You can almost hear the purring within Jaguar. The brand is launching its fourth and fifth vehicles this year in two of the more popular segments.
The F-Pace compact SUV is speedy with sporting proportions. And the XE sedan, today’s tester, is Jaguar’s first compact sedan. The “aluminum intensive” XE has three engine choices, including a four-cylinder diesel, and is available in rear- or all-wheel drive, both of which have eight-speed automatic transmission.
Jag slots the XE in the compact segment, but it is much more of a midsize sedan in terms of shoulder room, rear seat legroom (35 inches) and a generous-sized 16 cubic-foot trunk. It also is one of the more attractively styled sedans in the segment, which includes the Acura TLX, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS and Mercedes C-Class.
Sold in four trim levels, Jaguar XE pricing starts at $35,895 for the XE 25t with a 240-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. All-wheel drive, which costs $2,500, is available for the diesel and V-6 models. (All MSRPs include the $995 freight charge from Solihull, England.)
The XE 35t, which is powered by a 340-horsepwer, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 gas engine, starts at $42,695. With options, the AWD R-Sport test car cost $60,145 and included such extras as the Driver Assistance Package (for $3,200). This is a handy grouping that includes adaptive cruise control that functions below 20 mph and can also apply automatic braking. The XE also includes traffic-sign recognition, which posts the speed limit of the current road, parallel or perpendicular self-parking and a surround camera system.
The Adaptive Dynamics package, which costs $1,000, is essentially the electronically adjusted suspension — which should be the only way to roll in such a sport sedan. It gives lithe response to driveway entry and then switches spontaneously to dive fast into a corner. Don’t discount it until you have driven a car with a steel-spring suspension and can compare.
The R-Sport gets the sporty treatment with a special front bumper, body-colored side sills, chrome side power vents, a trunk spoiler, metal door-sill finishers and a multifunction steering wheel.
The diesel-powered XE 20d starts at $37,395 and has a 180-horsepower 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With fuel economy ratings of 32 mpg city, 42 highway and 36 mpg combined, the diesel is the XE fuel-economy leader, though its snoozy four-cylinder performance will be best received by diesel aficionados. Two more cylinders would give the XE the engine response and performance expected from a North American motorist.
A insignificant perk for all 2016 Jaguar models sold in the U.S. is the EliteCare warranty consisting of five years/60,000 miles of bumper to bumper coverage with free scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance, as well as Jaguar InControl Remote & Protect emergency services.
The engineering provides a strong driver connection with enough engine, tire and suspension feedback that informs without overwhelming. The steering is responsive to a light touch, and acceleration can be forceful. There is firm and reassuring force to the large four-wheel disc brakes (13.8-inch front discs and 12.8-inch rear discs).
The eight-speed automatic rolls easily through the gears, and with a supercharger (versus turbocharging) there is no acceleration lag when big power is needed.
The XE’s Dynamic mode sharpens acceleration and suspension without jostling vehicle occupants. The whine of the supercharged V-6 is a subtle encouragement to enjoy the acceleration. Jaguar cites zero to 60 mph acceleration in 5.1 seconds or 5 seconds flat with all-wheel drive. Compare that to the BMW 340i at 4.8 seconds or 4.6 seconds with AWD.
Aluminum body sides and other lightweight elements helped hold the AWD curb weight to 3,605 pounds, which is competitive with others in the group. Fuel economy ratings are also competitive at 21 mpg city, 30 highway and 24 combined on premium fuel. I averaged 24.6 to 25 mpg.
The XE is possibly the best-soundproofed sedan in the segment, though the high-performance Pirelli tires on the 35t R-Sport model kick up some whirring road noise on the interstate (as is typical of a high-performance tire). What Jaguar calls “cab rearward styling” is a strong stance. This is a car that the valet will park out front.
The driver has a commanding position, as there are generally good sightlines, though there is some complication at the base of the side mirrors. The sweeping curve of the instrument arcs into the doors and allows three levels of armrest, which are comfortable for long-distance drives.
While the front seat area is wide and spacious, the back-seat area is more compact. Footroom is cramped, and a tall transmission tunnel takes up center seat footroom. But there is no shortage of amenities, such as grab handles at all doors, reading lights, seat heaters, a broad armrest and a rear console with two 12-volt plugs.
The wide trunk space (16 cubic feet) has a low liftover, a pair of bag hooks, a 12-volt plug and four tiedowns.
There are 17 paint color choices. Two are no-cost options (black and white), and most cost $550 or $1,550 (including Cosmic Black and Storm Grey). The standard silver-finish 19-inch alloy wheels are attractive, but there are also sportier styles for $500 or $1,000. The standard interior metallic trim is also attractive, but there are upgrades of Satin Burl Ash (for $300) or carbon fiber (for $790).
Interior colors are black leather or two-tone black and red, black and blue, or black and light oyster — all no-cost.
The XE is a well-thought-out package, whether it’s a prestige purchase or a credible sport sedan. It is a full activation of Jaguar’s best materials and features.
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage