Auto focus

Baby Jag takes a swing at the German Trio

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 23, 2018

Signature style: Even if the logo were to be camouflaged, the XE would be instantly recognisable as a Jaguar. - Photo: S MURALIDHAR

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE10.jpg

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE11.jpg

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE12.jpg

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE2.jpg

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE3.jpg

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE4.jpg

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE5.jpg

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE6.jpg

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE7.jpg

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE8.jpg

bl15_auto_Jaguar_XE9.jpg

Jaguar’s smallest saloon has a lot of brand character and comes loaded. Now let’s wait for the results of the bout.

The Jaguar XE has been under development for sometime now and there are great expectations from this mass-market luxury car both within the company and amongst its potential customers. The new Baby Jag enters a difficult segment where there are established brands — especially the three German marques — which have a strong hold of the market in this category. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the BMW 3-Series and the Audi A4, have pretty much carved up the market for themselves…till now.

Jaguar Cars has adopted a smart strategy — the ‘top-down’ approach — bringing in elements from the F-Type into the XE for a positive rub-off effect. The front suspension is from the F-Type, as are the small elements such as the LED signatures in the headlamps and tail-lamps. The range topping XE S model also gets the F-Type’s 3-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine. We got to drive the XE recently, as part of an international test drive programme, on the track, the motorways and the winding roads of Navarra in Spain to get a feel of the baby Jag.

Design

The new XE’s design is quintessentially Jaguar, and there are a number design lines that are signatures of the company’s Designer Director Ian Callum. True to Jaguar’s design ideals, the XE’s cabin is pushed to the rear, and the long bonnet and stubby boot contribute to the historical characteristics of the brand. So, like the E-Type, the XE too manages to look fast even while standing still.

Depending on the trim, the front of the XE gets variations to the fender’s features, such as a larger airdam, flared sills and a more prominent valence. The headlamps borrow inspiration from various models, but are striking and slightly wicked. Viewed from the side, the XE’s classic Jag profile strikes you — especially the raised shoulder line whose ends merge into the headlamps and tail-lamps and the coupe-like roofline. The 19-inch alloys you see in these pictures are available only in the top-of-the-line XE S.

The roof slopes down sharply right past the B-pillar and seems like it might compromise rear seat headroom. However, Jaguar engineers have scooped out the roof moulding just enough to offer a couple of more inches of headroom. The rear of the new XE is relatively simple in terms of design. The taillamp design is straight-forward, but its combination sports the signature F-Type style LED brake light. The boot lid hides a fairly sizeable luggage area.

Cabin

If the XE’s exterior looked a bit too Jaguar, and didn’t make you go “OMG”, the cabin manages to deliver some of it. Step in and you’ll discover a plush, exceptionally neat passenger space. There is a sense of proportion and the layer concept for the dash and door trim give a feeling of being in a luxurious cabin. Accentuating the cocooning effect is the ‘Riva loop’ — as Jaguar designers call it — that is a design element which makes it look like a U-shaped flourish line that runs across from the top of one door panel across over the dash and back on to the other door panel.

The tall centre console and the centre stack seem to have been inspired a bit by other Jags and a bit by Range Rovers. Reminding you that the XE is a Jag, the seating position is set low, but adjustments to seat and steering will make sure you get the most comfy driving position. The familiar, chunky three-spoke multi-function steering wheel and the F-Type inspired dials offer the driver all the key info and controls at his finger-tips. The new 8-inch infotainment screen with its connected system can offer more info with a range of downloadable apps for further expanding the use of a smartphone paired with the car.

The apps, including ones for turning on the aircon before you get into the car or for securing your car from anywhere in the world, will not be available initially in the India-spec XE.

The front seats are perfectly contoured and bolstered for optimum support and the rear seats are also constructed to offer individual support. What this means is that the rear bench is best suited for two passengers. In fact, the relatively lower legroom and the tall centre transmission tunnel could make it uncomfortable for a middle passenger. The aircon vents on top of the tunnel and the flip open handrest for the rear passengers also need better positioning to avoid snagging with the legs of rear passengers. But, the XE’s cabin isn’t lacking in drama what with Jaguar’s pop up, rotary gear knob and discreet mood lighting. Add to that the double-stitched leather trim, refined Meridian music system and high-end features such as a laser head-up display, and the new XE can take the fight to the Merc C-Class — the current segment benchmark.

Performance

The new XE is being offered with three engines — a two-litre petrol, the new two-litre Ingenium diesel engine and the three-litre V6 petrol unit from the F-Type. But, with the option of choosing the first two engines in two different states of tune and with the option of choosing manual or automatic transmissions, the buyer can potentially get seven different combinations. For the Indian market we are guessing that the diesel engine will be offered in both states of tune, the petrol in its lower state and the V6, of course, could make it just for its halo effect.

We tested the XE with all three engines. The Ingenium engine variants will invariably be the ones that will likely sell the most here. Thankfully, it lives up to all the hype. The engine is offered in two states of tune - with peak outputs of 163PS and 180PS, and maximum torque of 380 and 430 Nm respectively. This engine is paired with either a 6-speed manual or the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. We drove the auto tranny, which will most likely make it here. It is a refined engine with low intrinsic noise levels and the cabin is well insulated. This is also a frugal powertrain capable of delivering a claimed fuel efficiency of 3.8 litres per 100 kilometres.

The two-litre petrol powertrain feels a bit less quick off the block, but the general character of all three engines is linear acceleration. Even the V6 seems to deliver power in a linear fashion, though it must be arriving fast to enable it to reach the 100 kmph mark in 5.1 seconds. The XE S’ exhaust note is great to listen to and despite its hefty 340PS of peak power, it is extremely driveable. A part of the credit must go to the new electric power steering, which may not offer as much feedback as some of the other cars in the segment, but is extremely precise and quick. It is easy to get the car back in line, even after you think you’ve over-cooked a corner.

Bottomline

The Jag XE features a light-weight, rigid monocoque that is 75 per cent aluminium. Its stiffness and torsional rigidity helps in the handling department, but may contribute to an over firm ride on poorly laid Indian roads. But, we are sure that the choice of tyres and suspension settings for the India-spec will be different. In addition to the regular safety features, the XE also gets autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and a new all-surface progress control for improved traction in adverse conditions.

The XE is capable of being a serious contender in the mid-size luxury saloon market. Jaguar still has to price the car right to prod new buyers of the brand to take to the XE. The segment is fast emerging a favourite amongst younger buyers and they aren’t stuck with brand loyalty issues. Expect the Baby Jag to arrive on Indian shores early 2016.

Published on May 14, 2015

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor