The British carmaker is pinning its hopes on this refined sports saloon capturing hearts and minds as it goes head to head with big-hitting German rivals, writes Tiff Needell
Ask most people what they remember about the heritage of Jaguar cars and they’ll think of sports saloons loved by 1950s villains, Le Mans-winning C-Types and D-Types, and an E-Type that remains one of the most beautiful vehicles ever designed.
Mention the X-Type and even Jaguar will pretend it has never heard of it. Like so much of our brilliant motoring past, Jaguar fell on hard times and, after a brief flirtation with the British Motor Corporation and British Leyland, it ended up being owned by Ford.
Looking to widen Jaguar’s reach, the company supplemented its established, large executive XJ saloon range by introducing a new S-Type and the X-Type. The problem was both were based on existing Ford products, the Lincoln and the Mondeo, and no one wanted to buy a Jaguar that under the skin was a sales rep special.
In 2008, after just under 20 years of Ford ownership, the brand’s control moved from the US to India as Tata Motors acquired both the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from the US giant. Ford had by then replaced the S-Type with the all-new, British-designed XF, which has proved a great success in the mid-sized executive market. Now, having dropped the X-Type, Jaguar is hoping that after a 16-year absence the all-new XE will finally expunge the memory.
Going head to head with the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-class will not be easy, but with a clean sheet of paper the XE is off to an impressive start. Lightweight aluminium architecture, sophisticated suspension and a quality interior are all there and the only drawback to its stylish, almost coupé-like, looks is slightly limited headroom for rear-seat passengers.
With prices starting at £26,990 and five engine options matched by five trim levels there’s plenty to choose from when spec’ing your XE, but for some reason the manual gearbox is available only with the two diesels. Ride quality is notable but you’ll need to go for the £800 adaptive damping option if you want to get the most out of its handling potential. Electric power steering is another first for Jaguar.
The 3.0 V6 comes with top-level ‘S’ trim and is priced some £6,000 above opposition such as BMW’s 335i M Sport and the Mercedes C350, and it needs all of its 340 horsepower to outpace them both. The trim brings with it a new sat-nav that is standard across the range, plus heated leather seats, a sports steering wheel and external enhancements that include enlarged air intakes at the front and side sill extensions.
With a touchscreen infotainment system and the options of a laser head-up display and a forward-facing stereo camera to enable autonomous emergency braking, the XE has everything the hi-tech world has to offer, plus a proud Jaguar marque heritage. To really succeed, though, this new model needs to conquer not only patriotic British hearts but the global market as well.
Watch the Jaguar XE 3.0 S in action
Jaguar XE 3.0 S
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Acceleration 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds
Engine 3.0 litre supercharged petrol generating 340hp
Gearbox eight-speed automatic
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