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The long-awaited Jaguar XE luxury sedan is here at last, and primed to take it up to dominant Germans such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series.

The Jaguar XE marks a return to this part of the market for the Indian-owned iconic British car-maker, six years after the demise of the Ford-based X-Type.

This time, Jaguar’s mid-sized contender is new-from-the-ground-up, and heralds just the latest step in a significant brand-wide renaissance under the stewardship of Tata — started by the F-Type sports car, and to be furthered by the updated XJ limo at year’s end, the all-new XF around December 2015 and the hotly anticipated F-Pace SUV a few months after that.

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The Jaguar XE also returns the brand to the mid-sized sedan fold at a significant time, given the market is growing faster than any other passenger segment, up 34.4 per cent this year. Indeed, the C-Class is now the second top-selling medium car, after only the fleet-focused Toyota Camry.

With that in mind, Jaguar Land Rover Australia managing director Matthew Wiesner naturally has high hopes for the XE — a vital conquest car as it seeks to carve out a bigger share of the booming luxury market.

It has its work cut out, with a heavily updated BMW 3 Series mid-life update due in October, shortly after the new turbocharged Lexus IS200t arrives. In the first half of next year, we’ll also see the brand new Audi A4 join the ranks.

Jaguar XE 21

The company is not expecting to match those Germans in terms of raw sales, Wiesner said, but the XE will nevertheless give Jaguar access to a younger buyer, and conquest customers from other rival brands, both luxury and mainstream.

Whatever the case, the XE will be far and away Jaguar’s top-selling car here ahead of the larger XF, until the all-new F-Pace medium SUV arrives in the middle of 2016. At that point, the battle will get tougher. 

Jaguar, as befits its brand, has designed and engineered the XE to be among the sportiest cars in its class — a mission shared by BMW with the 3 Series. No doubt, also, it hopes to trade on its famous name and outsider status.

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Headline items include the XE’s 75 per cent aluminium monocoque construction and its double wishbone/integral link suspension claimed to give the rear-drive executive car handling as dynamic and sharp as any rival in the class.

The XE is the smallest, lightest and stiffest Jaguar sedan — kerb weight starts at 1530kg, still 45kg heavier than the 320i’s claim — and the most aerodynamic Jaguar in its history, with a Cd of 0.26. It is also the first Jaguar sedan with electric-assisted power steering.

Manufacturing of the aluminium-intensive XE occurs at Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull (UK) plant in an all-new facility — part of a £1.5 billion investment that will create 1700 UK jobs.

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From launch, the baby Jaguar will be available in four specification levels, called Prestige, R-Sport, Portfolio and S.

Even entry cars get features such as blind-spot monitoring, automatic parking assist, autonomous low-speed braking, 10-way electric adjustment for the front seats, full-leather seat trim, an 8.0-inch touchscreen (with Jaguar’s InControl infotainment system) and a 380W Meridian sound system with 11 speakers and a subwoofer.

There will be a total of four engine choices for now (the all-new Ingenium diesel developed entirely in-house, and three existing petrols) kicking off with the well-known, Ford-based 147kW/280Nm 2.0-litre in the 20t, that sends the XE to 100km/h in a respectable 7.7 seconds.

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Also featuring is the up-spec 25t with an uprated 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo that offers 177kW and 340Nm, which punts the XE from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.8sec.

The 132kW/430Nm Ingenium 20d variant uses the new 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine that shoots the XE from 0-100km/h in 7.8sec. Jaguar claims an exceptionally low combined fuel consumption reading of 4.2 litres per 100km.

Topping the engine range is the familiar 250kW/450Nm 3.0-litre supercharged V6 option from the F-Type, featured here in the XE S, which can dash from 0-100km/h in 5.1sec.

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In about two years, new Ingenium turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines will emerge as part of an update, as well as (potentially) a straight-six. At the other end of the spectrum, expect to see down the track a Jaguar XE R to rival the BMW M3, potentially using the F-Type’s force-fed V8 engine.

All three of these four-pot engines are available in the entry Prestige specification, priced from $60,400 for the 20t, $62,800 for the 20d and $64,900 for the 25t — the latter of which appears to represent excellent value for the amount of power you get (a 180kW BMW 328i costs $70,400, for instance).

You can also get all three in sportier R-Sport form, commanding a $4000 premium across the board over the Prestige. See below for a full list of the extra equipment you get for that. The Portfolio is only available with the 25t engine, for an extra $1500 over the R-Sport version.

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The range-topping supercharged V6 version is a significant $34,000 step up over the Portfolio, at $104,200 (the 225kW/400Nm BMW 335i costs $93,430).

All variants come with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddles as standard, and all are rear-wheel drive. AWD versions are expected, though it’s unclear if Australia would get them at this stage. For now, at least, the XE is available as a sedan only, but the man who designed the XE, Ian Callum, has told CarAdvice in the past that the brand is investigating both wagon and coupe options.

Naturally, there’s also a wide range of options to be had, with various wheel styles and sizes, trim options and technology additions such as a heads-up display linked to a solar-attenuating windscreen ($1770). Digital radio is a $540 option, which seems high.

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You can also get adaptive cruise control with Forward Alert for $1750, a powered boot lid for $850, panoramic sunroof for $1800, heated front and rear seats for $1240 an a heated steering wheel for $310 — among many options.

Also available for $1850 (standard on the XE S) is Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics system that modifies the response to conditions and your driving style by analysing acceleration and deceleration, cornering, throttle and brake pedal activity.

The new XE is a massively important model for Jaguar, which is down 16.6 per cent this year despite the overall prestige market growing. 

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Jaguar XE Australian pricing (plus on-road costs):

Prestige

  • 20t $60,400
  • 20d $62,800
  • 25t $64,900

R-Sport

  • 20t $64,400
  • 20d $66,800
  • 25t $68,900

Portfolio

  • 25t $70,400

S V6

  •  $104,200

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Jaguar XE Australian specifications:

Prestige

  • Eight-speed automatic transmission with paddleshifters
  • Jaguar All Surface Progress Control with torque vectoring
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system
  • 18-inch ‘Arm’ six spoke alloy wheels
  • Front and rear parking sensors with rear camera
  • Automatic park assist with parallel and bay parking and parking exit
  • Blind spot monitor with reverse traffic detection and closing vehicle sensing
  • Lane departure warning with autonomous emergency braking
  • Electric power folding mirrors with auto-dimming and reverse auto-dipping
  • Keyless start and keyless entry
  • Bi-function HID Xenon automatic headlamps
  • 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and voice control
  • 380W Meridian sound system with 11 speakers and subwoofer
  • Taurus leather seats with 10-way electric adjustment plus four-way electric lumbar adjustment
  • Memory control for exterior mirrors, steering column and driver front seat
  • Dual-zone climate control with air quality sensor
  • 40:20:40 split fold rear seat

R-Sport

In addition to Prestige standard specification

  • Sports seats in Luxtec with Technical mesh inserts
  • 18-inch ‘Star’ five spoke alloy wheels
  • Sports suspension
  • R-Sport body kit includes R-Sport front bumper, body coloured side sills and bootlid spoiler, gloss black window surrounds
  • R-Sport branding on steering wheel, sill plates and side power vents

Portfolio

In addition to R-Sport standard specification

  • 18-inch ‘Matrix’ seven-twin spoke alloy wheels
  • Soft-grain Windsor leather seats with Herringbone perforation and tonal stitching
  • Leatherette wrapped instrument panel
  • Gloss figured ebony veneer
  • Rear window electric sunblind

S

In addition to Portfolio standard specification

  • Sports seats Taurus leather with suede cloth inserts
  • Adaptive Dynamics with sports suspension
  • 19-inch ‘Venom’ five-twin spoke allow wheels with red brake calipers
  • ‘S’ bodykit includes ‘S’ front bumper, body coloured and gloss black side sills, gloss black rear valance and window surrounds
  • Sports leatherette wrapped instrument panel
  • ‘S’ branding on steering wheel, sill plates
  • Bright finish pedal kit, black headlining and tailpipe finishers



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