Car review: Jaguar XE comes top of its class

Jaguar has taken on the most competitive sector in the premium car market and hit the bullseye with the XE, says Dr Tony Rimmer.

If there is a single car make that over the years became synonymous with the successful doctor, it has to be Jaguar.

This quintessentially British brand has been the personal transport of choice for successful practitioners for decades. I remember working as a junior doctor for a general surgeon who took delivery of a brand new XJ6. He was very proud of it and I was impressed.

This was a time when Jaguar, like most of the British motor industry, was at its peak but resting on its laurels. Poor quality manufacturing, lack of investment in new products and a blind denial of the threat from better foreign products ultimately had disastrous consequences. We lost Triumph, Austin, Rover and very nearly Jaguar.

The company was rescued by Ford in the 1990s and under their control released the S-type medium sized saloon and the smaller X-type.

Unfortunately, the X-type had Ford Mondeo underpinnings and never really felt like the sports saloon it was supposed to be. Poor products followed and in 2008 the firm was sold alongside Land Rover to Indian giant Tata.

Range of great products

Fortunately, Tata invested heavily and over eight short years  completely turned the fortunes of the company around. Over the last five years, Jaguar Land Rover has doubled the workforce and doubled vehicle sales. It is now profitable and underlying the success is a range of great products. The new F-type sports two-seater and the XF saloon are top players in their market segments. Other premium brands now have serious home-grown competition.

The most profitable premium car segment is the 3-series BMW/Audi A4/Mercedes C-class sector. These are the type of cars that a successful GP partner might consider and Jaguar has not had a product to compete in this group since the lacklustre X-type. Now, not before time, they have released the XE saloon.

Given its importance, Jaguar has thrown everything it can into getting the XE just right. A new chassis, new engines and a new factory for assembly show just how serious they are. Available with two versions of the latest four-cylinder 2 litre Ingenium diesel engine producing either 161bhp or 178bhp, they claim top-notch fuel efficiency and low emissions.

There are also two petrol models on offer: the 2 litre four-cylinder with 197 or 237 bhp and the flagship V6 3 litre model which is straight out of the F-type and produces a rather sporty 355bhp. I have been testing the R-Sport model with the 178bhp diesel engine which is likely to be the optimum version and the biggest seller.

Showroom appeal

Visually, the XE is like a smaller XF and it shares the bigger car’s good looks. The low stance is more balanced, better proportioned and more sporty than its big brother. Showroom appeal is therefore assured.

The interior is bang up-to-date with clear instruments, comfortable seats and a great driving position. The infotainment system is state of the art with a massive centre screen. All models get touch sat-nav, cruise control and parking sensors as standard.

My test car had leather seats and the general trim quality is excellent. You sit low which helps accentuate the sporty feel and although there is plenty of room up front, tall rear seat passengers might feel a little compromised by the limited headroom on offer.

Seamless gear changes

To maintain the Jaguar marque’s reputation, the driving experience should satisfy the sporty needs of the keen driver as well as the comfort of passengers.

This is a big ask but with the use of modern engine and gearbox technology linked to adaptive suspension I am pleased to report that the XE delivers; superbly.

The smooth eight speed automatic gearbox controlled by the wonderfully tactile rotary gear selector which rises theatrically from the centre console on starting the engine, ensures that you are always in the right gear and changes are seamless.

The new diesel engine is powerful, subdued and the steering is well weighted and direct.

Beats the German competition

Jaguar has hit the bullseye with the XE. It has taken on the most competitive sector in the premium car market and produced a car that beats its German competitors in nearly all areas. Great refinement with an excellent ride/handling balance and a sporty drive for keen drivers.

With its keen pricing I think that for Jaguar the XE it could quite easily reclaim its crown to become the default executive saloon choice for the successful GP.

  •  Dr Rimmer is a GP in Surrey and tweets @frankaboutcars
Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0 i4 180PS

Body Five seat saloon. Rear wheel drive
Engine 2.0 litre four-cylinder twin turbo-diesel
Power 178 bhp
Torque 430 Nm
Top speed 140mph
Acceleration 0-60mph in 7.4 secs
Claimed economy Combined 67.3 mpg
CO2 emissions 111g/km
On the road price £ 34,775

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