Luxury sport sedan buyers looking for an “out-of-the-box” choice will find themselves right at home here.
From a design standpoint, the Jaguar brand has been on a roll lately with Ian Callum at the helm. Owned by Tata Motors since the year 2008, the legendary British marque has been cranking out some of the most beautiful vehicles on the road, ranging from their (former) entry-level XF right through to the sensational F-Type. This year marks Jag’s re-entry into the entry-level luxury sports sedan segment, where benchmarks have been set by cars like the BMW 3-series and the Audi A4 (reviewed here). In a dashing attempt to cover up the tracks of the long-departed and forgettable X-Type, we were sent a 2017 Jaguar XE R-Sport 35t for a week, and to see just how the Brit stacks up against the Germans.
Painted in a striking Caesium Blue ($650 extra) and coupled with Jet/Midnight Blue extended leather, the Jaguar XE is absolutely beautiful. It outdoes the BMW and Mercedes-Benz in looks alone, with perfect proportions and crisp elements throughout the body. This particular car was also equipped with 20” Propeller-style ten-spoke wheels, which are another talking point and totally justifiable at $1,500. There’s also an optional Black Pack, which smokes out the grille insert and side vents for a properly sinister look.
On the inside, the XE ties the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (reviewed here) for best interior in the class. The 14-way powered two-tone seats are legitimately supportive and the Taurus leather is nice to the touch. Ergonomics are decent too, however the power window and mirror controls on the driver’s side door are on a two-tiered level, almost like in the Range Rover TD6 (reviewed here). Instinctively while driving, my hand goes to the lower tier, which actually controls the memory for the seats rather than the window button I’d like to find instead. Otherwise, the climate controls have physical buttons rather than a touch setup, which I like, and the heated/ventilated seats are easy to operate.
Nice touches we found included the large panoramic sunroof with powered shade, and the power trunk closer, two features that are quite rare in this segment. There’s also a powered sunshade for the rear window, easily toggled by a button next to the sunroof controls. Infotainment is toggled through the Jaguar InControl system, which has a large widescreen interface with touch control. The setup looks quite nice and has crystal-clear graphics, along with delightful audio quality from the Meridian system.
Every single one of the XE’s competitors offers a 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder as the base engine, but Jag goes in a different direction, offering a turbo-four diesel on the entry-level models. More on that soon though – we’ll have an instrumented test of that model next month. Our top-trim R-Sport tester was loaded with the 3.0L supercharged V6, another segment exclusive. Output is 340 horsepower at 6,500RPM and 332 lb-ft of torque at 4,500RPM, and the motor is shared with the new F-Pace crossover (among other models). The XE R-Sport is all-wheel-drive only in Canada, and can hustle effortlessly to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds.
The Eaton supercharger sends power instantaneously to the wheels, and the XE R-Sport’s powertrain feels mechanical rather than artificial, combined with an aural orchestra from the dual exhaust. ZF’s eight-speed automatic is equipped here, and now that it’s been around for a while, is seamless and very close to perfection. When the rotary shift dial is in the “Sport” setting, the transmission kicks down gears seamlessly and gives you the power you want exactly when you need it. And believe it or not, thanks to Jaguar’s brilliant electric steering, the XE actually has real feel when pushing it through the corners! Is BMW really still the ultimate driving machine when the baby Jaguar does steering better?
So the XE performs well for its segment, but how will your wallet fare at the gas station each week if you choose to buy one? With all-wheel-drive and the supercharged V6, the XE is rated at 11.8L/100km city and 8.2L/100km highway. The JaguarDrive Control has an “Eco” setting as well as an idle start/stop system to save fuel when possible, and this balances out the “Dynamic” setting that will inevitably be used. Over the course of our test, we averaged 10.2L/100km in combined driving conditions, in sub-zero temperatures, right on par with the BMW 340i xDrive (reviewed here).
The XE starts at just $45,000 for the 20d diesel, and the supercharged-six starts at $48,500. The R-Sport sits at the top of the lineup, with a base sticker of $57,500. Standard issue here are Taurus leather sport seats, adaptive xenon headlights, and R-Sport appearance goodies including a lip spoiler, side vents, and a unique body kit. Our test vehicle had all of the options ticked off, including a heads-up display, Technology Pack, Comfort & Convenience Package, Black Pack, Adaptive Dynamics, and 20” wheels, bringing the as-tested total to $68,100.
The InControl system is a bit of a weak point; new last year and seen on the XF S (reviewed here). It’s a bit clunky in operation and feels slow to respond. Entering destinations takes time thanks to sluggish responsiveness, and browsing playlists and albums on mobile devices is no different. We actually had one instance where sound cut out and regardless of what audio source (including regular FM radio) was chosen, there was just no audio. This was corrected by shutting off the car and resetting the system, but for a system that’s essentially brand new, we expected more.
Luxury sport sedan buyers looking for an “out-of-the-box” choice will find themselves right at home in the local Jaguar retailer. With legitimate choices like the new F-Pace and even the full-size XJ, it’s a good time to give the brand a second look. The all-new 2017 Jaguar XE R-Sport 35t doesn’t fail to impress, and is a bit of a banshee in the form of a business saloon. Perhaps this fully dressed-up model is a bit out of reach for many, but the powertrain is enchanting and the XE R-Sport has a charming personality that will win the hearts of many.