Jaguar XE: More luXE for remiXEd sports saloon
Jaguar has upgraded its XE saloon - especially its interior - in the face of fresh competition from BMW and Volvo, says William Scholes
JAGUAR recently updated its mid-size sports saloon, the XE, in an effort to keep pace with a bunch of new rivals, writes William Scholes.
BMW, for example, has a new 3 Series; it's predictably accomplished but, for this writer at least, it's tipped into the category marked 'boring'.
A more interesting bet, not least because of its aesthetic ambition, is Volvo's latest S60.
It's the latest in the company's wave of universally excellent new cars and makes a very persuasive case for itself - provided, that is, you can live without a diesel engine under the bonnet, for the S60 is unleaded-only.
This is one of the most competitive sectors in motordom. As well as the 3 Series and S60, there are the stalwart Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class to consider; Alfa Romeo offers the gorgeous Giulietta and Lexus the company car tax-friendly IS.
And on the basis that one has consciously swerved to avoid choosing an SUV, you can add several other highly recommended executive cars to your shopping list - the stylish Peugeot 508 and sweet-driving Mazda 6 are two that stand out for me.
All this is to emphasise that the Northern Ireland buyer considering putting their own money - or, as is probably more likely, their company's money - into a Jaguar XE has no shortage of choice.
As readers will know, Donnelly Group has recently opened an all-new showroom in Dungannon. Representing an investment of millions of pounds, it allows the latest cars from Jaguar - as well as sister company Land Rover - to be displayed and maintained in an appropriately state-of-the-art environment.
Courtesy of the fine people at Donnelly Jaguar, this writer has been able to spend time with the brilliant I-Pace electric car, which we enthused about last December.
Thus far, I have been unable to take up their invitation to drive the updated XE in Northern Ireland; nor have I been able to test it elsewhere, because the Jaguar Land Rover UK press office operates an eccentric public relations strategy.
Nonetheless, I can tell you that none of the revisions to the XE will interfere with the precision of its fine-handling chassis, the pliancy of its ride and its spot-on proportions of its sports saloon styling.
Luxury is the buzz-word here, with Jaguar talking of its extensive use of soft-touch materials and premium veneers. A revision in trim levels means customers get more equipment for less money than before, too
Cosmetic exterior changes extend to new bumpers and all-LED headlamps and tail-lights, complete with de rigueur signature light patterns.
Anyone with previous XE experience will be glad to know that the infotainment system has been upgraded, and that the 12.3-inch interactive display which features on the I-Pace has migrated to the XE.
Another tech highlight is a first-in-segment rear-view 'mirror' that uses a wide-angle rear-facing camera to give a better, uninterrupted view.
When the XE debuted in 2015, its interior lagged behind the standards set by Audi - arguably Volvo now leads the way here - and Jaguar has focused much of its energy on giving its car the cabin it probably should have had from the start.
'Luxury' is the buzz-word here, with Jaguar talking of "extensive use of soft-touch materials, premium veneers and all-new door trims".
None of this can change another legitimate criticism of the XE - its cramped rear quarters and awkward back-door apertures - but Jaguar does at least promise "more comfort". "Every aspect of the cabin has been enhanced for increased convenience, improved stowage and better passenger comfort," it says.
The XE also gets the steering wheel from the I-Pace - a good thing - and the gear selector from the F-Type sports car. This is also a good thing.
Even better, however, is a revision in trim levels which essentially means customers get more equipment for less money than before.
Donnelly Group has recently opened an all-new showroom in Dungannon. Representing an investment of millions of pounds, it allows the latest cars from Jaguar - as well as sister company Land Rover - to be displayed and maintained in an appropriately state-of-the-art environment
Standard kit includes an automatic gearbox, 18-inch wheels, LED headlamps and tail-lights, leather upholstery with electrically-adjustable seats, front and rear parking aid, a rear-view camera and lane-keep assist.
Moving up the model hierarchy, there are S, SE and HSE trims, each of which is also available in a sporty R-Dynamic guise.
Cars can be further tailored by choosing from a range of option packs. The 'dynamic handling pack', for example, brings performance brakes, coloured brake callipers, a bootlid spoiler and configurable dynamic driving modes; the 'technology pack' comes with a head-up display, solar windscreen, upgraded infotainment system and display, wireless charging and the trick rear-view mirror; and the 'cold climate pack' includes heating for the windscreen, steering wheel and headlamp washers.
There is also a 'convenience pack' and 'premium interior upgrade pack'.
Jaguar Land Rover managing director Rawdon Glover said the car's revisions had "focused on the things that mattered to our customers"
"The XE remains one of the sharpest handling and best-looking cars in this class, so while we see subtle updates to the award-winning chassis and a more assertive exterior, our design team has made significant enhancements to the interior, completely transforming it from the outgoing model," he said.
Engines include a 2.0-litre petrol in 247bhp and 296bhp flavours - badged P250 and P300 respectively - and D180 diesel with 178bhp and 317lb.ft of torque. The XE can be had with four-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive. The gearbox is an eight-speed automatic.
The combination of D180 engine with the rear-wheel-drive chassis will be of particular interest to company users. This has been certified as what is known in the jargon as "RDE2 compliant", meaning it is the first car in the class to hit a tough new NOx emissions target, and therefore avoids the 4 per cent benefit-in-kind tax supplement that regular diesels attract. Ask your accountant...
On-the-road prices start at £33,915 for a regular car, with the sportier-looking R-Dynamic cars starting at £35,505.