Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: July 12, 2017
For the last twenty years, BMW’s 3 Series has won countless awards as the best entry-level sports sedan on the market. So many awards in fact that the Bavarians have likely begun to get bored with the competition and decided to create their own segments (4 Series Gran Coupe, anyone?). Thankfully, the engineers in Coventry might have finally developed the winning formula to knock the 3 Series off its laurels. Enter the Jaguar XE.
Sold only with all-wheel drive, XE shoppers have a choice between the brand’s Ingenium 2.0L turbodiesel, 2.0L gas-powered four-cylinder, and a 3.0L supercharged V6 in two states of tune. The latter includes a 340-hp 35t and the gruntier 380-hp S.
My Caesium Blue (what a name!) tester came outfitted with the lesser of the two V6s mated to the only transmission option available, a ZF 8-speed. The drivetrain is almost identical to the one found in the F-Type.
But the differences don’t stop there. Push the pulsing start/stop button and perk your ears up for a rather pedestrian exhaust note. Unlike the glorious symphony that emits from the F-Type, the trumpets on the XE lack the drama upon start-up that we know the supercharged V6 is capable of.
Turn the rotary dial into Drive, squeeze the throttle, and the XE emits the faint supercharger whine and a mundane induction noise from the V6. It’s muffled, restrained and could use a set of aftermarket pipes to clear this cat’s throat. On the other hand, double tapping the left paddle on the steering wheel will be rewarded with crisp well-tuned down-shifts, where for a brief moment you can hear the roar of the V6 before it settles down. There’s potential, and I wish Jaguar took advantage of it via a factory tuned sport exhaust like what the Bavarian competition offers via its M Performance accessory catalogue.
But if the Jaguar needed only one weakness, we’re glad it’s in the acoustics and not anything more important - like the driving dynamics. Thankfully the XE delivers in the latter category with a lively chassis eager to deliver more, despite the Michelin X-Ice winter tires wrapped around the 18-inch wheels. In the dry, the car takes a split second to hunker down on highway on-ramps before obscene amounts of grip whips you on to the merging lane. Push it just a bit too hard, and the AWD kicks in to save you.
The steering rack is quick and responsive too - a bit too quick for the X-Ices but it’s undeniable that this is the more lithe Jaguar in the company’s portfolio. Select the Dynamic drive mode and the dampers adjust to firm up the ride. It’s a noticeable change, though slightly muffled by the soft sidewalls on the winter rubber. Ride quality still remains tolerable but now the leather wrapped steering wheel gives just that extra oomph of feedback under your fingertips. Direction changes come with less roll and the transmission wants to downshift to keep the supercharged V6 spinning where the meat of the torque is - right around 4,500 RPM. Throttle inputs are sharpened and the Jaguar is quick to launch forward when prompted.
It’s a sublime handling machine that begs you to take every on-ramp with a bit more gusto. Everything feels so well connected and playful, and Ian Callum’s team has done a formidable job translating that sporty characteristic in the exterior design of the 35T too; a subtle aggressiveness in the sheet metal that doesn’t obfuscate the main design of the XE. The front fascia is unmistakably Jaguar, though the rear end doesn’t quite convey the same level of pizzazz that the rest of the line-up does. In fact, the rear lights look like a sighing face Emoji.
On the topic of sighing, sit in the cockpit of the Jaguar and the execution just doesn’t quite match the status quo. Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class interior comes to mind as a more elegant space for the driver, the 3 Series feels more utilitarian in comparison, but the quality is unmistakable. The XE however hits neither of these strides and comes off as the weakest link in the sport sedan.
The rotary gear selector is standard in Jaguar's playbook, but in this instance feels like a poor use of real estate, taking up all too much of the precious center console cargo space when extended. The “three-levels” of armrests found on the door cards make the already compact vehicle feel even more claustrophobic and over complex. The wheel, while girthy, isn’t very concave, featuring oddly shaped spokes that result in a less than ergonomic grabbing position. The tiny protrusions that Jaguar has the audacity to call paddle shifters further accent the problem.
Perhaps the biggest faux-pas is the head-up display illuminated in an unsightly orange that matches nothing else in the interior and constantly, no matter how you adjust it, looks crooked to the driver. It’s but a tiny detail when you look at how well the XE dances on the road. A tiny detail is easily overlooked, but there are many within the confines of the driver’s seat, a place where you spend most of your time.
At an as-tested price of $69,900, this British entrant certainly looks (and costs) the part. But inside that brilliant exterior is a number of quiggles that brings this sports sedan just shy of the full package.
型号 Model: 2017 Jaguar XE 35t R-Sport
顏色 Paint Type: Caesium Blue
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $48,900
試車售價 Price as Tested: $69,900
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,835
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,672 / 1,967 / 1,416
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,721
引擎 Engine: 3.0-litre supercharged V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 340 hp @ 6,500 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 332 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed ZF automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Michelin X-Ice (winter tires)