Driven: Jaguar XE
It’s not often that Jaguar unveils a totally new model, so the recent introduction of its ‘small’ sedan, the XE, is a big event for Jag fans. With a base price of $37,000, the XE is the company’s entry-level sedan, though performance and luxury upgrades can increase the price significantly. Incorporating Jaguar’s latest style features, the XE is a good-looking, modern sedan with the latest technology combined with Old World craftsmanship and Jaguar sportiness.
Slip into the well-bolstered, heated driver’s seat, and you are confronted with a modern control pod with real gauges for the speedometer and tachometer. A screen in between can display a variety of information chosen by the driver. The most notable interior feature is the transmission selector, a round disk that magically rises from the center console when the engine starts and can be rotated to select the desired transmission choice from the 8-speed automatic.
Those gears can be shifted automatically or with the provided steering wheel paddle shifters, but no manual transmission is offered in the United States. A choice of dynamic drive modes allows the driver to choose normal, eco, rain/ice/snow or dynamic. My favorite was dynamic, which made the driving experience significantly sportier.
Interior amenities include dual automatic climate control, a moonroof with sliding shade, rain-sensing windshield wipers, auto dim headlights, a heated steering wheel and a rear camera. The camera shows on a large display in the center stack with a touch screen that handles navigation, audio controls and vehicle settings. Thankfully, there is a volume control knob for the audio and hard buttons for the ventilation system. Nice, soft leather envelops the cabin, but the pebble grain plastic atop the dash seems a bit pedestrian. The back seat has limited leg room and headroom due to the slope of the rear window. That sharp slope also requires cheap-seat passengers to watch their heads on ingress and egress, but they do get a 12V outlet and air vents. The trunk is fairly deep, and the rear seats fold down to expand cargo carrying capacity and versatility.
Driving the XE is a delight, especially in the aforementioned dynamic mode, which tightens the steering and suspension and provides more power and responsiveness. So configured, the XE offers good acceleration, responsive steering, strong brakes, and a nice, taut suspension that allows you to carve up the curves, especially with the available all-wheel drive. Other modes are available if more comfort or economy is desired, and torque vectoring is included to improve cornering capabilities. In dynamic mode, a rough road got a little bumpy, so switching to a more compliant ride at times could be advantageous. The engine shuts off at stoplights, but the re-start isn’t too jarring. Once under way, the driver is rewarded with a sonorous engine growl under hard acceleration. Driving assistance includes front and rear parking aids, blind spot and rear traffic monitors, and lane keep assist. Engine options range from a 2.0-liter, turbo four-cylinder in gas or diesel to a 3.0-litre, supercharged, gas V6.
According to Jason Nienhaus, salesman at Jaguar/Land Rover St. Louis, “The XE is a nice size; it’s not too big, and it has a nice, tight feel. It’s powerful, smooth and looks like a more expensive car while offering more prestige than its competitors.”
▶ Base: $37,000, including delivery
▶ As driven with options: $60,500
▶ 22 city
▶ 30 highway
▶ Front engine; all-wheel drive
▶ 2.0-litre, turbo, 4-cylinder engine
▶ 296 horsepower
▶ 8-speed automatic transmission
Robert Paster (robertpaster.com) is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.