I’m slightly biased on matters pertaining to the XE. While working at another publication, I slid my lean mass to fleeting go-kart success which qualified for one of the coveted entry spots at the Knysna hillclimb – an event now synonymous with Jaguar. The car, no surprise, an XE with decals of our choosing – essentially the only thing that separated them from factory-built versions. And while the 2.0-litre version was never intended to place either of us in the prizes, that 1.2 kilometres of road crystalised the XE’s handling.
But the XE, once the car that was ‘going to give it to the Germans’ tripe, appears to have fallen from Jaguar’s updated, albeit contrasting image; everything mad or loud with skunkworks SVR and all things battery powered with I-Pace. Two popular SUVs bridging these, leaving XE seemingly forlorn from the brand’s revised machinations.
The Jaguar XE S arrives with less fire-breathing gauche than a BMW 440i, Mercedes-AMG C 43, or Audi S4 (the Germans) but I quickly learn it prefers the stealthy, sophisticated approach, switching effortlessly between the daily grind or those impromptu blasts – supercharger intensity growing – without compromise. A car that doesn’t slam power figures down in a tightly-clenched fist or feel like a standard sedan with a mighty engine shoehorned into the nose, but sans all the real hardware of its bigger siblings required to make it gel.
And gel the Jaguar XE S does well. Proper sports car treasures exist in this chassis so the presence of that soulful supercharged V6 feels right at home, never dominating the experience but with enough flame to keep the XE S alive. Truthfully you are spoilt for great engines if you’re shopping in this area but the supercharger is intoxicating with pleasingly little exhaust trickery employed because it doesn’t need to compensate for a muffled turbo charged setup.
If you’re eying the power and rear-wheel drive chassis with a mischievous penchant for oversteer, you’re the wrong buyer. The Jaguar XE S will, but there’s exceptional grip in reserve so you have to provoke it. It has more answers than questions, with an enduring sheath over those claws.
But it is not free from criticism. Since the rear seats don’t fold flat the XE is rendered even more impractical against the SUV/crossover genre. The steering wheel is still too big (no flat bottom edge, shock) and the gearshift dial isn’t aesthetically pleasing or nice to hold and interaction with the screen requires effort. Whereas C-Class or cars of the ilk draw inspiration from their bigger flagships, the downward stream of innovation from XJ is rather a trickle than a torrent, explaining the lack of autonomous stuff you can option with other brands.
So it’s flawed but pure at the same time. I love how fast it can be without being lairy or aggressive. The simple driving modes and the fine progression between each one rather than obtuse transformation. And the Jaguar XE S is only mildly vulnerable to its competition on price. Andrew Leopold
- SPECIFICATION – Jaguar XE S
- R1 004 800 / R1 145 861 (as tested)
- 2995cc, 6cyl supercharged petrol, RWD, 280kW, 450Nm
- 7.3l/100km, 164g/km CO2,
- 0-100km/h n/a
TESTER’S NOTES: A completely alternative proposition to the performance sedan. Bring on the Jaguar Simola hillclimb.