Jaguar XE


Debut: 2015
Maker: Jaguar
Predecessor: X-Type



 Published on 19 May 2015
All rights reserved. 


Undoubtedly, XE is the most ambitious project taken by Jaguar since the unsuccessful X-Type. It intends to lift Jaguar from a niche brand to a mass production premium brand like BMW, Audi and Mercedes. To this end Jaguar Land Rover invested heavily into an all-new aluminum platform and Ingenium 4-cylinder engines, as well as to modernize the Land Rover Solifull plant for its production. The new assembly lines have a maximum capacity of 180,000 units a year. If everything goes according to plan, the XE sedan and its sportwagon variant will occupy about half the capacity, while the remaining will go to a new compact SUV (F-Pace) that is to be derived from the same platform. By 2018, the company is expected to build 230,000 vehicles a year, a 3-fold increase from last year's 80,000 units. Therefore, the XE project is a big gamble to JLR.

Bearing so much pressure, it is understandable that design chief Ian Callum played safe this time around. The XE lacks the creativity and wow factor of XF, which is probably the most beautiful sedan presently. Although its face is still easily recognizable as a Jaguar, the rest of the body is not remarkably different from a BMW 3-Series. Compared with the BMW, it might be slightly sportier, with a slightly longer, wider and lower proportion as well as faster windscreen and rear window, but given the more restricted dimensions and the need to provide adequate interior space, it could not get as sleek as we expected. The nose and bonnet are the squarest among the current generation of Jaguars. Although they don’t affect aerodynamics, whose drag coefficient is a highly competitive 0.26, they lose the aesthetic for which modern Jaguars are famous. To me, it's a slight disappointment and a missed opportunity.



The baby Jaguar runs a 2835 mm-long wheelbase, exceeding BMW 3-Series by 25 mm. However, its cabin space is slightly tighter, because its aluminum construction is inevitably
more space-engaging than the high-strength steel construction of BMW. Yes, the Jaguar is the first mass production D-segment saloon to employ a chassis largely made of aluminum. Some 75 percent of the monocoque is this lightweight material, compared with 48 percent in the case of Mercedes C-class. The dashboard cross-beam is made of magnesium (a popular solution seen on many cars), while the remaining is steel, including the rear floorpan, boot lid and doors. These help achieving a 50:50 front-to-rear balance on the lighter petrol 4-cylinder model (or 53:47 for supercharged V6). As usual, Jaguar's aluminum chassis uses rivets and adhesive bonding to join aluminum parts together, unlike Audi which prefers welding. Progress in manufacturing technology allows the bonding time on each station to be reduced from 210 to 78 seconds compared with the XJ.

Despite that, the XE does not show any weight advantage over its rivals. For example, an XE with 2.0 turbo petrol engine and automatic transmission is 5 kg and 55 kg heavier than a BMW 328i auto and Mercedes C250 respectively. The gap between XE S with supercharged V6 and BMW 335i auto is even wider at 70 kg. Why does it not shine on the scale? Part of the cause is its high-spec suspensions. While its rivals employ MacPherson struts up front and mulit-link setup at the rear, the XE opted for more sophisticated double-wishbone suspensions up front and so-called "Integral link" rear suspensions. The double-wishbone front suspension is derived from F-Type sports car. It is preferred over MacPherson struts because the steering is less affected by suspension setup thus improves steering precision and feel. The “Integral link” rear suspension consists of a knuckle, a lower control arm, an upper camber link, a vertical toe-control link and, most special, a short vertical integral link. The last one helps separating lateral cornering forces from vertical forces, thus enables the use of 30% softer vertical bushings for better ride quality and harder lateral bushings for better handling. Besides, the suspensions employ dual-raised springs, whose spring rate increases as they compress, so to provide a softer initial impact absorption and harder roll resistance under stress. Theoretically, its more sophisticated suspensions should bring better ride and handling combo than its rivals (we shall see later on). As expected, most of the suspension components are made of aluminum to save unsprung weight. Bilstein adaptive dampers are standard on XE S or optional on lesser models.



For steering, the XE is the first Jaguar to employ electric power steering. Like its German rivals, it’s an ZF system with rack-mounted motor, but Jaguar’s engineers invested a lot of time on its software tuning to find the optimal setting.

Jaguar made a lot of noises about its new Ingenium family of 2.0-liter turbocharged petrol and diesel 4-cylinder engines (sounds like Volvo's Drive-E). However, at the launch of XE only the diesel is ready. Its design is thoroughly modern, if not groundbreaking. It features aluminum head and block, vibration-reducing balancer shafts, friction-reducing roller bearings on camshafts and balancer shafts, on-demand coolant and lubrication pumps, acoustically damped solenoid injectors and emission-cutting variable exhaust valve timing. The lower tuned version, rated at 163 hp and 280 lbft of torque, achieves an incredible 74 mpg combined and CO2 emission of 99 g/km when mated with the new ZF 6-speed manual gearbox, thus is extremely tax friendly. The higher power version produces 180 hp and 317 lbft. It’s not as green though, at 109 g/km, when mated with either the manual or ZF 8-speed automatic.

Before the petrol version of Ingenium arrives, the XE employs Ford’s 2.0-liter Ecoboost engine with 240 hp, as found on Mondeo/Fusion. Meanwhile, the 335i-rivalling XE S is powered by the same 340 hp 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that serves the base F-Type. It is capable to sprint from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds and top a regulated 155 mph.

On the Road

Open the doors, you will find a modern interior design and up-to-date touchscreen infotainment system. As in XJ, the whole dashboard architecture is recessed below the shoulder line to deliver a sportier and airier feel. It is more stylish than BMW 3er, if not Mercedes C-class or Lexus IS. The steering wheel and center console look classy, ditto the now famous rotary gear selector (for the auto). The perceived quality is high, but ultimately it can’t quite match the consistency of BMW or the outstanding quality standard of Mercedes (the next Audi A4 is sure to beat it, too). You can find some cheaper plastics or leather at less significant places, while some switches do not operate with the same quality feel of its German rivals. The touchscreen is clear and its software is responsive, but without a hardware control knob like i-Drive or Comand it is inevitably more difficult to access while the car is moving.



Space-wise, the Jaguar is fine for front occupants and less so for rear passengers, as headroom is limited by the swooping roof line. Shoulder room and legroom are also a bit tighter than the BMW. The same story can be said for the boot, which measures 450 liters only, or 30 liters less than BMW and Mercedes.

If the XE can’t beat its rivals in cabin comfort, it must win in driving dynamics. Fortunately, this is exactly the case road testers found out. This car is really an all-rounder. It corners as good as Cadillac ATS (that means better than BMW), and simultaneously rides as refined as Mercedes. The sophisticated suspension and steering tuning pays off. Although adaptive dampers offer a wider scope of usage, it doesn’t need them to shine. The passive suspensions are already good enough. There are 2 passive setups to choose from, one softer and one stiffer. Either way, the driving character is not vastly different. The XE is always eager and responsive to turn. The nose feels pointy and the front tires seem to offer remarkable grip. The electric steering is light yet precise and consistently loads up in corners. It is not truly feelsome, but when the car reacts so keenly to the steering you can forget about that. The XE is also very well balanced in corners, but most impressive is its outstanding composure, thanks to a firm but surprisingly supple ride. The suspension does a great job to iron out road irregularities and bumps, keeping the body stable in corners and allowing you to exploit its excellent balance and grip. Small premium sedans have never been so fun to drive and so versatile.

The Ingenium 2.0-liter diesel offers decent power and good refinement by class standards. On the one hand there’s little diesel clatter on the startup, on the other hand the engine settles to a smooth whisper when cruising on highway. Refinement is also aided by low level of wind noise. The 6-speed manual gearbox paired with the diesel is a little disappointing, blame to a long throw and slightly imprecise gearshifts. Comparatively, the ZF 8-speed automatic is near perfect. Its gearshift is smooth and responsive, nearly as good as the installation on BMW.



Although the Ford-sourced 2.0 petrol turbo is only an interim solution, it is still a highly competitive engine. Its 240 horsepower enables a performance brisk enough, while its refinement at high rev is clearly superior to the Ingenium diesel. It revs smoothly and willingly. I wonder how much the forthcoming Ingenium petrol could improve on it.

The XE S with supercharged V6 doesn’t feel as quick as its 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds suggested. On paper, its maximum output of 340 hp beats BMW 335i’s 306 hp, but perhaps due to its more linear power delivery or the additional weight it carries, it feels slower than the BMW. That said, for a 90-degree V6 it is pleasantly smooth, and the exhaust note is pretty delicious, not troubled by supercharger whine. The problem is, this car is considerably pricier than its rival.

As a whole, the 3-Series is still a more complete car, offering more space, slightly better interior build, equipment and a stronger engine lineup. Mercedes C-class is perhaps more stylish and finished with higher quality. The Jaguar beats them on driving dynamics. It's not perfect, but what it has accomplished is already remarkable enough to wash away the memory of X-Type and puts it at a strong market position.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
XE 2.0d
2015
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum + steel monocoque
Aluminum
4672 / 1850 / 1416 mm
2835 mm
Inline-4 diesel
1999 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
VTG turbo
CDI
180 hp
317 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link
-
225/45R18

1490 kg
143 mph (c)
7.4 (c) / 8.4* / 8.8**
24.3*
XE 2.0 turbo
2015
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum + steel monocoque
Aluminum
4672 / 1850 / 1416 mm
2835 mm
Inline-4
1999 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
240 hp
251 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link
-
225/45R18

1460 kg
155 mph (c)
6.5 (c)
-
XE S
2015
Front-engined, RWD
Aluminum + steel monocoque
Aluminum
4672 / 1850 / 1416 mm
2835 mm
V6, 90-degree
2995 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
Supercharger
DI
340 hp
332 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
F: 225/45R18
R: 245/40R18
1590 kg
155 mph (limited)
4.9 (c) / 4.5* / 4.5**
11.5* / 11.1**




Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT





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