Road test: can the updated Jaguar XE take on BMW's best?
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When the Jaguar XE sedan was launched in New Zealand in 2016, the company touted it as the challenger to BMW’s 3 Series and was actively targeting the owner of the German brand.
We weren’t the only market where Jaguar took on the German trio of BMW, Audi and Mercedes. Worldwide, it pushed to take buyers from the 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-lass.
However, the XE sedan didn’t quite generate the sales Jaguar expected. Which is a pity as the XE was a bright spark in the premium sedan market.
And unfortunately, the XE was launched when there was a global decline in premium sedan sales as buyers opted for SUVs.
Now it’s time for the XE facelift to again push against the German three, and it’s doing it with new technology and a more refined appearance.
There are three variants: the P250 SE (priced from $75,900), the P250 R-Dynamic SE ($79,900) and the P300 R-Dynamic HSE ($89,900) that we tested and which features a Meridian 380W sound system.
The three models have a 2-litre, four cylinder petrol engine, coupled with an eight speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive.
Our HSE was tuned up to produce 221kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
Jaguar Land Rover NZ general manager Steve Kenchington says customers will immediately notice the interior and exterior upgrades from previous models of the XE.
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“Notable exterior design features include dynamic turn indicators, a dramatically revised front bumper and wider grille; while a wide range of new features inside the vehicle include the addition of a second-generation heads up display, ClearSight rearview mirror and wireless device charging.
“Leather heated seats, LED headlights and ebony headlining are among the enhanced specification offered as standard in New Zealand,” he says.
The facelift XE has new front and rear bumpers, advanced all-LED headlights with “J” blade daytime running lights, and tail-lights with distinctive LED signatures.
Those “J” blades really reform the look of the XE, giving it a more modern look — and that’s sure to attract younger buyers.
An updated exterior design gives the XE a more purposeful and assertive stance, taking contemporary design cues inspired by the F-Type sports car.
The XE appears wider and lower than the previous model, with larger front apertures, bold graphics and muscular forms alluding to the car’s performance and advanced aerodynamic, says Jaguar NZ.
Inside, the cabin gets the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system and 12.3in interactive driver display shared with all-electric Jaguar I-Pace. Sophistication continues in sports-style seats with contrast stitching, satin chrome gearshift paddles and R-Dynamic treadplates.
Thankfully, the “twist” gear selector has been replaced by Jaguar’s sportier and more intuitive central lever.
But what impressed Driven during our test drive was the ClearSight rearview mirror. With a push of a button, the rearview mirror becomes an HD display by using a camera in the roof’s “sharkfin” to give you an amazing view of the road behind you.
We raved about it when it was introduced in the Range Rover Evoque and stated that Jaguar Land Rover needed to introduce it in all its products.
Actually, it had already planned to add it to the XE but you can expect to have it continued throughout its models’ facelifts or new variants.
As we praised it in all our Evoque reviews, the ClearSight gives you a better rear view than you see with your eyes, and it came to the fore during our test drive of the XE, especially last week during torrential rain.
Our HSE sat on 19in alloys, had electric heated front seats, plus drive pack as standard that included adaptive cruise control (that we used on the motorway) and blind spot monitoring.
Jaguar XE’s lightweight aluminium intensive body structure continues to play a major role in the car’s agile handling, exceptional safety and efficiency. It also has double wishbone front and integral link rear suspension.
Standard on all XE models is that the dynamic mode amplifies the car’s sporting character, with faster gear shifts, sharper throttle response and increased steering weighting.
We first drove the dynamic mode with the transmission in the default of “normal” when on the motorway, and felt the car lacked “oomph” when moving into the top gears. But pushing the gear lever into sport mode made the sedan came to life, blipping through the gears with alertness and giving a more sports performance.
Heading to the Waitakere Ranges’ Scenic Drive we had to revert to “normal” transmission and even reduce our speed from the posted 100km/h to 70 due to the poor road conditions, especially when we cornered and the XE hit a smooth patch of bitumen and the tail flicked out.
Luckily, we were driving to the conditions.
JAGUAR XE P300 HSE
Pros: ClearSight, modern design