As the dust set­tles af­ter a range cull, will the XE’S true worth be recog­nised?

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - CAMERON KIRBY

THERE’S SOME­THING about the Jaguar XE that hasn’t grabbed the at­ten­tion, and wal­lets, of the buy­ing public, de­spite it be­ing one of the most ap­peal­ing drives in the pre­mium mid-size sedan seg­ment. Just 528 reg­is­tra­tions were recorded for the XE last year,

down from 729 in 2017. Mean­while, class sales leader, the Mercedes-benz C-class, shifted more than 13,600 units in 2017-18. Jaguar hopes to have found the fix by rad­i­cally read­just­ing its lo­cal of­fer­ing as part of the model’s first midlife up­date.

Cos­metic changes are sub­tle tweaks front and rear, en­hanc­ing the al­ready hand­some looks, while the in­te­rior has been graced by the in­fo­tain­ment system and steer­ing wheel from the Jaguar I-pace, as well as a new gear se­lec­tor, spell­ing an end to the fid­dly ro­tary dial.

Also gone are all ex­cept one en­gine con­fig­u­ra­tion. Pre­vi­ously, XE buy­ers had to choose be­tween five dif­fer­ent en­gines, spread across 11 vari­ants. Now, just two vari­ants are of­fered. The last en­gine stand­ing is the punchi­est of the 2.0-litre tur­bocharged four-cylin­der petrol units, badged P300. It pro­duces a healthy 221kw/400nm and sends power to the rear wheels via the carry-over eight­speed ZF auto.

Trim lev­els are now lim­ited to ei­ther SE or HSE badges – $65,670 and $71,940 re­spec­tively. The base S grade is his­tory. Both vari­ants come fit­ted with Jag’s more ag­gres­sive R-dy­namic styling pack as stan­dard.

So, should you be part­ing with an ex­tra $6270 for the higher-grade XE? HSE buy­ers score an elec­tri­cally ad­justable steer­ing col­umn, 16-way ad­justable heated front seats (SE buy­ers have 12-way ad­justable pews), 19-inch al­loy wheels (up from 18s for the cheaper vari­ant) an 11-speaker sound system, and the Touch Pro Duo in­fo­tain­ment system spread across two 10.0-inch touch­screens on the cen­tre con­sole. The SE gets the same soft­ware on a sin­gle 10.0-inch screen, and a rea­son­able list of con­ve­nience equip­ment. But if you want high-speed au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, blindspot monitoring and adap­tive cruise con­trol on the SE, you’ll need the $1340 Drive pack.

Thank­fully, the XE’S dy­namic ap­peal re­mains un­tainted, re­tain­ing classlead­ing steer­ing and an im­pres­sively com­pli­ant ride.

Cru­cially, though, it’s the range rationalis­ation that should re­sult in more cus­tomers opt­ing for a test drive be­fore giv­ing up out of con­fu­sion. Hope­fully JLR’S Aus­tralian op­er­a­tion ap­plies a sim­i­lar strat­egy to its other flabby model lines. Some­times, less re­ally is more.

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