2016 Jaguar XE R-Sport review
Isaac Bober’s 2016 Jaguar XE R-Sport review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
IN A NUTSHELL: The new Jaguar XE combines good looks with good performance an impressive specification list and pricing to give its competitors a headache.
2016 Jaguar XE R-Sport
Price From $64,400 (+ORC) Warranty Three-year unlimited kilometres Safety Not tested Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder Power/Torque Up to 177kW/Up to 340Nm Transmission eight-speed automatic Dimensions 4672mm (L); 2075mm (W); 1416mm (H) Weight 1530kg Fuel tank 63 litres Thirst 7.5L/100km claimed combined
THE JAGUAR XE has it all to do. Yep, Jaguar’s wrong-footed attempt to break the stranglehold of the premium manufacturers with its X-Type back in the early noughties might have ended in a mess with the car wrongly accused of being a badge-swapped Ford Mondeo, but JLR has high hopes for the XE.
And so it should, trawl through the internet for video reviews, or open the pages of any motoring publication and they’re virtually glowing with excitement for the new XE. Will this one? Probably.
Now, I should lay my cards on the table and say that I’ve got a soft spot for Jaguars. See, ever since my old man went out against everyone’s better judgement and purchased an XJ-S V12 with Walkinshaw bodykit and then allow me to swan around in it and use it to woo my now wife – I was going for windswept and interesting, but I might have come across as a twit…
Sure, Dad had bought the thing a fair while after Team Walkinshaw decimated the field at the Great Race with an XJ-S V12 (watch the video above), but the look of the beast was timeless. And painted in beautiful, non-original Midnight Blue heads twisted wherever it went…
And that brings me directly to the XE S-Sport that we’re testing here. It might not carry the same look-at-me styling as the XJ-S but the thing definitely has presence. And mated to its burbling exhaust note, it definitely stands out against an M-kitted 3-Series. Best of all, though, it’s instantly recognisable as a Jaguar; following and refining the footsteps of its siblings, the XF and XJ. And even the old XJ-S.
You only have to look at the thing in profile to see the thrusting bonnet and bob-tail of almost every Jaguar that’s ever gone before. But looks are a personal thing, so we’ll say no more about the XE on that front, although I really would like to hear what you think, leave a comment below.
With its love of aluminium firmly established with the release of the original XJ, Jaguar pushed the boat right out with the XE’s monocoque chassis comprising around 70% high-strength aluminium alloys and 30% conventional steel. High-strength aluminium alloys are also used in the front and rear crash structures as well as the A-pillars. The B-pillars, on the other hand, are a mix of both aluminium and steel with a layer of foam sandwiched between them. All up, around 75% of the XEs total bodyweight is made up of high-strength lightweight aluminium alloys.
While the use of aluminium makes the vehicle structure lighter than many of its rivals, overall, the XE is on par. And that’s because of the suspension and Jaguar’s insistence on using front double wishbones as well as an integral link rear end; the norm is for a McPherson strut front-end and multi-link rear. The reason being that Jaguar had a very specific end goal for the XE: to be the “driver’s car” which means the handling needs to be agile and sporting. But it’s also a Jaguar and so the ride, at the same time, needs to be relaxed and comfortable. Now, surely only magic can achieve such a thing…
But, no, the combination of the double wishbones at the front and the integral link at the rear does exactly what it says on the box, and delivers both a supple ride and agile handling that’s as if you melted a performance car into a luxury sedan. The XE’s suspension set-up is a more expensive and complicated system than is common in this segment, but it’s better able to handle both longitudinal (up and down) and lateral (side to side) load stresses, hence the supple, agile ride and handling.
The XE offers Jaguar Drive Control which allows you to choose from Dynamic, Normal, Eco, or Rain/Ice mode which all subtly tweak throttle response and steering feel, either sharpening it up, or dulling it down in, say wet and slippery conditions. It perhaps a little more impressive sounding than it is in reality, but being able to make subtle adjustments is better than not being able to make them at all. The top-spec S model gets adaptive dampers to take the adjustment to the next level.
So, what does this all mean in the real world? Not a lot, because between Normal and Dynamic there’s only a subtle step up which is a good thing. Going from mild to wild, as in some of this car’s competitors, is plain wrong. The XE does it the right way, and while I did spend some time in Dynamic, Normal was about 9/10ths as good, so I’d suggest sticking with that mode.
On the road, the XE R-Sport impresses with both its control and response to direction changes as well as its ability to isolate the driver from the worst of the roads imperfections without ever feeling isolating. This XE is easily the most fun and pleasant to drive of the vehicles in this class.
The XE also sees the debut on a Jaguar of electrically-assisted steering which the brand claims delivers greater tuning opportunity and energy efficiency compared with a hydraulic system. These EPAS (Electric Power Assist Steering) systems are becoming more common, although most lack the ‘natural’ steering feel of hydraulic assistance systems, but the XE gets pretty close. Indeed, the Jaguar boffins claim they were aiming at it feeling like the steering on the F-TYPE…
I wouldn’t quite go that far, but there’s plenty of feel in the straight-ahead and good consistent weight off centre, but there is a lack of ultimate ‘feel’ that might just be a psychological thing based on the fact you know that it’s 0s and 1s that have added feel to the steering rather than any ‘direct’ connection flowing up through the wheels. That said, this is easily the best steering system in the segment.
The XE R-Sport can be had with a choice of two engines, one being the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and the other the Ingenium 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine. The Jaguar-only Ingenium petrol engines will arrive in the XE and will also roll out across Evoque and Discovery Sport, but for now we’ve got to make do with a Ford-derived unit that also does service in the Mondeo.
But don’t let that drag up memories of the X-Type because Jaguar’s done plenty of work on the engine and it’s both punchy, smooth and refined. The petrol unit in our test car punched out 177kW (at 5500rpm) and 340Nm of torque (between 1750-4000rpm), and drinks down a combined 7.5L/100km. We managed to get pretty close to that in our week of driving around (8L/100km across 800km).
Thumb the starter button and the XE growls into life before settling into a near imperceptible idle. Only prodding the throttle, or flooring it from, say, 60km/h will see a gravelly growl break into the cabin. I’d have liked a little more noise from the R-Sport variant, but I understand why Jaguar have kept it subdued. This is a properly punchy engine from anywhere just off idle and remains smooth all the way through to redline.
And this brings me neatly to the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. When you’re just loping along the shifts are just about seamless and the perfect example of why nine-speed transmissions are a waste of time, but when moving away from a stop the transmission can become a little clumsy when you’re travelling with just a whiff of throttle, but this hesitation to select the right gear generally only lasts until you hit 30km/h, and you’ll get some slight hesitation if you floor the thing as it takes a moment to drop back through the cogs. In the whole, though, the transmission is as smooth and clever as you could hope for.
On the inside, the XE’s dashboard is dominated by a central touchscreen surrounded by a handful of buttons that allow first-tier menu access; you then go deeper into the sub-menus via the touchscreen. The system was very easy to connect to via Bluetooth and phone calls via it, so I’m told, were crystal clear (not the case in our long-term Toyota Corolla) – you can connect your phone via Bluetooth or USB connection. All of the other controls are easy to reach and the sat-nav was easy to set and quick to adjust even if the map image seemed a little basic.
Sat in the driver’s seat it was easy to adjust the seat and steering to get comfortable behind the wheel, and both taller and shorter drivers will find it easy to get the right setting. The seat is comfortable and supportive enough for spirited driving, and the rise and twist gear selector is still cool. And thanks to an electric handbrake there’s plenty of room for both a couple of cup holders and an armrest with a deep storage box below.
Unlike the early XF, there’s no auto opening air vents and electric-opening glovebox, but while those things add an air of the theatrical to the interior of that car, the cost of adding them would have pushed the XE too high. And the interior is no less dramatic without them.
Climb into the back seats and adults will be comfortable with reasonable leg, knee, elbow, shoulder and headroom, although there are others in this class with more room. I fitted two child seats and both kids had plenty of legroom. The boot offers 455 litres of storage space which, if I’m honest, isn’t huge but it’s big enough for a weeks shopping or a family load of luggage.
Vision out of the XE to the front and sides and rear window is good and one thing I like is that you can see the thrusting bonnet extending before you, meaning you can tell yourself just how close you can inch up to walls, etc when parking. Too many cars are designed to make the bonnets disappear and I find this annoying; we all know the benefits of being able to see the bonnet extremities in an off-roader, why not a road car too. But the rear three-quarter vision is pretty poor thanks to the bulky C-pillar, so you end up relying heavily on the blind-spot monitoring, the mirrors and shoulder checks; ordinarily a shoulder check is my go-to, rather than electronics and mirrors.
The XE R-Sport is available, as I said earlier, with two different engines, a diesel and a petrol (in two states of tune: 147kW and 177kW). The diesel-powered XE R-Sport is priced from $66,800 (+ORC), the entry-level petrol from $64,400 (+ORC); and the 177kW petrol from $68,900 (+ORC). While there are a host of expensive options available for the XE, the R-Sport comes very well equipped with things like autonomous emergency braking as standard, 8-inch touchscreen, climate control, Bluetooth, sat-nav, powered seats and leather interior.
In terms of safety, the XE doesn’t carry an ANCAP rating but it got a five-star EuroNCAP rating. It has seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera, pedestrian contact sensing and more. It also offers hill launch assist, torque vectoring by brake control, stop/start and more.