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Test driving the Jaguar XE 25t

The Brits have a new challenger in the sport-luxury sedan arena dominated by the Germans thus far. Is this new big cat wild enough to command a rethink?

The Jaguar XE is the replacement for the X-Type, its previous luxury sedan. However, the XE brings in a whole new look, with design akin to that of the XF. And, although smaller, it feels just as special as its elder sibling. Jaguar created the XE to be the best driving car in its class.

The Jaguar XE is the first car to use aluminium in over 75 per cent in its construction. In fact, they’ve created a special alloy just for it: RC5754. Thus, the XE isn’t just lightweight and rigid, but, thanks to Jaguar's engineering prowess, also agile and immense fun. But, let’s get down to business.

Finely crafted interiors are to be expected from a Jag
Finely crafted interiors are to be expected from a Jag

The exterior evokes a coupé flame. The prominent lines, curves and swooping profile – make it look extremely agile and sporty, even when it stands still. Its silhouette, against the sun, too, is exciting enough to stare at all afternoon, as you're sitting sipping a cold beverage with the wind teasing your hair. At just over 4.6 metres long, it is quite compact and the weight distribution seems like something that was listed on page one of the checklist. Inside, the XE is a spread of leather and quality materials that make it distinctly Jag. The dark tone of the headlining, the supple brown leather and the leaping cat on the wheel are complemented by a driver-oriented centre console complete with a full-colour high-resolution digital display (with Bosch mySPIN).


Form and function merge to create a brilliant taillight

The XE was always created to be a driver’s car and Jaguar has assumed that the infants and toddlers will be in the back seat and, when they grow up, will leave for college and never see the car for a while. The room at the rear says just that. While the front seats are excellent in terms of ergonomics and room, the same can’t be said about the rear. Ergonomics, yes; room, no. But not every buyer will have to deal with four six-footers in the car very often, will they?

Large boot is practical and usable
Large boot is practical and usable

The 2.0-litre turbo-four 200-PS Pure starts the range off, but this one, the 240-PS 25t Portfolio, is what we were really interested in. A few years ago, 240 PS was V6 territory. Now it’s more accessible and shows up with an even greater number of torque: 340 Nm in this guise.

The 2-litre turbo petrol puts out 240 PS and does a 0-100 in just under 9 secs. PICS/Sanjay Raikar
The 2-litre turbo petrol puts out 240 PS and does a 0-100 in just under 9 secs. PICS/Sanjay Raikar

Elements of the XF and XJ may reside in its design, but its DNA also has strands of the XK and F-Type. The XE does feel quite tail-happy at times, especially when launching it hard. Give the pedal a kick on the move and then too it wastes no time lunging ahead. Do this with some steering angle and you also get a fun little wiggle. The exhaust note is quite raspy on the way to the red-line. That said, there is a noticeable turbo-lag when you’re caught up in traffic and find an exit, but that’s only until 1,900 revs, post which it digs its claws in and sprints. In ‘Sport’ mode, however, the revs stay relatively high and the claws are on alert.

Acceleration isn’t too brisk, but it isn’t slow by any means. At 158 PS/tonne, it does deliver more oomph than its rear-driven 120-PS/tonne German competitor, but is still 24 PS/tonne down on its front-driven Swedish rival. It feels light, yet planted.
The steering feel surely keeps you engaged and the paddle-shifters just add that little bit extra to the fun factor. That’s the keyword: fun. The XE delivers that in spades. It may have an air of luxury British and a stiff upper lip, but, man, it can growl and keep you entertained. You simply don’t buy a rorty petrol sport-luxury sedan to hop in the back. No, you get in there and you drive, and you explore. The XE eggs you on. On the straights, it will rocket forward and hit a claimed limited 250 km/h.

The turn in is quick, the brakes are excellent and very effective, and the suspension soaks up the bumps very well. Undulations are dealt with easily without upsetting the balance and, now that I think about, the cabin sound levels were also very good. Sound deadening is a plus if you don’t like the loud hustle and bustle outside. The Jag scores high on the finer aspects of the ride. The whole premium feel is maintained very well.

So the bottom line: how does it stack up? It’s probably just as fun to drive as the BMW 328i, but that’s not available any more, and BMW don’t seem likely to get the new 252-PS 330i here anytime soon. The Merc C 200 is down on power and the 250 is nowhere in sight either. Then there are the two front-wheel-driven challengers in this arena: Audi A4 35 TFSI, which is a 1.8-litre four with 170 PS, and Volvo S60 T6 with 306 PS from its supe'd and turbo’d 2.0 four. At R46.5 lakh (ex-Pune) the XE 25t Portfolio is loaded with kit and promises a fun drive, but, ultimately, it’s down to the little details.

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