Driven: 2017 Jaguar XE R-Sport

Written by Lee Bailie on .

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While I would hesitate to suggest Jaguar is a mainstream manufacturer, if the company keeps having sales months like it just had in March, it will be difficult to view the iconic British luxury carmaker as anything less.

Jaguar sold 746 cars in Canada in March, which marked a 227 percent (not a typo) increase over March 2016, and while that figure isn’t large in and of itself – Honda sold 8,145 Civics during the same period – it marked the brand’s best-ever sales month in Canada.

From a year-to-date perspective, the gain is even more impressive with a total of 1,315 units sold through March 31, which is a meteoric increase of 235 percent over Q1 2016.

And while the gorgeous F-Type coupe / convertible has certainly helped to rejuvenate Jaguar since it was introduced in 2013, the two cars that are most responsible for its massive recent sales gains are the F-Pace SUV and compact executive XE sedan.

Ignition spent a week behind the wheel of F-Pace last November and was quite impressed with Jaguar’s first-ever SUV. The review can be found here.

The F-Pace is Jaguar’s best-selling vehicle in North America, but hot on its heels on the sales charts is the focus of this review: the XE.

Built to take on the best from Germany (Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class), the XE has been on sale for about a year, and has quickly found favour with North American buyers.

It is solidly entrenched as the no. 2 selling Jag in Canada, and seems to have hit the sweet spot when it comes to price, performance, style and value. More on that later.

First, the basics of the XE in Canada.

It’s available with two engines, a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel (180 hp / 318 lb-ft.) and a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 (340 hp / 332 lb-ft.), both of which are paired with a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is standard on all Canadian market cars.

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Three trims are available – Premium, Prestige and R-Sport – that range in price from $45,000 to $57,500.

My tester, an optioned-out Caesium Blue R-Sport, checks in at just over $71,000, yet due to the time of year of my booking (early April) it was still outfitted with winter tires. Great as they may be for those early-spring snow days, they don’t photograph particularly well.

At any rate, the above-the-fold news about the XE is that it is first model built on JLR’s new modular architecture and features a predominantly aluminum structure. Of note, the F-Pace and the forthcoming Range Rover Velar are also based on the same platform.

Lightweighting and rigidity are the orders of the day for the XE’s structure. Body panels are made from high-strength 6000-series aluminum, which has the strength of steel but is 1.1 mm thick as opposed to steel (1.5 mm).

The XE also makes use of a generous amount of recycled aluminum (RC 5754), which is a part of Jaguar’s energy saving initiatives in manufacturing. Each car also contains roughly 101 pounds of recycled plastics and other renewables.

Much of the XE’s chassis is also made from aluminum, including suspension components. The car rides on a double wishbone up front, with an integral link system in the rear. A weight-saving electric power steering system is standard.

From a looks perspective, the XE bears a strong family resemblance to the larger XF and XJ sedans. This means a prominent grille, with large, cat-like headlights, big front air intakes and a slippery profile that’s clearly benefitted from a lot of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulations.

In short, it’s a handsome car and Jaguar has resisted the urge to overthink the design. The XE’s lines flow nicely from end to end, with shapes that are unmistakably Jaguar.

The same is true for the interior, where one is immediately greeted by textures, interfaces and graphics that call to mind other Jaguars of recent vintage, from the heated and cooled leather seats to brushed metallic trim accents and metallic knob gear selector.

The only aspect of the XE’s cabin that appeared to be new is the infotainment system, which now features an eight-inch capacitive colour touchscreen.

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InControl Touch, as Jaguar calls it, has the usual stuff (navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, USB connectivity, etc.) plus Jaguar InControl Apps which enables the user to access smartphone apps through the car’s touchscreen.

Additionally, InControl Remote allows iOS and Android smartphone users to remotely control some of the XE’s functions such as deactivating the alarm, locking / unlocking doors and heating or cooling the cabin through engine start.

Because this is Jaguar, my tester also came loaded for bear with an optional Meridian digital surround sound system, a magnificent sounding 825-watt, 17-speaker (with subwoofer) stereo.

Having driven several Jaguars in recent years, I had some idea about what the XE would be like to drive, and I’m pleased to say the car lived up to my expectations.

The supercharged V6 emits a pleasing growl at start up and under acceleration. This is especially true when the gear selector is dialed to sport and the dynamic mode button on the centre console is engaged.

At this point the XE’s throttle mapping and transmission shift points are at their most aggressive, the exhaust drone is at its loudest and the car becomes quite quick. I didn’t perform any acceleration testing, but Jaguar’s official 0-100 km/h time of 5.1 seconds seems legit.

On the handling front, the XE falls more on the sporty / stiff side of the ride quality scale, which is what one should expect for a car in this class. As I mentioned, the car I drove was still riding on softer winter tires, so handling would likely become even more responsive once 20-inch wheels ($1,500 option) wrapped in high-performance summer rubber are bolted on.

Despite being pretty firmly damped, the XE still produces a reasonably quiet and comfortable ride and the car feels light on its feet to boot. I would welcome the opportunity to hustle this car on track or an autocross course, where I imagine it would acquit itself well.

As I mentioned earlier, the pool the XE is swimming in is deep with a lot of German talent, not to mention a few worthy Japanese and American entries. Sales conquests for upstart entrants can be tough in a category where so many owners simply roll their leases over.

With that said, the XE’s price range is in line with its German rivals and it offers similar levels of available performance, craftsmanship, style and technology.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Jaguar has a lot riding on the XE – the company has spent almost $2.6 billion on an expansion at the Solihull, England plant that builds it – and while it’s still early, the car is paying dividends.

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SPECIFICATIONS2017 Jaguar XE R-Sport

BASE PRICE / AS TESTED: $57,500 / $71,050 (incl. $1,500 destination)
ENGINE:
3.0L Supercharged V6
HORSEPOWER:
340 hp @ 6,500 rpm
TORQUE: 
332 lb-ft. @ 4,500 rpm
CURB WEIGHT:
1,721 kg
CONFIGURATION:
front engine, all-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (L/100 KM - CITY / HWY. / COMB.):
11.8 / 8.2 / 10.2
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM):
48 / 80,000
ALTERNATIVES:
Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class

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Options

Driver Assistance Package ($3,100)
- Traffic sign recognition / Adaptive speed limiter
- Surround camera system
- 360-degree parking aid
- Perpendicular parking system
- Adaptive cruise control with queue assist

Technology Package ($2,600)
- Navigation system
- Pro services for warranty period
- Meridian digital surround sound system

Comfort & Convenience Package ($2,000)
- Power-operated trunk
- Heated / cooled front seats, heated rear seats
- Power-operated rear window sunshade

Accessories and / or Stand Alone Options

Heated front windscreen ($400)
Head-up display ($1,000)
Carbon fibre finisher ($800)
Caesium Blue paint ($650)


Total – $12,050

Photography by Lee Bailie

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