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Jaguar’s 3-Series rival and new ‘baby’ saloon, the XE, has been officially unveiled in London through a star-studded event in Earls Court.
Seen as the most important model for Jaguar in years, the XE will take on the firm’s compact executive saloon role and go up against its German contemporaries when the first deliveries go out in May 2015.
We’ll see the new saloon in the flesh come October’s Paris motor show and not only try to take on BMW’s equivalent, but also the likes of the Audi A4 and the revitalised Mercedes C-Class. Starting at £27,000, the Jaguar XE is truly a premium car and is the result of an investment of around £2 billion and 3,000 new jobs created just to make the saloon at Land Rover’s new factory in Solihull, as well as the car’s engine at a newly-built plant in Wolverhampton.
The man behind the Jaguar XK, XJ and the XE’s bigger brother the XF, Ian Callum, had the task of ensuring the new saloon was up to the contemporary standards expected of such cars in this day and age, as well meet Jaguar’s own design philosophy laid down by both the bigger executive models and the ever-popular F-type. As such, the XE has the sporting look the brand always hopes to exude from its products, albeit looking perhaps a little too much like its larger sibling in the process, at the front at least.
Callum has admitted to the press that Jaguar as a brand is still suffering a slight identity crisis in some markets around the world, with the Jaguar labelling very promptly evident underneath the XE’s bootlid in an attempt to curve this – something new models will be graced with from 2015.
The XE’s packaging is very important to its success, with Jaguar giving it a long bonnet and a cabin set backwards to give an almost coupe-like profile and feel, as well as “great wheel to dash proportions.”
Up front, the XE’s grille is more upright than we’ve seen on previous Jaguars, while accentuated wheelarches give the car a fairly aggressive stance. The rear end is short, however, and reminds you that this is a compact saloon; meanwhile, light arrangements hint to the F-type and will be seen on every Jaguar from here on in. Official dimensions are yet to be revealed, but Callum has insisted the XE is longer than the 3-Series and shorter than the A4.
Building a new car from scratch ensured Jaguar were able to employ a new platform and influence how the car sat on its chassis. Aluminium is of course used for the XE – the material utilised on all Jaguars since 2003 – and is made use of in the XE’s platform, bodyshell and components. Having the freedom to build as they wish, the XE is 20 per cent stiffer than the XF and the firm’s engineers have had great freedom to hone the car’s ride and handling balance via a double wishbone set-up at the front, plus an intelligent integral link rear suspension system as well as adaptive dampers.
Jaguar has given buyers a choice of five engines from launch, with a new 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel plant one such example. The powerplant is part of Jaguar’s new modular Ingenium engine family and benefits from 17 per cent lower levels of internal friction to that of the current 2.2 and help achieve 99g/km of CO2 and 75mpg. It will be joined by a more powerful version, as well as two petrol 2.0-litre Ingenium engines and the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 from the F-type in the XE S that will produce a useful 336bhp.
Power will be put through a revised version of the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission or – the first for a long time in a Jaguar – an all-new six-speed manual ‘box. Rear-wheel drive will serve all versions of the XE until 2016 when the all-wheel-drive models begin production. Until then, Jaguar has integrated its All Surface Programme Control which has been developed with Land Rover and controls the engine output, brakes and differential to help the XE tackle slippery surfaces in both the rain and snow.
Inside, the driver sits noticeably lower than they would in a rival model thanks mainly to the cabin which surrounds the occupants. However, with the new C-Class setting the new standard for luxury saloons, the XE is a little lacking in overall panache inside; bold analogue dials mix in with sporty graphics influenced by the F-type and the dash has a clean minimalistic feel about it.
Technology dominates within the Jaguar XE, with a list that includes a stereo forward-facing camera for traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, self-parking and adaptive cruise control. Crisper lasers are used to give the head-up display a shaper image to that of an LED equivalent, as well as showing speed, safety warnings and sat-nav directions. Jaguar has recognised the need for an exceptional central control system in this market and so gets an eight-inch touchscreen which occupants utilise through Jaguar’s InControl that offers Apple or Android phone accessibility to give them access to internet radio, traffic information, news and navigation. The system can also be used to pre-heat or cool the car, lock/unlock the car and let the driver and a call centre know if it has been stolen. On-board Wi-Fi can also be ticked on the generous options list.
We will no doubt get a better look at the Jaguar XE at the Paris motor show next month, where more details will likely be available about the compact saloon.