The 2015 Jaguar XE S is the sportiest version of the new compact luxury sedan the brand has released so far. It's also surprisingly luxurious...
This isn’t the most hardcore version of the Jaguar XE that will exist – there’s bound to be a Jaguar XE RS or SVR later on – but until then, the Jaguar XE S is one fantastic piece of machinery.
Specifically, when it comes to the XE S, the German cars you won’t be buying are the Audi S4 ($104,610), BMW 340i ($89,900) or Mercedes-Benz C 450 AMG (pricing not yet known, expected to be about $110,000).
There’s a common thread between all of these models, and it’s not just that they're close on price and from a similar part of the planet: it’s that they all have six-cylinder engines.
Powering the Jaguar XE S is a 3.0-litre supercharged V6, producing 250kW of power at 6500rpm and 450Nm of torque at 4500rpm.
Further context: Audi S4, 245kW/440Nm 3.0-litre supercharged V6; BMW 340i, 240kW/450Nm 3.0-litre turbocharged six; Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG, 270kW/520Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo six.
It’s rear-wheel drive, with an eight-speed automatic gearbox doing its best to funnel grunt to the ground. And, for the most part, that drive does make it to the tarmac, but the way the British engineers have set up the chassis of the XE S means you can get the back end to move around through corners, even when it’s not in Sport mode. And it’s heaps of fun.
With a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.1 seconds and a howling exhaust note and addictive supercharger whine, this engine has a very different character to the rest of the turbocharged XE ranks. Indeed, it’s better for it, because there’s hardly any low-rev lag, and the visceral nature of the high-revving engine makes for a pretty engaging experience.
The eight-speed automatic has a manual shift mode with paddles, and it will blip between shifts, and the exhaust will burp and burble when you lift of the throttle high in the rev range. It revs freely, and when the gearbox is left to its own devices it will shift cleverly under braking and quickly when accelerating.
Through corners the XE has a very playful nature; it will oversteer without feeling dangerously loose on the road, and the stability control system won’t intervene unless it’s entirely necessary.
It is agile, lively, beautifully balanced, and the electric steering system offers a nice amount of feel to the driver’s hands in the twisty stuff. There’s a fantastic amount of grip at the nose of the car, too, yet the car feels light and nimble, and it eggs you on to push harder, such is the ease of progress.
Jaguar claims that the aluminium-intensive chassis of the XE is designed to be “robust yet light”, and that the double front wishbone suspension and “Integral Link” multi-link suspension which has been filtered down from the XF and XJ.
In combination, the suspension offers a tremendous balance between comfort and control, and the standard-fit adaptive dampers manage to seamlessly iron out bumps. In fact, the ride was so good in the XE S we had people in the office asking us if this was a base model or on air suspension.
But the fact it rides on 19-inch wheels with 225-aspect, 40-profile front tyres and 255-aspect, 35-profile rears makes the supple, unflappable nature of the ride all the more impressive.
Indeed, the ride is almost perfect: brilliantly comfortable around town and superbly composed over bumps. You wouldn’t know this was a sports model unless you were told – but everyone who drove the XE S commented on the fact that the front seats were set quite low in the cabin, which adds some sportiness.
And that, perhaps, is part of the problem with the XE S. This is a car that never unleashes its potential until you really open it up, and as a commuter cruiser it is sedate, comfortable and refined. It doesn’t necessarily feel especially sporty in daily driving, such is the refinement of the suspension system – maybe it’s just that we’ve come to expect sportier models in the ranks of luxury brands to ride harder than they should…
On top of that, there’s not a lot of road noise apart from the obligatory tyre roar on coarse-chip surfaces.
There are some problems with the XE – not limited to the S – however, including the rear seat space, which is poor when compared to the likes of the C-Class in terms of leg and headroom. As well as that, the boot – at 450 litres – is smaller than the A4, C-Class sedan and BMW 3er sedan (all 480L).
The XE has a clever 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat, which means skis could poke through the middle and still allow four occupants inside.
The interior is lifted by the excellent 8.0-inch InControl infotainment system. This connectivity suite with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and satellite navigation is quick to load, pretty to look at and we had no issues with phone clarity or reconnection, either.
The tap, pinch and swipe gesture controls means the system is simple to learn, too, and the fact there’s a thumping 11-speaker (with subwoofer) Meridian sound system means the cockpit dance experience is a good one.
But the fact the high-resolution media screen so comprehensively clashes with the pixelated, low-res driver info screen, which in turn doesn’t quite look as premium as it should given the design of the dials, brings down the level of plush in the cabin.
Further, some of the finishes, including the plastics on the dashboard and doors, can’t match those found in the Mercedes for perceived quality, even when optioned up (as our car was).
The XE S we had on test was trimmed with the optional blue (naff, in this writer’s opinion) perforated leather trim, a $1900 option, as well as carbonfibre veneer ($2150). Also fitted was DAB radio (should be standard, but costs $540), a heated steering wheel ($310) and heated and cooled front seats with rear heated seats ($1770). The panoramic glass roof of our test car was also optional, at $1800.
Back to that context: the much cheaper BMW has heated seats standard, as well as adaptive cruise control, which is a further option on the XE S bundled with autonomous emergency braking ($1750).
Still, the XE S – as with all XE models – gets a reverse-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, auto-dipping side mirrors with dimming, and automated parking assistance (parallel and bay parking, and parking exit). Further to that parking helper, fitted to our car was the advanced parking assistance pack, with perpendicular semi-automated parking, and a 360-degree camera system ($1580).
As is par for the course, keyless entry and push-button start are standard, as are xenon headlights, dual-zone climate control (which, despite having and “air quality sensor” has an annoying timed recirculation system that can feed smoggy air in to the cabin in long tunnels!), and the front seats have electric seat adjustment with driver’s memory settings for the seat, electric steering column and side mirrors.
Jaguar offers a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty on all of its models, and the XE ushers in the first-ever capped-price servicing program for the brand. The intervals are lengthy, at 12 months or 26,000km per visit, and the program lasts five years/130,000km. The program costs $1500 for the full period of cover at the time of purchase.
The supercharged Jaguar XE S is an impressive sports sedan that is reasonably well equipped, decently priced compared to its rivals, and properly fun in the right situation.
The interior could be a bit better, especially given its competitive set, so passengers may not be as impressed in the XE S as they would in a C-Class. But as a driver’s car, it is a thoroughly impressive vehicle.
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