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Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0 (2016) long-term test review

Month 9 running a Jaguar XE: a case for it, a case against

Nine months is the statutory gestation period for many things, including long-term test cars. Sure enough, some observations have been born:

First class in the front

Cabin gets a lot right. Low-slung driving position is lovely, complemented by clean intelligently configured instruments and centre console. Tactile steering wheel is perfectly sized, too. However, touchscreen not the quickest, plastics and leathers are ho-hum, audio system sounds tinny and thick pillars and narrow glasshouse stifle visibility.

2016 Jaguar XE long-term test

Economy class at the rear

Packaging not something the XE can shout about too loudly. Yes, accommodation up front is decent enough, but those in the back suffer cramped consequences of that long bonnet, cab-backwards stance and low roofline. And that odd-shaped rear door profile makes tight car park bays an exercise in painful paint scuffing.

2016 Jaguar XE long-term test

Noise ‘n’ the hood

Grunty turbodiesel engine is bedding in nicely. Still too vocal for this sector, but it shifts the XE along briskly. Economy hovers around the 42mpg mark, irrespective of driving conditions. Eight-speed auto is intuitive but not the smoothest, and unless you manual select first, step-off in default second gear is irritatingly lethargic.

2016 Jaguar XE long-term test

Logbook: Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0 180PS Auto

Engine 1999cc 16v, turbodiesel 4-cyl, 177bhp @ 4000rpm, 317lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Stats 7.8sec 0-62mph, 140mph, 111g/km CO2
Price £34,775
As tested £42,220
Miles this month 642
Total miles 14,621
Our mpg 42.4
Official mpg 67.3
Fuel cost overall £78.45
Extra costs £0

By Ben Whitworth

2016 Jaguar XE long-term test

Month 8 running a Jaguar XE: myriad meaningless modes

I’m not convinced by the XE’s JaguarDrive Control. The push-button controller lets you choose between four driving modes – Normal, Eco, Dynamic or Winter – and subtly remaps the steering and throttle response accordingly.

The key word is subtly, because like Farrow & Ball’s magnolia range, the differences between them are indiscernible. Winter and Eco feel slow on the uptake, while Normal and Dynamic feel, well, just normal. Which given that Jaguar wants to be perceived as a thrusting and dynamic brand, is a bit of missed trick.

Logbook: Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0 180PS Auto

Engine 1999cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 177bhp @4000rpm, 317lb ft @1750-2500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed auto, rwd
Stats 7.8sec 0-62mph, 140mph, 111g/km CO2
Price £34,775
As tested £42,220
Miles this month 1892
Total 13,979
Our mpg 42.1
Official mpg 67.3
Fuel £224.73
Extra costs £0

By Ben Whitworth

2016 Jaguar XE long-term test

Month 7 running a Jaguar XE: the elephant in Jaguar’s room

This month I‘ve been driving the XE’s deadliest rival – the BMW 320d. There’s no need to list the well documented similarities the two share – the enduring 3-series has been the dynamic king of the compact executive sector since the 1980s, and the parvenu XE matches it millimetre for horsepower, kilogramme for mile per gallon.

The XE’s cabin may not be the last word in tactile quality and visual appeal but I much prefer its symmetrical and balanced architecture to the 320d’s swoopy Dali-esque design. You also sit appreciably lower in the Jaguar – you really drop down into the XE, with its bum-on-road feeling enhanced by the prow-like shoulder line that draws the driver and dashboard closer together. The BMW feels comparatively toppy and tall, like sitting on a child’s high chair when everyone else has low-slung Eames lounge chairs.

The BMW claws back a lot of technology ground. Its large dash-top screen is Walkers-factory crisp and its iDrive access is quick and intuitive. The Jaguar’s smaller screen looks cramped, its graphics dated and its touchscreen lacks finesse. There’s also more room in the back and boot of the BMW – a big deal for families.

Both cars feel wonderfully polished and accomplished on the move – the manner in which they flow fast and flat through corners shouts of real mechanical integrity and depth of engineering. The Jaguar’s superior ride and handling nudge it in to the lead here. It steers with a delicious fluidity, the light and quick wheel scything the nose into corners as if the XE was pivoting around your hips. And it glides and breathes over the roads with a poise and equanimity the talented and engaging BMW cannot quite match.

It doesn’t take more than a few hundred yards to hear and feel that the BMW’s engine is far more refined and cultured, complementing this urbanity with a revvy redline hunger that makes it feel the more urgent and vibrant of the two. The Jag’s comparatively gruff and uncouth Ingenium engine still delivers the goods, making the Jaguar a very quick cross-country traveller indeed, but it undoes its top button and starts shouting for more refreshments far too early into the proceedings.

As for looks, well the Jag gets its bluff nose just ahead of the BMW not because it’s a hornbox, but rather because the handsome and balanced 3-series is such a ubiquitous thing that it’s all but invisible.

The clear winner? A difficult one – neither have an armour free of chink. If I could I’d combine the Jaguar’s ride, handling, steering and cabin architecture with the BMW’s engine, cabin tech and spacious accommodation.

From the driving seat

+ XE meets challenge of 3-series head-on
– BMW wins on mechanical refinement, passenger space, tech interface
+ Jag counters with better driving position, ride quality, dynamics

Logbook: Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0 180PS Auto 

Engine 1999cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 177bhp @ 4000rpm, 317lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, rwd
Stats 7.8sec 0-62mph, 140mph, 111g/km CO2
Price £34,775
As tested £42,220
Miles this month 559
Total miles 12,087
Our mpg 41.4
Official mpg 67.3
Fuel this month £66.15
Extra costs £0

By Ben Whitworth

2016 Jaguar XE long-term test

Month 6 running a Jaguar XE: gripes and glitches

The list of XE annoyances is growing. Biggest gripe is the cramped rear space – disappointing given the XE’s dimensions. The gearbox defaults to second rather than first when stationary, resulting in horribly sluggish pull-aways. The gruff and uncouth engine fire-up means start/stop is deactivated on every journey. The touchscreen regularly adopts a go-slow approach to inputs, and the Bluetooth hook-up is haphazard. And the lidless cup-holders on the centre console look unfinished.

Logbook: Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0 180PS Auto

Engine 1999cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 177bhp @ 4000rpm, 317lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, rwd
Stats 7.8sec 0-62mph, 140mph, 111g/km CO2
Price £34,775
As tested £42,220
Miles this month 751
Total 11,528
Our mpg 41.1
Official mpg 67.3
Fuel costs £90.36
Extra costs £0

By Ben Whitworth

2016 Jaguar XE long-term test

Month 5 running a Jaguar XE: this month’s tragic pothole victim

The Jaaag has been wounded in action. An atrociously large and deep pothole on a road – or what West Sussex Council sees fit to call a road – a few miles from home completely destroyed the driver’s side front tyre.

It had been one of those Fridays where everything that could have gone wrong did. One catastrophic traffic jam after another while driving halfway across the country for a meeting that was then cancelled at the last minute. Wallet-wiltingly expensive motorway lunch fodder and crappy Costa coffee. More stationary traffic on the return journey caused by mouth-breathers rubbernecking at an accident on the opposite carriageway. Endless lashing rain.

And then, just when hot pizza and cold gin and tonic were tantalisingly within reach, another traffic diversion that added a half hour loop to my trip and took me down The Road Of The Killer Pothole.

With an explosion and a slide that nearly put the XE into the ditch, the pothole ripped a jagged two-inch gash in the tyre sidewall. The car’s onboard display instantly and politely suggested that the tyre’s pressure was a tad low and checking all the tyres might be a good idea. These modern electronics…

This being a 21st Century car, the spare-wheel well usefully contained the battery and one of those wheezy contraptions that can only seal the most microscopic of punctures. Cue many expletives, and a call to Jaguar’s roadside assistance. Ninety minutes later a very chipper chap, undaunted by the icy deluge, loaded the Jaguar onto his recovery truck and trundled us home.

A second call early on Saturday morning to the very efficient Jaguar roadside assistance people secured a second low-loader to take the XE to my nearest dealer – Harwoods in Chichester. Frustratingly, they didn’t have the correct sized tyre in stock, but ordered one for immediate delivery and promised the car’s tracking and alignment would also be checked.

Even more frustratingly, they ordered the wrong tyre, which meant the car was only ready for collection on Monday evening, after the chunky £275 bill was settled. A pity then, that despite having it for three days, they didn’t find the time to give it a quick wash.

By Ben Whitworth

Jaguar XE long-term test

Month 4 running a Jaguar XE: not the most spacious compact exec…

The downside of the XE’s sleek cab-backward proportions is far from generous accommodation. Yes, the driver and front passenger sit low in the snug cabin, but those in the rear are treated to EasyJet levels of leg, shoulder and head room.

This sense of confinement is enhanced by the low roofline, the encompassing prow-like ledge that runs from the base of the windows to the windscreen, and the fat visibility killing A, B and C pillars.

Luggage capacity is best described as modest. So, a car for keen drivers, certainly, but not their family or friends.

By Ben Whitworth

Month 3 with a Jaguar XE: rolling with the ghost of Series 1

One of my indelible childhood memories is that of our neighbour, Gerry Bourdillon. Gerry was a small man with a massive personality. He owned a very profitable building firm and it seemed that not a month went by when he wasn’t indulging in something lavish. Swimming pool, yacht, snooker room. He ticked all the boxes.

But it was the succession of Jaguars that filled his garage that seared him into my memory banks. His love of big, fast and high-maintenance saloons culminated in a Series 1 XJ12, in Old English White with rich burgundy leather and glossy wood veneer. Keep in mind this was in Zimbabwe in the very early ’80s, and you’ll understand why a knee-high 140mph Jag powered by an inaudible 5.3-litre V12 was the height of goosebumpy exoticness. I mean, this car had two petrol tanks! It made our chunky W108 Mercedes-Benz 280SE comparatively utilitarian and prosaic.

As a result, Jaguars have always possessed more than a whiff of rakish glamour and opulence. This despite the dross that has come and gone over the last three decades – epitomised by the truly abhorrent S-type. So I barely hesitated when Editor McNamara (below) asked if he could trade his XE for my Discovery Sport. Given that his children are in baby chairs and mine are in booster seats, the swap was a no-brainer.

CAR magazine editor Phil McNamara and our Jaguar XE

The Series 1 may have gone out of production in 1973, but 43 years on, the XE exhibits much of its dynamic flare, if not its visual allure. The Sport-R’s addenda – complemented by those black 19-inchers – lowers and widens the XE’s lines, making the car look both sleek and chunky. It’s a touch bland from the rear three-quarters – too much generic German in there for my liking – and while it does possess a distinctive air of authority and presence, I wish there was a bit more look-twice sparkle.

Crucially, the XE glides in the same way that Gerry’s XJ floated insouciantly over blacktop. This smallest of Jags feels beautifully fluid – it seems to breathe along over any road, with only the very rudest of ruts and potholes reverberating through the cabin and ruffling its composure.

Its handling is equally composed and balanced – you immediately feel this is a stable chassis that is as accomplished as it is capable. It takes everything you throw at it, and calmly rolls up its double-cuffed sleeves and gets on with it. The firmly-damped ride – in default Dynamic mode – walks that compliance line between control and comfort. Very Jaguar.

The precise and direct steering should also take some credit here. The electric EPAS system may not have the final word in feedback but its instant and consistent responses makes the XE feel tail-up and keen. Pivot-from-the-hips turn-in and progressive weighting are there in abundance. All of which means my daily work commute, a 50-mile combination of urban crawl, suburban sprawl and B-road blast, is something I relish morning and evening.

So let’s talk about elephant in the room – the 180bhp Ingenium turbodiesel engine. With 317lb ft that muscles in at 1750rpm, and a satiny smooth eight-speed automatic that’s almost always in the correct gear at the correct time, there’s nothing wrong with the pace on offer. All that torque whips the XE along with such effortless ease that proceed-directly-to-jail speeds are ridiculously easy to dial up. But its character and its soundtrack? I’m really not sold. I’ll explain next month, along with the ho-hum cabin, the barely adequate rear accommodation, and suing Sussex County Council.

By Ben Whitworth

The latest on our Jaguar XE

Month 2 running a Jaguar XE: memories of the X-type

I’ve not been inhaling illegal emissions, but the X-type has one advantage over the XE: it came as an estate.

Jag’s new baby saloon has a sloping boot floor that prevents me stowing our pram longitudinally, and it’s awkward stooping to strap the kids into baby seats in the cramped rear cabin.

It’s a case of rear three-quarter invisibility too: the slanted glasshouse, wintry condensation and kids’ heads make pulling away from home a lottery most mornings.

I know, first-world problems… But they’ve made me sacrifice the XE’s razor-sharp dynamics for a Discovery Sport’s practicality.

By Phil McNamara

CAR magazine's new Jaguar XE

Month 1 running a Jaguar XE R-Sport: the introduction to our long-term test

How does a car feel over the first 50 metres you’re in the driving seat? Jaguar’s Merlin-esque chassis engineer, Mike Cross, strives to fill you with positive vibes over a distance half the size of Usain Bolt’s office. And feelgood factors surely don’t get much better than the first run home in your all-new XE, Jag’s first compact sports saloon since the failed X-type 14 years ago.

Our XE has taken a sizeable walk up the price range. Ignored were the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol (£26,990) and 2.0-litre diesel with 161bhp; we’ve chosen the higher output, 177bhp derv-ivative instead. As for trim, we disregarded the fleet special SE and pensioner spec Prestige, alighting on an R-Sport, priced from £34,775.

This is the XE in its athletics kit. The basic silhouette is inherently dynamic: long, low nose flowing into a cockpit that shows why being backwards isn’t always a bad thing. It’s handsome if unsurprising, a feeling only cemented by the appearance of the same but bigger XF II. Jaguar says it’s rolling out a consistent look globally to revive a sleeping brand. Works a treat stretched over the SUV proportions of the stunning new F-Pace mind you…

R-Sport brings 18-inch alloys, sports suspension, subtle rear spoiler, manual sports seats and the distinctive ‘J’ pattern daytime running lights. We’ve personalised the XE with glacier white metallic paint (£620), contrasting with black, twin-spoke 19-inch Venom wheels for £1200. In dim light, they make the XE look like it’s floating. Further menace comes from the £500 Black Pack: out goes chrome, in comes gloss-black finish to grille, front bumper blades, glasshouse surround and side vents. The final exterior touch is a full-width glass roof (£1000), to avoid a gloomy cockpit ambience.

That said, the red leather upholstery inserts – which look like a dustbin-sized lipstick has painted go faster stripes along the jet black seats – add welcome pizazz and cost nothing. Front electric seat adjustment swallows £765, with another £235 for lumbar support. The rear bench folds 40:20:40 – a £400 option.

The XE’s cabin feels robust and alluring to touch, but the controls are dated. The centre console features an 8-inch touchscreen above two rows of small rectangular buttons, which are hard to distinguish when you’re hunting for the seat heaters or air-con blower strength. A rotary fan controller would be so much easier than stabbing at a plastic switch, while scanning the console for staple-sized LEDs that denote which setting the blower is on. In a world where Audi has an animated instrument panel that relays your MMI controller interactions, Jag’s bringing analogue weapons to a digital battle.

Not that the XE is stone age: there’s a standard stereo camera that reads the road ahead, relaying speed limit signs in the binnacle and autonomously triggering the brakes in an emergency. But you’ll need to indulge the options list to go higher-tech. Spec the Road Tech Pack and the XE gets a head-up display and adaptive cruise capability; separate automatic lane keeping costs £460. We overlooked both, settling instead for £550 blind-spot monitoring and closing vehicle sensing, and the £530 Parking Pack which adds a rear camera and front distance alert to the standard reversing scanner. Finally, the £435 Cold Climate Pack adds the essential quickclear screen, and heated washer jets and steering wheel. The options spend was £7445, for a grand total of £42,220.

But back to that drive home, the inaugural 50 metres. After the diesel fired gutturally into life, my ears instantly keyed into a persistent whistle coming from the engine bay: annoying. Engage gear with the rising rotary selector (the one piece of cabin theatre), press the throttle, and weave across the car park: the steering – Jag’s first electric motor assisted rack – feels beautifully weighted and so responsive it could be controlled by telekinesis. Compared with some, the sports suspension negotiates the speed bumps like honey sliding across the back of a spoon. But the whistling persists, intensifying under load, sounding like an AM radio that’s not quite tuned in. I switch on the actual radio to drown out the whistle and head for home: the journey of discovery starts here…

By Phil McNamara

 Jaguar XE


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