A new entry for Jaguar, the XE is a compact-to-midsize luxury sedan. Competitors include the Acura TLX, Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The XE is available only as a 4-door sedan, seats five and comes standard with rear-wheel-drive.
Base, Premium, Prestige and R-Sport trim levels are offered. Models badged 25t use a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 240 horsepower. 20d models get a 2.0-liter turbodiesel that makes 180 horsepower. 35t badging brings a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 340 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic is standard. All-wheel drive is offered in the 20d and 35t.
Safety features include rear-view camera, drowsy-driver monitor, blind-spot and cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning with automatic braking. Available features include adaptive suspension, adaptive cruise control, head-up display, 20-inch wheels and a 17-speaker Meridian audio system. Prices start at $35,750.
When equipped with the supercharged V6, the XE is one of the quickest cars in the class, racing from 0 to 60 mph in a scant 5 seconds. Moreover, the engine mates very well to the slick-shifting automatic transmission to provide linear and effortless acceleration at all times. With rear-wheel drive being standard, Chicagoans should consider the AWD option, but either way, make sure to have a set of snow tires for the winter months.
EPA estimates with the V6 and AWD are 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. It's easy to beat those numbers in routine suburban commuting as long as you have a light throttle foot. Dive deep into the go-pedal and economy will plummet. An interesting offering in the class is the diesel engine, it's rated at 30/40 mpg by the EPA. All gas engines require premium-grade fuel.
The XE is a joy to drive quickly. The suspension is extremely adept at staying planted on bumpy roads and keeps body lean to a minimum. Steering is delightfully weighted with great feedback. Brakes have ample stopping power. The sport-tuned suspension that's offered in the 35t and in the R-Sport might be a bit too firm for some, so be sure to test drive first. Interior noise levels are on par with others in the class, but road rumble can be a problem on rough concrete roads.
Interior design is clean and simple with unremarkable materials and good assembly quality. The dash features a driver-orientated display with simple controls for the climate system. In a refreshing change for most in the class, there's a center-mounted touch screen for audio and system controls. One control misstep are door panel controls on two levels that's and that's sometimes confusing.
Front seats are firm and heavily bolstered. Leg room is great, but the low roofline and sunroof might have those above 6-foot tall wishing for more head room. Unfortunately, rear seat leg room is at a premium -- though that's not unusual for the class. Entry-exit isn't too difficult, but again the low roofline forces a bit more bending. Outward visibility is fine.
With nearly 16 cubic feet of cargo space the trunk is one of the largest in the class. The opening is a bit narrow, but the rear seatbacks fold in three sections to increase cargo space. Interior storage is minimal with just a few open and covered cubbies throughout.
Jaguar needed the XE to be a great car, after all, the compact luxury class is crowded with quality contenders. Indeed, the XE instantly challenges the class leaders with its smooth blend of sport, luxury, performance and features. Drawbacks include a cramped back seat and somewhat pedestrian interior fittings. Interested, a few minutes behind the wheel will certainly put a smile on your face.