the vast majority of the sales. Jaguar officials at the event were trying to talk up the 240's chances, saying early pre-orders suggest it will be a 'significant' part of the UK retail market, but we reckon it won't just be fleet buyers who opt for the diesels instead, given they're nearly twice as economical and much, much cleaner when it comes to emissions.

Shame, because in many respects this 2.0-litre petrol model is a fine sports saloon. There's a lower-powered 200hp model with 280Nm, delivering those headline figures at exactly the same points in the rev range as the 240, and yet the 'lesser' model is no more frugal or green than this one. It is cheaper, though, the only comparable trim being R-Sport, where the 200 is £3,350 less than the 240.

Anyway, if you do take the gamble on the 240, you'll be handsomely rewarded. Its engine delivers performance in a lovely linear, smooth fashion, achieved because 340Nm of torque rules over a wide plateau of the lower rev reaches before handing the baton over to horsepower higher up. As all XE petrols will be automatics, there's never any point that the turbocharged motor labours off-boost, so performance is decently quick in any eventuality. It doesn't sound superb, granted, but it is at least quiet, which contributes to the XE's exceptionally refined cruising abilities - the ride is supple, wind and tyre noise are both minimal.

The petrol-fuelled XE, here tested on Comfort passive damping, didn't quite exhibit the same unsettled rear end and inconsistent steering as the diesel we drove, and it was otherwise an entertaining steer, especially as the ZF transmission in the main responds to clicks of the paddle shifts in rapid-fire style. The Jag has the measure of a Mercedes-Benz C-Class dynamically, with better body control and a more active rear end, while it possesses a superior ride to that of a BMW 3 Series. Therefore, the Jag genuinely elevates itself to the sharp end of this market segment - a blessed relief for fans of the marque.

Verdict

The Jaguar XE is a strong compact exec contender and we feel like we can say that without resorting to the sort of jingoistic patriotism that blindly hopes the plucky underdog Brits can do well in the face of unstoppable German opposition. Indeed, on that score, Jaguar is no longer the underdog, instead setting a new bar for its rivals to match. The only thing is that the 240 is not the best example of the XE's exceptional all-round abilities; somewhat predictably, that mantle falls on the Ingenium diesel's shoulders. Oh, and if you want an absolutely blistering, sublime performance XE, you'll have to shell out £44,865 for the S model, with its 340hp supercharged V6. That is the XE to steal your heart and convince you that you really don't need that BMW 335i M Sport any more.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 11 May 2015



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2015 Jaguar XE. Image by Jaguar.2015 Jaguar XE. Image by Jaguar.2015 Jaguar XE. Image by Jaguar.2015 Jaguar XE. Image by Jaguar.2015 Jaguar XE. Image by Jaguar.



2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 

2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 

2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 

2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 

2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 

2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 

2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 

2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 

2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 

2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 

2015 Jaguar XE Portfolio. Image by Jaguar.
 






 

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