XE poised to do much better than its predecessor in compact premium sedan segment
Jag cub all grown up The Jaguar XE has a big and dignified road presence. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

The XE may be positioned as an entry-level Jaguar, but there are very few things that give away its place on the product totem pole.

When compared with its predecessor, the X-Type, or a current rival such as the BMW 318i, the XE shines brightly.

Size-wise, it is bigger than the BMW 3-series and just about matches the statuesque MercedesBenz C-class. Its wheelbase is just 5mm shy of the Merc's class-leading mid-section.

While the Ford-based X-Type looked like a severely shrunken version of the XJ (and therefore a little comical), the XE has a big and dignified road presence. It is clear that it shares Jaguar's new design DNA and yet has its own identity. And going by the admiring glances it has been getting, it is a winner in the looks department.

Inside, the car gets a similar treatment as the XF and XJ, albeit pared down a little. You will find a semi-digitised instrument panel, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen (which doubles as reverse camera monitor), a pop-up rotary transmission switch and a layout made familiar with flowing lines, chrome and leather.

There are plastic surfaces, of course, and some of them feel hard and hollow to the touch. These bits diminish the overall premium feel of the car. Thankfully, its steering wheel is leather wrapped.

Both the 3-series and C-class have slightly better finishing inside.

Still, the car is far from "mass market". Its equipment level is more than adequate and includes a slew of safety and dynamic aids such as the All Surface Progress Control, which prevents wheelspin in slippery conditions between 3.6 and 30kmh.

You can select drive modes, change gears manually via steeringmounted paddles, set cruising speeds with your thumb and open and close the boot lid at the touch of a button.

You will find an electronic parking brake lever, but without an auto-hold function. The driver's seat has memory function and the overhead lights are touch-operated.

The infotainment set comes with navigation, phone connectivity and an 80-watt, six-speaker hi-fi which is not as rich-sounding as you would expect, but is nonetheless crisp.

On the go, the XE conveys unusual vigour for a car of its generous dimensions and relatively modest output (200bhp from a 2-litre turbo tuned for efficiency).

It responds to throttle input eagerly and sustains this eagerness throughout the mid-range.

Working with the car's eightspeed autobox, it maintains a semblance of Jaguar's trademark feline pace and grace. At the same time, there is a hint of a wild cat we recently had a glimpse of in the F-Type, especially if you wind down a window when you rev.

Thanks to its comparatively low weight of 1.53 tonnes, the car aces the century sprint in 7.7 seconds.

The helm feels very natural for an electric power steering - weighty, confident and responsive. The car betrays some body roll with enthusiastic steering, but is otherwise steady and sturdy around an arc, thanks to its wide and low stance.

Like most Jags, its chassis - front double wishbone and integral link suspension in the rear - is comfortbiased. But only just so. Hence you get a bigger measure of sportiness than in a regular Jag sedan.

In terms of overall driving sensation, its closest rival is probably the Lexus IS, which it beats in terms of verve, but does not match in areas of refinement and comfort.

That aside, the XE is a creditable effort by Jaguar to penetrate the compact premium sedan segment. It is far better than the X-Type, but it may still not be good enough to pull buyers away from the C-class.

CAR INFORMATION

Jaguar XE 2.0 Prestige (A)

Price

:$184,999

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,999 cc

Horsepower

:

197 bhp / 5,500 rpm

Torque

:

320 Nm / 4,000 rpm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A) Jaguar Sequential Shift

Acceleration

:

7.7 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

237 km/h