It’s difficult to recall driving a luxury sedan on track with this kind of middleweight powertrain while being able to extract every last morsel of kilowatt and torque with such adept composure, as is possible in the new Jaguar XE S.
Circuito de Navarra is a racetrack near Los Arcos, in the Navarre region of northern Spain, and the venue for our track test of the all-new Jaguar XE S.
It’s a challenging 3.933 km road course that also hosts the Superleague Formula series and the FIA GT1 World Championship - meaning Jaguar must be mighty confident of the car’s dynamic credentials.
Billed as both the range topper and high-performance variant, the $104,200 XE S is armed with a potent 250kW/450Nm 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine, mated to a standard ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s not part of the company’s new Ingenium engine range, rather, a donor powertrain from the F-type Jaguar sports car.
By comparison, the $60,400 (plus on-roads) entry-level XE 20t Prestige model gets a 147kW/280Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, while the $62,800 turbo diesel variant gains the first of Jaguar’s all-new Ingenium engines, delivering 132kW and 430Nm.
Hit the console-mounted starter button, and right from the get-go you’re aware of this car’s extra juice. There’s way more base tone to the exhaust note than the 2.0-litre turbo unit, though it’s still deliciously refined no matter where in the rev-range you happen to be.
A quick check on the right for traffic, a green light ahead, and the XE S is flat-stick out of pit lane onto the circuit proper.
There’s zero boost lag thanks to the supercharger, so throttle response is instantaneous. Power delivery is effortlessly linear, too, perfect for dealing with this track’s fast straight sections and tight turns.
Sure, it’s noticeably more aggressive than its turbocharged siblings, but it's never intimidating – this is a performance sedan that is all about forgiveness – it works with you, not against you.
Turn-in is razor sharp and there’s a truckload of grip available at the front end – so you’ll want to push on beyond any preconceived limits you might have had for what is a midsize family sedan.
The XE’s electric power steering (a first for Jaguar) is superior to anything in its class – light and responsive for low-speed manoeuvrability, but loading up nicely for high-speed corners that can be taken at full tilt. There’s good feedback through the steering wheel, too – you can really feel where the front wheels are tracking.
It’s also beautifully balanced, so there’s little or no need to back off the throttle in the high-speed kinks. If you do happen to find the outer edge of tyre grip, it’s dead easy to manage the slide before you’re back on the throttle for even more fun.
It’s as if this latest Jaguar is riding on an all-wheel drive chassis, such is the level of adhesion through the bends. Agility is the name of the game at this track, and the XE S is the dux of the masterclass at this faculty.
The brakes, also, are next to bulletproof. There’s simply no discernible fade, despite Spain’s hot summer temperatures and prolonged on-track punishment.
Onto the main straight and the XE S shows why it’s the current halo car in the range. The speedo is showing 240km/h and this thing is rock solid stable, with a significantly more satisfying soundtrack to boot.
While it's difficult to level any criticism whatsoever at the four-cylinder XE versions (see the launch review), it’s the supercharged V6 that gets my vote when it comes down to all-round driver enjoyment.
I can't recall driving a luxury sedan on track with this kind of middleweight powertrain while being able to extract every last kilowatt and torque with such adept composure, as is possible in the new Jaguar XE S.