Jaguar practically invented the compact executive car in the Swinging Sixties: its iconic Mk2 set the benchmark that all other automakers would follow. Of course, those heady days were well behind it when, in 2001, the company attempted to reenter the market it had pioneered with that Mk2.
Then operating under the aegis of Ford, Jaguar’s X-type was based on a platform shared with the Mondeo. Although the new compact Jaguar — initially only available with all-wheel drive and powered by either a 2.5-litre or a 3.0-litre V6 — looked stylish, the purists were unimpressed by the X-type’s humble Ford antecedents. And while most praised the car’s on-road abilities, for some, there remained the sneaking suspicion that Jaguar was ripping off punters with an overpriced Mondeo pimped up in a flash suit.
As such, X-type sales never climbed to the heights initially projected. The company had planned to sell 100,000 annually, but, at best, only half that figure was ever achieved, with sales quickly sinking to even lower levels despite the addition of diesel-powered variants and, a first for Jaguar, a stylish Ian Callum–penned estate version.
Indian company Tata Motors inherited the X-type in 2008 when it took over Jaguar from Ford, but the car’s days were numbered, with the final examples produced in 2009.
Then, in January 2011, Jaguar intimated that it was working on a replacement for the X-type — an all-new saloon intended to take on the major German manufacturers currently on the leading edge of the compact executive class.
So, is the new Jaguar up to the challenge of tackling BMW, Mercedes-benz, and Audi head on? Before we buckle up and take to the road in the all-new Jaguar XE to find out for ourselves, let’s look at some of the technical details.
Skinning the cat
The XE range is available in three levels — Pure, Prestige, and Sport — and features three different engines: a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit and a 2.0-litre turbo diesel, with the top-of-theline S utilizing the same supercharged 3.0-litre V6 as the entry-level F-type.
While Jaguar’s German competitors merely dabble with the odd aluminium panel, the fact that the Jaguar XE has a completely aluminium platform and the majority (75 per cent) of its body panels pressed in aluminium makes for a genuine point of difference from its rivals. When initially released, the Jaguar XF was intended to feature an all-aluminium chassis, but Ford hit that idea on the head — as you might expect, a lengthened version of the XE’S platform will also underpin the next-generation XF.
The XE’S suspension — fully independent via wishbones up front and lateral links at the rear — also features aluminium construction.
The end result is a stylish-looking saloon that, while following most currently popular design trends, still manages to indisputably look like a Jaguar — a neat trick.
Equally impressive is the XE’S beautifully trimmed cabin that successfully blends thoroughly modern