Review: Jaguar XE R Sport – The leap after the crouchReviews
The last time Jaguar entered the premium compact sedan game with the X Type, things didn’t really turn out in the brand's favour as the car simply failed to impress both in terms of design or sheer driving pleasure.
For a car that was in a segment where sportiness is much sought after, the X Type was just too conservative. Plus, it was in the same segment as models like the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and the Audi A4 that were just so much more fun to look at and to be in.
But just like how a Jaguar would crouch for a moment before making a huge leap forward towards its prey in the wild, the British carmaker took its time, discreetly working on the X Type’s successor – the XE, which eventually made its global debut in 2014 and its Malaysian debut a couple of months ago.
Engine: 2.0 Litre in-line four turbocharged petrol
Max Power: 240PS at 5,500rpm
Max Torque: 340Nm from 1,750 to 4,000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with torque converter
Safety features: 6 airbags, Hill Launch Assist, Emergency Brake Assist, Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control, Isofix, rear camera
Origin: Fully imported from the UK
In Malaysia, the Jaguar XE is offered in three variants:
- Jaguar XE 2.0 Prestige (200PS/280Nm) – RM344,730
- Jaguar XE 2.0 R-Sport (240PS/340Nm) – RM365,730
- Jaguar XE 3.0 S (340PS/450Nm) – RM582,467
The model which we reviewed was the XE 2.0 R-Sport, which is the mid-range variant. Although the R-Sport is powered by the same 2.0-litre engine as the XE Prestige, it has been tuned to produce more power. Besides being able to kick out 40PS more than the Prestige, the XE R-Sport is capable of sprinting from standstill to 100km/h in 6.8 seconds, and achieves a claimed top speed of 250km/h. And paired to the Ford-derived engine is an eight-speed automatic transmission by ZF.
Now, as much as the Malaysian market is concerned, just because the XE is in the same segment as the 3-Series, C-Class, and the Audi A4, we can’t really put them directly against one another due to its positioning within the segment.
While the 3-Series, C-Class, and the A4 are in a war of their own, the XE, like the Lexus IS 200t, is priced much higher as both these models are fully imported So, it wouldn’t really make sense to put the Brit directly against the Germans.
As we mentioned in the launch report, the big news about the XE is that it is the first Jaguar to be constructed on the brand’s new modular aluminium-intensive platform, which would also underpin many of the brand’s upcoming models such as the F-Pace SUV and the new XF which are expected to make their Malaysian debut later this year.
Coming back to the XE, all variants are offered with a five-year or 150,000km warranty along with a three-year roadside assist package. Owners of the 2.0-litre Prestige and R-Sport variants are also eligible for a five-year or 80,000km free scheduled maintenance while the 3.0-litre S variant receives a five-year or 65,000km package.
Measuring at 4,672mm long, 1,850mm wide and 1,416mm tall with a wheelbase length of 2,835mm long, the XE is 48mm longer, 40mm wider, and 13mm shorter than the BMW F30 3 Series.
The R-Sport variant which we tested comes with an exclusive body kit which includes an R-Sport front bumper, body-coloured side sills, chromed power vents, as well as a rear spoiler. This variant also gets 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels as standard. However, the particular unit which we reviewed was fitted with19-inch rubbers and wheels.
While the Prestige variant gets chromed lining around the windows, the grille and the air vents, the R-Sport variant, similar to the S variant, gets gloss black accents, which give the car a sportier and more menacing appearance. The icing on the cake is of course, the black wheels and the ‘bare’ exhaust tips.
Compared to the X-Type, the XE is eons ahead as far as looks are concerned. There is just something about the XE’s simplicity that makes it attractive. Although it is not half as sharp as the F-Type or the Project 7, the XE, which takes a lot of inspiration from the XJ and the XF, is still a handsome car and remains just as outstanding and recognizable as its two-door siblings in the stable.
As impressive it was on the outside, the XE’s interior was a bit of a letdown due to a couple of things. Firstly, the quality of the interior trim could’ve been much better. For a car that costs more than RM350,000, there should’ve been more leather or at least, some premium soft-touch plastic.
And then there were the rear seats which were pretty cramped up. During our stint with the car, occupants who were about 175cm and taller were having a tough time with leg space, and also when they were getting in and out of the car. ‘Thanks’ to the low roofline, headroom came at a premium as well, and by volume the boot is also the smallest in class. So, if space and refinement is something that you’re looking for, you might want to look elsewhere.
On the brighter side, the car comes well equipped with goodies such as the very user-friendly touchscreen infotainment system, climate control, parking sensors, Jaguar Drive Control, Speed Proportional Electric Power Steering, powered seats, Meridian audio system, as well as a retractable panoramic roof. Unlike the rear seats, the two seats upfront provided great support and comfort at all times.
How does it drive?
Behind the wheel, the Jaguar XE felt dynamic yet comfortable at the same time. While most of its rivals in the same segment have struggled to achieve the perfect balance between comfort and dynamism, Jaguar has somehow managed to get it right. Regardless of whether we were cruising on the highway, stuck in mid-day traffic, blasting through some twisty bits, or traversing through the potholes of Petaling Jaya, the car felt super comfortable at any given time.
And despite the size, the XE was remarkably agile, thanks to the relatively lightweight aluminium chassis. Besides that, the sophisticated multi-link suspension setup smothered all bumps and lumps respectably while keeping the wheels firmly in contact with the road.
There are four driving modes to choose from – Normal, Eco, Dynamic, and Winter, in which the car’s characteristics differed significantly from one mode to another. In Normal and Eco mode, the car felt like any other 2.0-litre sedan out there cruising about the city. The steering wheel and accelerator pedal felt rather heavy, and we needed to work the engine quite a bit to get some power in return.
In Dynamic mode however, things got pretty interesting. The first thing we noticed was that the colour of the instrument panel turned from blue to red, indicating that the big cat meant serious business in this mode.
What happens in this mode is that the steering becomes lighter and more responsive and the throttle becomes more sensitive, allowing us to rev the engine harder and go quicker. Even the slightest of touches on the accelerator pedal had the car nudging forward, asking for more.
Complemented by the combination of brilliantly tuned chassis and suspensions, the car felt planted at all times, did exactly what we expected it to do at corners, and instilled a lot of confidence in us while driving it.
But is it more fun to drive than its German rivals? Maybe not in Eco or Normal mode, but in Dynamic mode, absolutely!
How economical is it?
Throughout our stint with the XE, we clocked an average fuel consumption of 9.8-litres/100km, which was slightly more than the claimed 7.5litres/100km, probably because we spent most of our time driving it hard.
Just like any other car out there, the XE has its strengths and its shortcomings, but it has definitely taken a giant leap forward from what its predecessor was. On the plus side, it looks good, feels comfortable to be in, and has turned out to be an absolute joy to drive. On the downside, there is the lack of cabin space and refinement.
In case you’re wondering if it is worth spending additional money for a car that is still in the same segment as the 3-Series, C-Class, and the A4 which ask for less, remember that exclusivity does come at a price. Plus, no matter where the XE goes, it will definitely stand out from the sea of ‘3’s and ‘C’s.
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