2017 Jaguar XE front 3/4 ・ Photo by Jaguar
The 2017 Jaguar XE has a heavy cross to bear: this is the sedan that either does or doesn't bring volume to a British brand that has been craving the same kind of fawning attention from luxury car buyers enjoyed by its German counterparts. The XE doesn't have to unseat the reigning BMW 3 Series from its entry-level premium throne, but it must definitely generate the kind of strong sales numbers that Jaguar has never been able to pull from its corner of the kingdom, and in the process needs to elevate the automaker above the outsider status it's lived with for so many years. I had the chance to spend a short time behind the wheel of the 2017 Jaguar XE as part of the car's grand introduction to American audiences this past week just before the L.A. Auto Show. Here are my five first impressions after driving the all-new Jaguar XE.
One sausage, three lengths has become a tired cliché amongst luxury automakers, especially when considering the visually homogenous evolution of German sedans over the past ten years. In exploring the edges of the design language it first introduced with the mid-size XF and then later expanded on with its XJ flagship, Jaguar has placed the XE perilously close to the same hall of mirrors. In fact, cover up the badge at the back and I find it difficult to tell the XE apart from the recently-redesigned XF unless they are parked alongside each or (or I have a yardstick in my hand). It's not that the XE doesn't present a proper canvas for Jaguar's most recent set of cues, it's a sharp-looking sedan that properly balances attention-seeking angles with a classy overall presentation. But it's clear that the automaker is aiming for consistency in the showroom rather than the individuality of more extroverted models, like the F-Type coupe and roadster. Once inside the Jaguar XE's cabin, however, any impression that you've hitched a ride in an XF evaporates. The front two positions are quite comfortable, with plenty of arm and shoulder room carved out of the sedan's door panels and a high console serving up the car's rotary gear selector and various drive mode selectors. The rear of the XE is where the vehicle departs most dramatically from the XF template; legroom is acceptable for a compact sedan (although trumped by the space on offer in the BMW 3 Series), but the sloping roof had me banging my head even though I am well under six feet tall. Blame my 'long torso' or the vagaries of modern automotive styling that cries out for a coupe-like silhouette over a practical passenger compartment, but it's an unfortunately cramped situation in the back of the Jaguar XE.
Photo by Colin Ryan
Not only is the 2017 Jaguar XE the smallest sedan in the automaker's line-up, but it also happens to be the lightest thanks to a concerted effort to hew as much of its chassis and as many of its body panels out of aluminum as possible. This matters for more than a few reasons: as entry-level luxury cars have grown in size (to accommodate subcompact models slotted in just below them), so too has their mass. This has led some automakers (notable Mercedes-Benz with the C-Class) to de-accentuate performance in favor of a comfort-oriented ride, and has even dropped the vaunted 3 Series down a peg or two and allowed the Cadillac ATS newcomer to equal its dynamic potential. The Jaguar XE is roughly the same size as the 3 Series, and it boasts a curb weight of between 3,500 and 3,700 lbs, depending on how its configured. This keeps it on par with its BMW bogey, but chopping steel from the chassis has allowed the company to add a few pounds elsewhere, specifically in the sound insulation department (the XE is exceptionally quiet even in a crowded urban setting). Jaguar was also able to squeeze a more complex suspension system under the sedan without having to worry about any associated weight penalty, including adaptive shock absorbers on certain models. With a mindset focused on improving the overall experience of the car rather than simply focusing on the number on the scale, Jaguar has employed aluminum strategically rather than just as a marketing-oriented parlor trick.
Photo by Jaguar
The 2017 Jaguar XE's engine bay benefits from having one of the most exciting sports cars in recent memory as a close relative. Top-tier editions of the XE feature the same 340 horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 offered by the entry-level F-Type, which means that it also comes with 380 lb-ft of torque almost instantaneously on tap. Hit the go-pedal hard and the car reacts with a grin-inducing forward charge, and while the exhaust system's rasp isn't quite as aggressive as the active unit fitted to the F-Type, there's a sufficient amount of aural feedback provided to satisfy the sport sedan section of your brain. Jaguar promises a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds with the XE, which should see the four-door matching wits with more generously-gifted models like the Ford Mustang GT from stoplight to stoplight. It's a tenth or so slower by that measure than the BMW 340i, but the XE will put a respectable amount of distance between itself and the six-cylinder version of the ATS, while matching the Audi S4. Keep in mind, too, that there's room for a more gifted XE featuring the 380 horsepower version of the same engine delivered by the F-Type S. Oh, and the brand 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 is of course fully capable of being shoehorned into the XE's underhood compartment. For those seeking a less rambunctious ride, a 240 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is available as the XE's entry-level option.
Photo by Jaguar
If frugality is more your thing - luxurious frugality, natch - then could I interest you in the 2017 Jaguar XE turbodiesel? Although not available for me to drive alongside the supercharged V-6 model, the 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder option for the XE has made it through the federal emissions approval process and will go on sale alongside its gasoline counterparts when the sedan hits dealerships in spring of 2016. Current diesel controversy aside (a maelstrom that has nothing to do with Jaguar), there's a lot to like about the XE's new engine. It comes from the brand's Ingenium family of motors, which have been developed in-house as a way of distancing itself from the legacy drivetrains that currently dominate the brand's portfolio, and it promises 180 horsepower and 318 lb-ft of torque when found on the compact sedan. This should provide a decent balance between performance and fuel efficiency (as well as relatively clean emissions thanks to the combination of urea injection/SCR technology and aftercooling), and while Jaguar didn't spitball any estimates, it wouldn't be surprising to see in the neighborhood of 40-mpg combined from the unit. Like the V-6, the turbodiesel model will also be available with the option of all-wheel drive (borrowed, of course, from the F-Type).
Photo by Jaguar
For many years, the distinguishing characteristic of any sport sedan had to do with whether there was a third pedal available on the order sheet. In a world where manual gearboxes are few and far between - especially in the luxury segment - the 2017 Jaguar XE's auto-only status is far from a consolation prize, thanks to its fantastic ZF-sourced eight-speed. Available across the entire Jaguar line-up, this eight-speed unit is as outstanding in the XE as it is in the F-Type and the XJ. When cruising around town the XE's transmission was a model of transparency, providing subtle shifts when needing and drawing zero attention to its machinations. On an autocross course, the car's 'box stepped up in Dynamic mode to offer quick, crisp one-two shifting that felt perfectly attuned to the calisthenics being asked of the XE's drivetrain, and of course manual mode (engaged via steering wheel-mounted paddles) was on hand for more direct intervention in the cog-swapping process. It's a worthy partner to the supercharged six-cylinder model, and in the turbodiesel it should do an excellent job walking the line between fuel sipping stoicism and traffic-matching acceleration.
Photo by Jaguar