Once upon a time cars came in three sizes: small, medium, and large. Once upon a time you could buy a Jaguar in just one size. Large. Now there’s a choice of SUV, sports car, small medium (XE) and medium large (XF) plus the large XJ. The relatively new and all alloy XE (compared to the bigger XF) fits into the small medium size. Why small?It’s a compact sedan, with emphasis on compact. It’s just 4672 mm long, 2075 mm (with mirrors extended) wide and stands just 1416 mm high. That puts it right into the same ring as the BMW 3 series and Mercedes-Benz C Class. For two normal sized people in the front, there’s just enough room. For the two in the back, because it’s not really wide enough for three abreast to be truly comfortable, rear leg room is then severely compromised. With two sub ten year old children on the rear pews, the front seats have to be moved forward to provide some measure of comfort for them.Odd given the wheel base is a relatively large, compared to overall length, 2835 mm, an inch longer than the 3 series and 5 mm shorter than M-B’s C Class. Also, the British contender has a slightly larger turning circle than both, at 11.66 metres compared to 11 for the continentals.
Those same front seats become a problem for drivers even of average height, with the seats needing to be lowered to allow some head space…but that then compromised, somewhat, forward vision and the need to look out the window in certain parking situations, regardless of the reverse camera and guidance lines, because sometimes cars go forward into tight spaces and there’s the lingering doubt about clearance for the alloys and scraping on concrete…There’s also the matter of the steeply raked front screen, with the roof line meeting the glass directly over the driver and passenger’s head. Given the S had a glass roof, which drops the lining by a crucial inch or so, it just doesn’t work ergonomically. BUT, at least the designers have given the rear seat passengers a bit of extra head room.The interior design of the XE also intrudes into space; the flying buttress wraps around into the bottom of the windscreen nicely however it also curves in at the top along the doors, potentially making driver and passenger a touch liable for claustrophobia. Even the power window switches are oddly placed, perched uncomfortably on the top level of plastic.
Being the size that it is, it also shrinks boot space, (455 litres, compared to the 3 series and C Class 480 litres) to the point a weekly shop started to look like it was going to overfill it. At least it’s a powered boot lid, with a simple button in the mid right side of the lower section needing a gentle press.It’s black and red leather (which looks a treat)on the seats for the XE S, with, thankfully, both heating and cooling, operated via the eight inch touchscreen. Unusually, the rear seat passengers do get the ability to warm their behinds, a nice touch on a coolish autumnal or winter’s day. There’s DAB+ audio pumping through Meridian speakers and with a fair amount of punch. There are dials just below, housed in piano black plastic, for the aircon that are easy to operate, and the designers have placed embossed lines into the plastic, mimicking the XE’s tail light design.The Start/Stop button is also located here, pulsating red in a heartbeat fashion. The centre console is of hard, hard plastic, and given the cabin size it becomes a leg rest. It’s not a comfortable feeling for the kneecap, nor is there an abundance of soft touch material in the cabin plastics full stop.
Tech wise, The XE S is loaded: Blind Spot Monitoring, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning (a subtle but noticeable shake of the steering wheel), Reverse Traffic Detection, Park Assist and 360 degree camera view. The driver gets a HUD, a simply brilliant and intuitive piece of vehicle engineering that, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, should be more prevalent in cars, however the XE’s display was in red, and sometimes lost against the background. You can also option in a Driver Condition Monitor, alerting you to lapses of concentration and Adaptive Cruise with Queue Assist.Now, for the good news, and the XE’s’ raison d’être. That comes in the form of Jaguar’s bespoke supercharged 3.0L V6, powering down through to the rear wheels, and a razor sharp handling package. There’s 250 kilowatts and a very usable peak 450 torques to play with, but get too exuberant and you’ll see the 63 litre fuel tank being drained faster than a cold beer in the hand of a shearer at day’s end. Jaguar Australia says 11.6 litres/100 kilometres in the urban jungle but a reasonable 8.1 and 6.1 litres for the combined and highway cycles.It’s an easy spinner, revving freely when asked or lazily rotating at well under 2000 rpm in top gear. Connected to an eight speed auto, with Dynamic and Sports modes, it’ll slingshot the 1635 kg machine to say goodbye to your license speeds in around five seconds, on its way to a computer limited 250 kmh. Dynamic is engaged by the simple matter of tapping one of a pair of buttons mounted in the centre console, which changes the car’s driving mode from Snow, Eco or Normal. Not only does it sharpen the transmission’s response, it feels as if the suspension tightens up, stiffening the ride yet doesn’t lose comfort plus changes the interior lighting from a cool blue to a baleful red.
The dash backlighting takes on the same hue as the centre info screen says Dynamic Confirmed. Left in Normal or Eco, it’s still responsive, but needs just a little bit more pressure on the go pedal. The gearbox changes somewhat more softly, easing into the changes, rather than snatching them through . Outside, a passer-by would hear a gentler note from the twin exhaust, rather than the erotically charged, raspy snarl, emitted when the XE is punted hard.
Back to the road; it’s a superb, fluid and confident chassis underneath the passengers, with a solid and sporting feel at freeway velocities yet doesn’t bounce people around the cabin, offering a pliant, lush, comfortable ride at residential speeds. Undulating roads are consigned to the scrapheap, sharper bumps are leveled and the damnable shopping centre speed bumps are the only ones that feel as if they’ll overpower the XE’s setup.
The sound of the blower is intoxicating, especially under a solid right foot, and being supercharged means instant response when the ankle is bent. Using the paddle shifts adds to the theatre, with a hint of snap/crackle/pop from the exhaust when the foot is lifted.Outside, there’s gorgeous metallic grey 20 inch alloys wrapped in 265/30 Pirelli tyres ensuring that grip is always there, under normal circumstances. The XE can be provoked a little too, with that powerplant up front combining with the chassis to give a little sideways kick heading into a turn and the power on. It’s almost a coupe style, with a long, flat, aluminuim bonnet (with pedestrian safety pop up installed) and a short tail.The steering is “on” all of the time; just the slightest movement has the XE responding to your touch, not unlike a cat presenting the belly for a rub and purring the moment you start. Being electrically powered there’s variable ratios, with long sweeping turns handled differently to tighter turns or car parking spaces. It’s communicative and precise in its accuracy.The dash design is clear, legible, not overthought, and is lit by a cool cobalt blue light, as are the piping lines in the console, right and left air vents, and in the doors. Select Dynamic Mode via the toggle switches in the console, and they become a devilish red shade, as mentioned. It’s a small yet effective visual touch.
Warranty? Three years and unlimited kilometres. Price? Call it around $102K plus on road costs.
At the End Of The Drive.
The XE S is a Jaguar, mostly. There’s grace, there’s pace, but not a lot of space. If Jaguar is aiming the XE at a SINK or the DINKs, it’s fine. Add an extra body and things become interesting.
Feature wise, there’s plenty on board, as there should be and you’ve got that sensational supercharged V6 heartbeat up front that’s simultaneously enticing and intoxicating. For two aboard, it’s comfortable in the leather seats, with almost every button within easy reach of both front seat passengers but just seriously don’t expect the back seat to be a comfy place.
Plastics need to soften up, the centre console really is too hard and detracts from what is an otherwise enjoyable work space. There is, however, plenty of toys to play with, that cracker engine and in truth a reasonable economy figure as well. A longer warranty, though, would be nice.
But, it IS a Jaguar, a technological advancement with the aluminuim construction, and a fantstic ride and handling package. If you need more room, there’s the XF. Or the XJ. Or the soon to be released (Q3 2016) F-Pace.
For more info, click here: Jaguar Australia XE range