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2016 Jaguar XE First Drive Review


We've driven the Jaguar XE in the Spanish countryside to find out if it drives as well as it looks. Read on to find out more about the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series challenger

 

 

2016 Jaguar XE in action

 

 

 

I like the new design language at Jaguar. And I like the way the new Jaguar XE looks too. Sure, the design is similar to its elder siblings, the XF and the XJ in many ways - the head lamp outline, the bonnet sculpting, the taut wheelarches and the hunkered down stance, it’s all common. But is that really a negative? Imagine this - triplets, all gorgeous, knock on your door. Now, would you shut the door on them just because they looked similar? OF COURSE NOT! You'd invite them in. And then pick the freshest of them all.

 

The XE is that car. And it is also very important for Jaguar because this, the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series challenger, is expected to bring in unprecedented numbers to the brand. Moreover, the XE shouldn't be viewed as a standalone product for it is Jaguar's first step towards going modular. It will underpin the next generation XF for sure and possibly the new XJ. So, it better be good because, clearly, a lot is riding on it.

 

Indian connection

Now for India, the Jaguar XE will come with two engine options. A 180PS 4-cylinder diesel and a 240PS turbo petrol. The latter is borrowed from Ford, but the diesel is Jaguar's home production. Called Ingenium, it is an all aluminium unit, and for India it will come mated to an 8-speed automatic. But, we will get to the engines a little later. Let's first take a peek inside.

 

 

2016 Jaguar XE interior

 

 

 

Now we know the new Mercedes C-Class has truly set the benchmark when it comes to interior look and feel, and in fact design. It is a hard act to top. Not surprisingly, the XE doesn't manage to do that. The Jaguar's insides are well finished and well put together, no doubt. There's also good quality material in there - leather, metal outlines and premium plastic. But, the design is a little underwhelming. Also, the Indian XE won't come with the complete suite of smart connect technology which is otherwise available on international XE variants, the fancy new head-up display included.

 

 

2016 Jaguar XE rear seat

 

 

 

The Jaguar XE won't be the best car to be driven in either, at least in its class. It has a reasonably accommodating front row with enough head, leg and elbow room for both the driver and the front passenger. But at the rear, the space isn't all that great. Plus, the rear seat squab is a bit flat, so thigh support is just about acceptable. But, the central and door armrest are a little too low for comfort and the rear AC vent unit is a tad too wide; wide enough to dig into the rear passengers' legs.

 

 

2016 Jaguar XE front action

 

 

 

Driver focus

But move into the driver's seat and the Jaguar XE, true to its promise, is a lovely car to drive. The seating position is just right, the visibility acceptable if not great, and the pedal position, natural and comfortable. The steering is quick and linear and you never end up fighting it. You can also place the car just where you intend to. Now this is an electric powered steering so expectedly it isn't great on feel. But, it doesn't take away from the driving experience one bit.

 

The feel and response through both the throttle and brake pedal are well judged too. And it doesn't matter whether you are driving the petrol or the diesel. Sure, the petrol sounds better, has more go and because it revs higher, it is surely more enjoyable. But, the diesel is no slouch either. It's not the best when you want to go ballistic on a mountain road, but within city confines and for cruising at three digit speeds on highways, it works well. Both the engines come mated to an 8-speed torque convertor automatic, which isn't the best in terms of shift times, but because it works so unobtrusively, it's easy to develop a liking for it.

 

 

2016 Jaguar XE rear action

 

 

 

Dynamics, meanwhile, is where the new Jaguar XE truly shines. It is built on an aluminium-steel hybrid platform with 75 per cent aluminium. Steel has only been used towards the rear of the car to help compensate for the engine weight and give the car a 50:50 weight distribution. And it's a job well done, for the XE has fantastic turn in ability - it is quick, effortless and precise, and requires very little coaxing at corner entry. The chassis balance and grip around a series of quick and tight corners is superb too. Never does it feel bogged down by inertia when making these rapid direction transitions. It is just one of those cars you get hooked onto so much that you give it a name.

 

 

2016 Jaguar XE rear action

 

 

 

Balancing act

For all its cornering ability and planted feel, the XE is surprisingly comfortable, at least on the Spanish roads we drove on. Internationally, the XE is offered with three suspension configurations - Comfort, Sport and Adaptive. Comfort uses softer springs and damping resulting in more body movement but a suppler ride. The springs and damping for the Sport is naturally firmer and though it works well over undulating roads, road joints and mildly broken tarmac, it is also prone to thudding harshly through potholes.

 

Adaptive, as the name suggests, changes the suspension settings automatically depending on load the car is subjected too. Drive fast through corners and it firms up limiting body roll. Drive peacefully within the city and it's pliant. It is an expensive option, but the one we'd like to settle for. It gives the Jaguar XE the ideal balance between being energetic around bends and still quiet and supple over mildly broken roads or bumps.

 

For India though, we will have a fourth setting, called the bad road package. The starting point will be the Comfort chassis but the ride height will be increased and the focus will be more on ride than outright handling. And because the XE must compete with the likes of the C-Class and 3 Series on price, Adaptive chassis will be given a miss at launch.

 

Finally then...

The Jaguar XE will be an important model for the company in India too, so expect good pricing and class matching equipment to come as standard when the car is launched in early 2016. The question is - is it worth postponing your purchase? Of what we have seen and experienced of the new Jaguar XE, if you like driving, you should. Now, we don't know what the final India spec XE will exactly be like, but given the strong base it will be built on, it should certainly be worth the while.

 

 

Recommended Variant : XE Prestige

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