The Jaguar XE, a new and hugely significant car for the British brand, has been revealed. The XE's arrival fires Jaguar back into the fray in the hugely competitive compact executive car market where the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class traditionally hold sway.
The Jaguar XE's public debut came at the 2014 Paris Motor Show in October. It's on sale now at prices startig from £26,995 with the first deliveries due in May 2015.
The public unveiling of the XE came off the back of a star-studded launch event in London which Jaguar trailed by flying the car over the city by helicopter at sunset. No expense has been spared in making sure the new XE arrived with a bang and Jaguar is expecting big things from its newcomer in terms of sales impact.
The Jaguar XE is a result of around £2bn worth of investment in a new factory on Land Rover’s home turf in Solihull, W Mids. The car's mostly aluminium bodyshell is constructed here and the plant will also assemble the XE. A new engine plant in Wolverhampton has also been built to produce the car's efficient new Ingenium engines.
The XE has created more than 3,000 new jobs in the UK and will significantly boost Jaguar sales, which, in this country at least, lag behind Land Rover three to one. So is the new car up to it?
The Jaguar XE, which has been unveiled publically at the Paris Motor Show, will be priced from £26,995 for the base six-speed manual 2.0-litre petrol SE, and rise to £44,870 for the supercharged 3.0-litre S. Trim levels will run from SE, through Prestige and R-Sport to the performance S model. The 2.0-litre diesel will range from £29,775 to £35,425, depending on power output and trim.
This makes the Jaguar XE ever so slightly more expensive than its main rival, the BMW 3 Series. The 320i SE, closest to the XE’s base model petrol in terms of spec and engine, is just over £400 cheaper. That price differential rises with the diesel, expected to be the most popular model, as the equivalent 320d is £1,000 cheaper than the base 2.0 litre XE.
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The four trim levels offered accross the new XE range, with the hot ‘S’ grade only available on the fastest petrol. Official detailed specs haven’t been released yet, but we expect the base SE to be on a par with the SE-spec of the 3 Series.
Prestige and R-Sport are the mid-range trims, with the former emphasising extra luxury, and the latter adding sportier styling tweaks and firmer suspension. Expect top-spec Portfolio models to be very generously equipped.
The flagship performance ‘S’, reserved at the moment for the supercharged petrol, offers a racier interior style, and exterior revisions that will subtly hint at the performance potential.
Jaguar’s design team, led by the mercurial Ian Callum, has created a sleek, sporty, yet slightly conservative looking saloon. With so much resting on this car’s success, this wasn’t a time to reinvent the sector – it’s hoped the way the car drives will do that.
Callum explained to us how Jaguar still has something of an identity crisis in some markets around the world, if not in the UK. That’s highlighted by the leaper on the bootlid now with the word Jaguar underneath – a new addition to all Jags for the 2015 model year.
“We decided to stick with the Jaguar design philosophy,” Callum said. “People have started to get used to Jaguar and what they look like. “The XE is a sports saloon with a long bonnet, great wheel to dash proportions, the cabin set backwards and a coupe profile. But we’ve still got great packaging inside.”
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The bold grille is more upright than we’ve seen before, with some delicate creases that run along the shoulder line of the car to accentuate the wheelarches, and further lines that start to the back of the front wheels and fade away as they head rearwards, to give the car its sporty stance.
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The benefit of the all-new car was that Callum and his team were able to influence the new platform architecture and how the car sat on the chassis. And using Jaguar’s expertise in aluminium – it’s been building cars from aluminium since the 2003 XJ – the XE features plenty of the lightweight material in its platform, bodyshell and components.
The new car is 20 per cent stiffer than the bigger XF, giving engineers more freedom to create the ideal ride and handling balance using double wishbone suspension at the front, with a clever integral link rear suspension system, plus adaptive dampers.
Jaguar says the XE has XFR levels of stiffness from the front suspension for a “connected steering feel” that’s similar to Jaguar’s most sporting saloon. The steering itself is electrically powered for the first time in a Jag, better enabling engineers to fine tune the system, and with settings that can be tweaked using Jaguar Driver Control – with Dynamic, Normal, Eco and Winter modes.
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Another first for Jaguar for a long time is a manual box – an all-new six-speed unit – while a revised version of the eight-speed ZF auto used elsewhere in the Jaguar range will also feature.
Until four-wheel-drive models arrive in 2016 (coinciding with the car’s debut in the important US market), the XE comes with All Surface Programme Control. This system is developed from Land Rover’s Terrain Response set-up, and controls the engine output, brakes and differential to enable the car to negotiate slippery surfaces, delivering winter tyre levels of grip from all-season rubber.
A choice of five engines are offered in the XE at first, starting with the 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel that’s part of the new, modular Ingenium engine family. Low levels of internal friction (17 per cent less than in Jaguar’s current 2.2-litre diesel) help towards a tax-friendly 99g/km CO2 figure and a claimed 75mpg.
This is likely to be the mainstay of the range, but with 380Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm, it’ll be no slouch. Jaguar has also worked hard to eliminate clatter and smooth out the natural acceleration noises in the diesels, aiming for the Jaguar engine characteristic of “mellow growl to edgy snarl”.
There’ll be a more powerful version of the same diesel, plus two petrol 2.0-litre Ingenium engines with different outputs. At the top of the range will be the XE S, with the 336bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 from the F-Type; in the new saloon it should give 0-60mph in just 4.9 seconds.
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With an eye on fleets and company car users, Jag’s gone to great lengths to trim running costs. XE service intervals are set at 21,000 miles, replacement parts are easy to fit, engineers have reduced tyre wear and non-asbestos organic brake pads will reduce brake dust build-up.
The suspension even features slipping fixings that act like a fuse to limit damage if the driver hits a kerb, while standard autonomous emergency braking – vital for the full five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating – means insurance is two groups lower than it would otherwise be.
Auto Express was first to jump inside the car at its unveiling on the Solihull production line. Jaguar says it’s given careful consideration to the H-point (the hip positioning) in the car and the door openings for easy access, and both front and rear doors open surprisingly wide.
You sit low in the XE, though – not quite as low as in an F-Type, but it feels lower than rivals (and is lower than an XF), partly due to the cocooning cabin design.
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The door cappings sweep around to the front of the car below the windscreen, XJ style, with a simple, twin-pod, hooded instrument binnacle ahead of the driver. There are bold, analogue dials with sporty graphics, all influenced by the F-Type, while the driving position feels spot-on. The design has a real simplicity, but it lacks the luxury detailing you’ll find inside the superb new Mercedes C-Class, even though the early XE we sat in was some way from production quality.
While the upper dash looks minimalist, there are still many buttons under the touchscreen for the climate control, and around the rising, rotary gear selector to select the driving modes. The interior isn’t as stylish or exciting as the exterior.
What it does offer, though, is decent space – more akin to a C-Class than a 3 Series. A six-foot passenger can comfortably sit behind a driver of similar height. There’s plenty of space for feet under the front seats, while headroom is okay, even with the panoramic glass roof option.
Three adults across the back might find it a bit tight, and children won’t like the rising windowline. But the boot is five litres bigger than a 3 Series’, at 485 litres, there are 40:20:40 split folding rear seats plus a powered boot door option.
As you’d expect, there’s plenty more safety tech, with a stereo forward-facing camera for traffic sign recognition (that checks what it sees with info from the sat-nav), lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, self-parking and adaptive cruise control. The head-up display uses lasers for a crisper image than an LED system and shows speed, safety warnings and sat-nav directions.
Connectivity is key in this sector, and the XE gets an eight-inch touchscreen, instead of rivals’ control wheels. Jaguar InControl apps for Apple or Android phones give access to Internet radio, traffic information, news and navigation, although full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is some way off yet.
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InControl can also be used to pre-heat or cool the car and unlock or lock the doors, plus it will alert the driver and a call centre if the car is stolen.
You can spec on-board WiFi that can connect to up to eight devices, while the standard 250W six-speaker stereo is developed by Harman Kardon. There’s also a 380W, 10-speaker premium option from British hi-fi specialist Meridian.
Tell us what you think of the new Jaguar XE in the comments section below. Will the new baby Jag have what it takes to challenge the compact executive elite?
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