Can the new XE become the much-vaunted Mark Two in Jaguar’s line-up?
Subtlety is the current buzzword in Jaguar’s styling suite but Iain Robertson, long-time Jaguariste, worries that living in the past may not be the answer to future success for the revised XE model and contemplates if should it exist at all.
When Ford Motor Company owned Jaguar Cars, it tried in its ham-fisted corporate manner to turn a relatively small, specialist sporting range into a big volume seller. Mistake. Gifting the otherwise excellent Mondeo platform to Jaguar seemed like a great idea at the time but Jaguar is not and never has been a front-wheel drive carmaker, even with a 4×4 optional drivetrain. Mistake. Proposing that the X-type (with a lower case ‘type’) could be a spiritual successor to the Mark Two model of the 1960s, when it lacked comprehensively the class of the original was a major nail in its coffin. Mistake.
When the XE arrived, while marginally better in several respects to the X-type, it was starting from a low ebb, from which a hit-and-miss level of reliability (mostly electronics related) was sure to strike hard in the company car sector, at which it was aimed. Launched as a rival to the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4 and Merc C-Class, the errors kept appearing; its Teutonic rivals, while suffering from not dissimilar issues, were significantly more mature in the market, their respective badges offering essential cachet to both user-choosers and fleet buyers. Jaguar was fighting an uphill battle and the spectre of X-type loomed surprisingly large in its rear-view mirror.
Yet, the biggest turn-off to most potential users was the complete lack of space within the cabin. While the driver and front passenger were moderately well catered for, the rear bench was all but unusable and the boot was an after-thought. The sportingly low roofline created a major compromise. In some ways, it was an attractive car that fitted appropriately into the class but reports of poor build quality dogged it throughout its early years. However, worst of all, Jaguar Cars seemed to have only limited confidence in the model and that is the wrong place for such woeful sentiments. The Ford ‘premium’ hangover was still prevalent on a car that was most definitely not of premium quality.
The headline features of the revised XE model are trying to address the reported negatives: the latest Pivi-Pro dual-SIM infotainment centre speeds up reaction times, allows real-time upgrade downloads and is markedly more logical to navigate; the latest specification 201bhp, 2.0-litre, Ingenium turbo-diesel engine, with mild-hybrid (48v) technology is now the base unit, with 246 and 296bhp petrol-turbo 2.0-litres completing the line-up; connectivity is vastly improved, while material quality has been upgraded significantly, with less plastic, more machined metal and improved seating.
The XE’s interior is more luxurious, with soft-touch, tactile and authentic materials applied throughout. Everything from the instrument nacelle surround and the sides of the centre console have been changed to enhance visual quality. The new split-rim steering wheel design underscores the attention to detail within the cockpit, while factoring-in embossed Jaguar ‘Leapers’ on the headrests and a new quilt design for the seating, all help to lift quality onto a higher plane. Much like Volvo, enhanced filtration and ionisation features now exist for the heating and ventilation system, which can filter out ultra-fine particulates (PM2.5) and remove nasty niffs from the cabin environment, for improved occupant health and wellbeing.
As stated earlier, a truly subtle approach has been applied to the XE’s exterior attributes and the new, curved profile and mesh grille at the front manages to look both sportier and more coherent than before. Every XE model is now available with the enhanced black exterior pack that delivers a stealthier appearance, with bespoke elements given a shiny finish (grille mesh, grille surround, lower air intake surrounds, side vents, window surround and also black exterior badging).
Naturally, Jaguar’s commitment to creating strong and lightweight vehicles, continues with the XE, its aluminium-intensive architecture features recycled aluminium through closed-loop manufacturing for greater sustainability and is a vital contribution towards Jaguar’s intended world of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion, all of which are lofty but attainable aspirations that add to its hoped for consumer appeal. Of course, customers can choose from S, SE and HSE specification packs, as before, with all being available with the sportiest R-Dynamic package.
Having mentioned the new Pivi-Pro system that allows drivers to access vital information quickly, it is worth highlighting that the 12.3-inch High Definition interactive driver display panel receives enhanced graphics and a new configurable layout, which can show full screen navigation mapping with turn-by-turn instructions, digital dials, media, contact list, or infotainment details. Working in conjunction with the latest Head-Up Display technology, XE now provides the driver with all the information needed most, without distraction. Thanks to its separate power source, the Pivi-Pro hardware is instantly accessible and an important element of the new electronic vehicle architecture, which now communicates fluently with all of the XE’s electronic packages.
Employing a belt-driven starter-generator, the mild-hybrid diesel model can return brisk acceleration (0-60mph in 6.9s), while promising low CO2 emissions at 127g/km and returning up to 58.5mpg. It is a strong engine but the higher performance petrols, also driving the rear wheels, or optionally all-four, through an 8-speed automatic transmission, are the sought after power units, the 296bhp version whisking the car from 0-60mph in around 5.6s, to a top speed of 155mph.
I regard the revised XE, which still has cabin access problems that will be resolved with the next generation, as a necessary model in Jaguar’s range. However, it can never be a Mark Two and neither it should. However, it does need to offer ‘little’ Jaguar a moderate rival to the Teutonic Trio. It is a more compact XF and it is certainly zesty enough but it needs another couple of ladles of ‘Jaguarness’ for the transformation to be complete.
Conclusion: The mild hybrid is a start but Jaguar needs to deal with more electrification to be competitive and to address corporate customer requirements. Time will tell if the reliability levels have been increased. However, with lower prices commencing from £29,635, Jaguar is doing its best to enhance the proposition.