The Jaguar XE is rather good. So good, in fact, that we awarded it Compact Exective Car of the Year in our 2015 New Car Awards last month. Having driven both the 2.0-litre petrol and new Ingenium diesel, it was clear that Jaguar had brought the fight to its German rivals – the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class - and won.
While we’d also had a go this range-topping XE S, it was only on the smooth roads of northern Spain, so getting hold of one in the UK is the final piece in the XE puzzle.
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Visually, the XE S is even more striking than BMW’s M Sport models, with sharp daytime running lights, a bodykit and 19-inch wheels. Our test car was upgraded to the larger 20s (£800), while inside the red leather and ‘S’ embossed headrests are a no-cost option.
Under the bonnet is the 335bhp supercharged V6 from Jag’s entry-level F-Type, matched to a brilliant eight-speed ZF auto, giving an immediate sense of occasion every time you press the starter button.
It’s remarkably refined, though, both around town and on the motorway. It is as quiet as you’d expect a Jag to be on longer trips, but plant your right foot and it turns up the noise and fires you down the road. The gearbox is smooth and responsive, and while the engine doesn’t offer the same aural enjoyment as it does in the F-Type, it’s far more characterful than the new BMW 340i.
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However, where the XE really shines is in the corners. The steering is pin sharp, and there’s very minimal body roll. Even on the bigger wheels the ride is calm and composed, and thanks to the standard-fit adaptive dampers it remains perfectly sorted on all roads and surfaces.
Standard kit includes an eight-inch touchscreen sat-nav, DAB, keyless go and cruise control, though are car came fitted with a panoramic roof, a heads-up display and a pricey self-park system.