It is oft times said that, in life, a little rain must fall. Well, old sayings are all very well but this winter has been a bit much, frankly. Then, one day last week, appearing like the sun’s rays through sodden skies, like the first snowdrop that heralds Spring, the Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0L i4 you see in the snaps appeared and suddenly all was right with the world.
My 2016 series of car reviews will be about actually using the vehicles just like normal people rather than just ‘testing’ and also about the efforts made by car makers to achieve a decent driving experience. So it was frustrating that this last week has been blighted by stupid IT issues which have kept me off the road. Nevertheless I’ve had a few runs out and, getting straight to the point, the Jaguar XE has proved to be really rather good. In fact that’s an understatement – it is brilliant.
At The Kerb
Call me old-fashioned but I have a certain 3-point preference when it comes to cars. I like a long bonnet, a short back-end and a V8 engine. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. My first thoughts with the car were that it was all a bit understated, there isn’t even any chrome tailpipes for goodness sake: but look closer.
It’s rear-wheel drive and those wheels are right at the back of the apparently short boot. This gives the car a purposeful, hunkered-down stance augmented by the subtle R-Sport body kit and made whole by the optional (and must-have) 19” Venom wheels. It looks fast standing still.
The Power To Choose
In recent times Jaguar Land Rover have introduced their cleaner, greener ‘Ingenium’ series of engines. Ingenium is an all-new British-built family of compact, lightweight, low-emissions diesel and petrol turbocharged engines that, say JLR, deliver both efficiency and performance. The diesel versions have been available for some time now but there’s no news yet (at time of writing) on the petrol equivalents. Maybe later in 2016.
Because the world is full of diesels I specifically asked for a petrol version and I’m glad I did. For now, the featured car is powered by what is essentially a ‘Jaguarised’ Ford supplied 2.0L four-cylinder turbocharged engine. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a great unit; tried and tested, whisper quiet at tick-over but with a muted rorty note when the pedal is pushed to the carpet.
I know it’s considered the ‘benchmark’ but the 0-60mph time is increasingly irrelevant these days, I reckon. The review car came with the least powerful 197bhp engine and the on-paper sprint to sixty is achieved in 7.3 seconds. These days that’s not a figure that would normally blow our skirts up but neither does it tell the whole story.
The performance is where you need it, on the go, using the gears. Driving through the excellent ZF eight speed auto ‘box the R-Sport delivers strong and even acceleration and overtakes with aplomb. The unwary driver will soon find himself exceeding the limit. That’s when the £1400 Heads-Up Display comes in handy. Not hugely fast then but plenty quick enough. If you prefer, there’s a 237bhp version of this engine but I honestly don’t see the point on British roads. If you want to go properly fast then there’s a full-fat 3.0L V6 petrol engine that satisfies those baser urges.
On The Road
Because most of my time with the car was spent locally, I couldn’t really judge the fuel consumption. Jaguar reckon an average of 37mpg should be on the cards but, let’s be honest here, that is probably not going to happen. Sure, if you stay in ‘Drive’, select the ‘Eco’ option and tread lightly then it may well be possible – but there are other temptations.
Drive Control gives you Normal, Eco and Winter modes but there is also an option marked with a chequered flag symbol so you know where this is going. Choose Sport mode on the rotary selector (Even all these years on I still get a kick with how it rises up from the centre console on start-up), select the chequered flag and reach for the well-sited paddles. Insert foot into carpet.
The Jaguar XE R-Sport (which is now available to order with the extra security of 4WD) is great to drive. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out and say that it is now best in class, beating even the usual premium suspects from Germany. Aided by Torque Vectoring technology – which senses impending understeer during cornering and provides precise braking on the inside rear wheel while feeding torque to the outside rear wheel – the car handles in a relaxed and engaging fashion, no matter what set-up is chosen. Steering is direct and positive with a nice weight and corners are deftly dealt with. Whoever set this car up really knew their job.
At The Shops
With the Advanced Parking Assistance package duly ticked on the option list the car slots easily into supermarket car parking bays. To be honest (it’s not my car after all) I tend to look for empty areas to avoid the nation’s door-bangers but there’s no doubt that with the camera and parking ancillaries parking is made simple.
The boot is perfectly adequate; not the best I’ve seen as it has a slightly odd shape but there’s still tons of room and some useful hooks onto which bag handles can be anchored to avoid scattering groceries to the far corners of the boot. The rear seats split and fold for the awkward stuff that Homebase sell.
Look at the seats! Jet and red leather with optional 10×10 adjustment for a perfect, and I mean perfect, driving position. They’re really comfortably too – you could drive for hours and still get out refreshed.
Not so good in the back though. The XE comes – depending upon your point of view – into the ‘large family’ or ‘small executive’ bracket so lankier rear seat passengers with find it a bit of a squeeze. Ankle-biters are well served with Isofix. All the usual toys are present and correct, including Bluetooth, climate control and the like as you would expect in a prestige motor.
Overall, the interior is a lovely place to be. The wrap-around dash is well laid out with many controls handled through the touchscreen, which, although it works perfectly well, isn’t the latest thing and the navigation is looking a bit dated. Banging Meridian stereo – it was like having Status Quo in the car with me. They were kicked out when Mrs DriveWrite came aboard however. The whole specification is listed below.
The Pound In Your Pocket
As mentioned above, you will be at the pumps more often than with the diesel equivalents, especially if you exploit the spirited driving virtues of the car but that’s always been the case. If you are a high mileage user than the diesels will be for you but if you can get away with it or your mileage is average then I commend the petrol engines to you.
Inevitably, the Ford unit being of older design there’s an emissions penalty in that emissions are a disappointing 179g/km. That means a BIK rate of 30% and VED at £225 at the time of writing. Not desperately concerning but it’s something to think about.
In line with my 2016 parameters the XE makes a great choice for business or pleasure and, most importantly, it is really good to drive. If ever a word was over-used it is ‘brilliant’. I may have used it earlier in this piece but I think I’ll push the boat out and use it again. The Jaguar XE R-Sport is brilliant. Geoff Maxted
Latest XE news: Euro NCAP gives top honours to the Jaguar XE which offers the highest levels of occupant protection and avoidance technology, and rewards the XE as Best in Class of 2015 in the large family segment. Euro NCAP particularly congratulates Jaguar for making all important Safety Assist features standard equipment.