Jaguar jumps back into the compact luxury segment for 2017 with the XE sports sedan, which the company launched this spring and touted as an "aluminum-intensive drivers car." Jag has been on a roll as of late with its sleek F-Type sports car and new F-Pace SUV, so how does the XE stack up?
Appearance: The model we drove was the XE 35t AWD Prestige. From its sloping and sculpted hood to the subtle touches that recall the F-Type, the XE may be a compact car, but it's neither small nor boring. Our XE came in Ammonite Gray, which gave it a menacing look set off by 19-inch Venom 5 twin-spoke black wheels and a gloss-black mesh grille highlighted by a red Jaguar badge. The XE also has Jag's signature J-Blade daytime running lights, while the tail lights have a hint of the rear lamps on the F-Type. A minor complaint: The dual exhaust tips lack integrated finishers; chrome tips would have been nice to enhance the sporty look.
Performance: Our XE came with a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 that produces 340 horsepower and can be found under the hood in one of the F-Type models. Also available are a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and a 2.0-liter turbo diesel. The V-6 is paired with an 8-speed ZF automatic with paddle shifters. Jaguar says it goes from 0-60 in a respectable 5.1 seconds. Rear-wheel drive is standard; our tester had the optional AWD, which transfers torque to the front wheels only when needed, which Jaguar says maintains the XE's "rear-wheel drive character." The car's architecture also makes heavy use of aluminum to reduce weight. It has Jaguar's Adaptive Dynamics system lets you adjust the settings for engine, steering, gearshift and suspension. So what does all this mean for the everyday driver? Peter felt the XE was one of better-handling and responsive small sedans he's driven, with steering input that reacts as quicky as a big cat. Lyra calls the XE "zippy and fun to drive with minimal turbo lag." The estimated MPG, however, is just so-so at 20 city, 29 highway.
Interior: The cabin has a graceful design, with the dashboard curving away from driver and passenger and extending into the door panel in one swooping arc. Our XE's cabin was a bit too monochromatic, however, with black dash and black seats; only the light gray headliner kept it from feeling like a cave. As with all Jags, the rotary gear shifter rises out of the console when you turn on the engine and the steering wheel is thick and wrapped in soft-grain leather. The front seats are designed more for comfort than for performance, without much side bolstering. The split-fold rear seats are a tight fit, and there isn't much legroom for passengers. The XE Prestige trim also has Jag's upgraded 10.2-inch infotainment display, which has only virtual buttons. It's large and attractive, but we found its performance sluggish. Besides the screen, the cabin does have some attractive accents — the satin chrome trim around the air vents, for example — but some of the surfaces and controls felt less than premium. We hope Jaguar refocuses on these details.
Our 3 favorites
Handling: It puts the sport in sport sedan.
Chrome side vents: A link to the rest of the Jaguar line.
Design: It has an understated elegance.
Cabin fever: Unique dash design that seems to wrap the interior.
Price point: Starting price of $34,900.
Peppy ride: Fun to drive with quick acceleration and responsive handling.
The bottom line: In its supercharged V-6 guise, we really enjoyed driving the XE, which should be on your list to consider if you want a nimble premium sedan.