Jaguar breathes new life into the XE
Mark Smyth drives Jaguar's new executive sedan ahead of its launch in SA later this year
The medium sedan market has not been a great space for Jaguar in recent decades. The Ford Mondeo-based X-Type didn’t come close to rivals like the BMW 3 Series and while the XE has fared better, the market has not taken to it as well as Jaguar would have liked, particularly in the face of the upswing in demand for the brand’s SUVs.
Recent news that Jaguar will create a next generation of the XE means the company has no intention of giving up, with the new model expected around 2022, but in the meantime, the facelift will launch in SA in September or October 2019 and we’ve driven it in the UK.
Design changes to make it look sharper and more athletic definitely hit the spot. The deep front bumper and narrow LED headlights with J-blade daytime running lights make it look meaner than the old model. The rear gets a new bumper and slim taillights more in keeping with brand styling changes that began with the F-Type. The changes might not seem like much but they give the XE a more sporty look to blend with its executive character and are even more pronounced on R-Dynamic versions.
Inside there are more obvious changes including the switch from the rotating gear dial to the Sportshift gearstick from the F-Type. The centre console has been extensively revised with fewer buttons and the option of the Touch Pro Duo system from the electric I-Pace. The instrument cluster has a fully digital display.
It’s also available with the ClearSight rear view mirror that debuted on the new Range Rover Evoque and that shows you the view from the back of the car via a camera with adjustable views in the rear mirror.
The new XE is a good looking vehicle, particularly with its wide haunches that actually make it look, even in standard guise, more athletic than its rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Some of the interior changes take away the unique Jagness, particularly the switch from the transmission selection dial and there’s no denying that the cabin has become a little dated in its architecture and design. It’s simple, uncluttered yet with tech in all the right places.
We had a number of models to choose from on routes around the picturesque Cotswolds area of England, including the P250 SE R-Dynamic which is a model heading to SA. Offering 184kW and 365Nm, Jag claims it will hit 100km/h in 6.5 seconds.
It feels solid and well weighted, and so too the steering. Like the earlier XE, it’s very comfortable but keen to be hustled when the mood takes you. The paddle shifters are still too far in for anyone who doesn’t have really long fingers but leave it in Dynamic mode and it will eat up quiet back roads with ease and then slot back into Comfort to cruise to the office ensuring you arrive refreshed and in a Jaguar state of mind (we think this is a real psychological term and if not, it should be).
The ride on the 18-inch alloy wheels was far better than on the lower profile 19 and 20-inch alloys, even on smooth roads, making it likely that these will be the best choices for South African roads. Rear passenger space in all models is good and there’s decent boot space too, although here’s one of my bugbears — why can’t Jaguar cover or at least fully paint the inside top of the luggage compartment? So much luxury and a half finished job here taints the overall feel.
It’s a pity because the P250 made me like the XE again. It easily shares the best looking car in the segment accolade with the Alfa Romeo Giulia and while its interior is not as snazzy as in a BMW or Mercedes, it’s still classy, comfortable and gives you just what you need without being extroverted in its character.
It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and I’m quite sure the facelift is not going to turn the XE into a big seller to rival the Germans or even Jaguar’s own SUVs. But it’s got something about it, something that will let you walk away from your German-driving colleagues with an unavoidable posture that says you drive a Jag.
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