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Jaguar XE 20t: Four-door executive with sports car instinct

By Ghaith Madadha - Oct 08,2018 - Last updated at Oct 08,2018

Photos courtesy of Jaguar

First launched in2015, the Jaguar XE was intended to be the premium British automaker’s more accessible entry-level model that should also be more popular and attainable for drivers in highly taxed developing automotive markets.

Successor to the Ford Mondeo-based X-Type, the XE is an altogether different car rooted in Jaguar’s sporting heritage and designed with a modern flavour. An authentic rear-drive challenger to the German compact executive car troika of the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3-Series, the talented XE also faces competition from cars like the Infiniti Q50 and Alfa Romeo Giulia.

 

Sporty yet supple

 

Contrary to any lingering stuffy misconceptions about Jaguar, the XE is a thoroughly modern and distinctly sporty saloon car priced to compete directly with rivals. Of the sportiest in its class, it is characterised by a combination of eager and adjustable handling and a supple and forgiving ride associated with Jaguar by those more familiar with the brand.

An ideal car for a thirty-something trading-up from a hot hatch or small sports car like a Mazda MX-5 or Subaru BRZ to something more grown-up, practical and premium for a young family, the XE delivers a similarly visceral drive and doesn’t skimp on the smiles.

The smallest of Jaguar’s saloons, the XE bears clear resemblance to the XF executive and XJ luxury model, and features similar lightweight aluminium-intensive construction and a swept back and seemingly ready to pounce sense of tension.

With slim, squinting deep-set headlights, broad and snouty wire-mesh grille, the XE has a dramatic demeanour, while its short front overhang, long bonnet and rakish roofline are distinctly sporting. At the rear, its high-set and short boot looks best with a colour contrasting to its lower black fascia insert. In black body colour, and with no contrast, the rear looks slightly compressed.

 

Eager performer

 

Powered by a Jaguar-modified version of Ford’s tried, tested and effective turbocharged 2-litre direct injection 4-cylinder Ecoboost engine, the XE, however, will soon feature the petrol version of Jaguar’s own new Ingenium engine line. Offered in different states of tune, the entry-level XE 20t 2-litre model develops 197BHP at 5,500rpm and 236lb/ft throughout a wide 1,750-4,000rpm sweet spot. 

Quick scrolling, responsive and with near imperceptible low-end turbo lag, the XE 20t is quick on its feet. Launching from standstill to 100km/h in 7.7-seconds, the 20t is capable of a 238km/h top speed, and can return restrained 7.5l/100km fuel efficiency.

Eager from low-end, muscularly versatile in mid-range and willing to top-end, the XE 20t is quick on level ground and remains confident on steep inclines. Its throttle control is uncharacteristically precise, delicate and responsive for a turbocharged car, and allows easy power modulation to accurately and intuitively balance the XE through cornering drifts.

However, there is slight overrun boost when at throttle lift-off from high revs and heavy load. Smooth, slick and responsive, the XE’s 8-speed automatic gearbox is happy to take multiple shift inputs in manual paddle shift mode, while shifts become more succinctly aggressive and gears can be held at redline in Sport driving mode.

 

Balanced and adjustable

 

Riding on sophisticated and sporty double wishbone front and integral-link rear suspension with fixed rate dampers, the XE achieves a commendable combination of ride comfort and lateral body lean control. With a slightly firm primary response over jagged road surfaces, the XE’s secondary responses are otherwise comfortable, smooth and absorbent. 

As speed picks up, the XE better still processes imperfections with a supple, fluent and textured manner. A lovely drive through sprawling, winding country lanes, the XE’s side-to-side motion is well controlled. And while there is slight vertical pitch on crests, rebound control and dips are processed with taut and settled control. 

Flowing and fluid through switchbacks, the XE’s suspension and steering work in brilliant harmony, with the latter being light, quick and precise. More so, its steering offers excellent feel and nuanced, textured fingertip feel for its segment, and is a joy. Balanced, eager, tidy and accurate into corners, with good front grip, the XE rear is meanwhile set-up for effortlessly easy and predictable drifts and slides. Best left on in normal driving or when storming through empty switchbacks, the XE’s drifts are reined in by stability controls, but are near telepathically intuitive with stability controls off through low speed snaking hill climbs.

 

Charisma and class

 

Great fun to balance with on-throttle control, the XE would further benefit were it to have a limited-slip rear differential. However, with stability control on low setting, it gives a taste of the beginning of a drift before brakes and power cuts manage a tidy cornering line.

Through hard driven, slickly paved switchbacks, its rear was a little fidgety and had an instinct to initiate unwanted drifts, unless one is late back on the throttle. That said, winter driving mode dulled throttle response for a smoother and more sure-footed drive, and newly paved roads provided more traction and more tenacious rear grip. 

Charismatic, classy and entertaining, the XE’s cabin has a sporty twin pod like design with a jutting high waistline. Design, ergonomics and seating position are attentively good, but firmer lumbar support on longer drives would be appreciated.

Materials include a mix of soft textures, good quality and hard-wearing leather, mixed with some hard plastics in the centre console. Front space was good, but the XE’s rear headroom and legroom isn’t really intended for tall and large passengers, who would be better served with an XF or XJ. Not the roomiest in its class, the XE does however have a generous boot.

Equipment levels are good, but the model driven notably didn’t have remote sensing door locks, and no blind spot warning, which would have been useful, if not necessary given the rakish roofline and Amman driver’s penchant for overtaking suddenly at either side. 

The tested car had over 15,000km and is presumably an often hard-driven customer demonstrator, the XE Prestige trim XE driven felt at its prime mechanically, and still fresh inside, but one row of console buttons felt a bit too firm to the touch.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Engine: 2-litre, turbocharged, in-line 4-cylinders
  • Bore x stroke: 87.5 x 83.1mm
  • Compression ratio: 10:1
  • Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC, variable timing, direct injection
  • Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
  • Ratios: 1st 4.71; 2nd 3.14; 3rd 2.11; 4th 1.67; 5th 1.29; 6th 1.0; 7th 0.84; 8th 0.67
  • Reverse/final drive ratios: 3.3/3.42
  • Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 197 (200) [147] @5,500rpm
  • Specific power: 98.6BHP/litre
  • Power-to-weight: 128.8BHP/tonne
  • Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 236 (320) @1,750-4,000rpm
  • Specific torque: 160Nm/litre
  • Torque-to-weight: 209Nm/tonne
  • 0-100km/h: 7.7-seconds
  • Top speed: 238km/h
  • Fuel economy, combined: 7.5-litres/100km
  • CO2 emissions, combined: 179g/km
  • Fuel capacity: 63-litres
  • Length: 4672mm
  • Width: 1850mm
  • Height: 1416mm
  • Wheelbase: 2835mm
  • Track, F/R: 1602/1603mm
  • Boot volume: 450-litres
  • Unladen weight: 1530kg
  • Suspension, F/R: Double wishbones, integral-link
  • Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion
  • Turning circle: 11.22-metres
  • Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs/discs
  • Tyres: 225/50R17
  • Price, as tested (starting from): JD45,000 (JD38,000)

 

 

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