World Encyclopedia of Cars
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The platform and chassis is new, there's extensive use of lightweight aluminium to save weight, the engines are a clean sheet design, and design director Ian Callum, has been able to create a vehicle that is pure Jaguar. And no matter which angle you look at it, it's a beautiful design with nicely judged proportions and a drag co-efficient of just 0.26, which means better efficiency and is the lowest figure of any Jaguar before it.
The XE is the first model in Jaguar Land Rover's extensive model range to feature the new Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel engine, with a choice of 161 or 177bhp power outputs. In its most efficient guise, CO2 emissions are just 99g/km, with fuel economy of 74.3mpg on the combined cycle - a similar level to the average small car. There's a choice of four trim levels - entry-level SE, mid-range Prestige, dynamic R-Sport and the flagship Portfolio - with all editions featuring hi-tech equipment like autonomous emergency braking, a pedestrian deployable bonnet, traffic sign recognition, a lane departure warning system and satellite navigation as standard.
This is in addition to equipment like rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity and dual-zone climate control. Car makers don't like to talk about the cars that they benchmark their new models against, but it is obvious that Jaguar engineers were trying to surpass the BMW 3 Series for driver satisfaction. And all of the hard work has paid off as the new XE is sensational. Beautifully weighted steering delivers great accuracy and precision out on the road, making even the most mundane road great fun.
Exceptional body control through the bends results in an almost total absence of lean when cornering, remaining flat and composed at all speeds. Ride comfort is nicely judged, shrugging off poor surfaces and potholes with ease, and delivering a great propensity for soaking up motorway miles with ease. But it's the enormously flexible engine that is the star of the show, feeling punchy away from the lights, and delivering great pace at all speeds. We tried both the manual and automatic versions, but it was the automatic edition that gets our vote, with eight ratios that swap cogs imperceptibly.
That's not to say that there's anything wrong with the manual edition, it's just that the automatic edition is more effortless to pilot. There's some wind noise around the door mirrors and front A-pillar, and the tyres throw some road noise, but the new engine remains nicely hushed, even when the accelerator pedal is buried in the footwell.
The large car market is a curious one. While mainstream offerings like the Ford Mondeo and Mazda6 deliver a huge interior, with generous space front and back, in the premium end of the sector, the package is a whole lot more compact. And the Jaguar XE remains true to these traits, serving up a similar amount of room to the established set. Cabin space is pretty snug all round, and particularly in the rear, knee room isn't particularly generous, and a large transmission tunnel limits the amount of space on offer for a third passenger.
Sat in the driver's seat, you feel cocooned, with the hugely supportive seats enveloping you. The low set dashboard is neatly styled, with all of the controls within easy reach. The dual level controls on the door, initially don't feel natural to use, but after a few miles behind the wheel, you realise that they are actually neatly positioned and well thought out. The rotary gear selector from the XF is carried over to this baby Jag, while some of the switchgear on the steering wheel is shared with the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
All of the plastics have a plush feel to them, crafted out of well-chosen materials and should stand up to the rigours of daily life well. The eight-inch touchscreen in particular is neatly positioned and features a newly designed interface that is easy to operate. Boot space is a little smaller than most of its rivals at 450 litres, and for an extra £400, the rear seats fold down in a 40:20:40 fashion. All round visibility is a mixed bag, with front pillars that obscure the view pulling out of awkward junctions and a shallow rear screen.
Thankfully Jaguar have thoughtfully fitted rear parking sensors as standard to alleviate reversing woes. From the moment you step into the XE, you realise that Jaguar has a winner on its hands thanks to a classy cabin, exceptional on-road dynamics and a car that is stuffed full of the latest technology. The compact premium market is a tough nut to crack, but with class-leading efficiency, the lowest company car tax benefit-in-kind rates around and two-year, 21,000 mile service intervals, it's hard to imagine anything but a success story for the new baby Jaguar.
Model tested R-Sport 2.0 Diesel Auto
Made in Solihull, UK
Configuration 4-door saloon, 5-seats, rear-wheel-drive
Drivetrain 1999cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged diesel with stop-start and selective catalyst reduction
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Power output 177bhp @ 4,000rpm
Maximum torque 317lb ft @ 1,750-2,500rpm
Top speed/0-62mph 140mph/7.8 secs
CO2 emissions (tax band) 111g/km (C) Euro 6
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 55.4/76.4/67.3mpg
Fuel tank size/range 56 litres/829 miles
Insurance group/BIK rate 27/20%
Size (length/width with mirrors) 4,665/2,075mm
Boot space 450 litres
Kerb/max towing weight 1,565/1,800kg
Euro NCAP safety rating Not yet tested In showrooms June 2015
Prices .29,775 to .35,425
Bodystyles 4-door saloon
Engines 2.0 (161bhp), 2.0 (177bhp)
Trim levels SE, Prestige R-Sport, Portfolio
Also consider BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class
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