Jaguar XE 25t

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

Once bitten, twice sharp for Jag’s baby sedan

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

REMEMBER that famous Enzo Ferrari quote about buying the engine and getting the rest of the car thrown in for free? Well, there’s a bit of that going on there’s a bit of that going on with the new XE, but in this case you’re paying for a cracking chassis rather than an engine.

Impressively, its technical specification reads – and ultimately drives – like a sedan version of the F-Type: double wishbone and Integral Link suspension, contained within a stiff, aluminium-intensive rear-drive platform prioritising optimised weight balance, topped by a strong, mostly aluminium body that’s Jaguar’s most rigid and aerodynamic ever.

In 25t Prestige guise, the result is utterly invigorating, thanks to the sort of intimate and connected electric steering feel you crave for but don’t experience from rivals today, backed up by agile and controlled handling and reassuringly planted roadholding (on Pirelli P7 225/45R18 rubber).

We could slide the tail out progressively at will, then tuck it back in with a neatly lifted throttle. The XE simply shrinks around you. Attention BMW E36 328i owners, your long-overdue replacement may be here at last.

Posteriors will also appreciate the XE’s civilised and isolating ride, providing a gliding quality that brings to mind having cake and eating it too.

We can also thank Ford for supplying the 25t’s energetic 177kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four, paired to ZF’s supernaturally seamless eight-speed auto.

Masking any torque shortfalls with the right ratio every time, the auto provides rapid off-the-mark response, matched by muscular thrust throughout the rev range.

Putting aside the lack of a manual ’box and the dashboard’s dreary presentation, the real own goal against Audi’s sophisticated A4 is raiding the Land Rover parts bin for the XE’s instrumentation (Disco Sport digital screen bookended by clashing traditional dials with a usefully easy but cheap-looking touchscreen display). Slapdash fascia finishes combined with occasional rattles in a Lexus IS rival is sheer lunacy. Beware some high options pricing too.

It’s a pity because the solid cabin is an otherwise inviting place for four, cocooned in wellventilated comfort, surrounded by lots of standard safety and convenience features, rounded out by a useful 450-litre boot.

Don’t get us wrong. Solidly handsome, spacious, practical, powerful and well equipped, the XE 25t would have to make the final cut of every premium medium sedan shortlist. This segment stars no truer sports sedan. We just wish the interior detailing was better.

PLUS & MINUS

Off-brand dash quality; derivative design; no manual; expensive On-brand dynamics with superb steering and handling; presence

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Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Jaguar XE 25t Prestige 1999cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 177kW @ 5500rpm 340Nm @ 1750-4000rpm 8-speed automatic 1535kg 6.8sec (claimed) 7.5L/100km $64,900 Now

It can get XE

A TRIO of 2.0-litre four-pot turbos – the all-new ‘Ingenium’ 132kW/430Nm 2.0d diesel and a pair of old petrols (147kW/280Nm 20t and 177kW/340Nm 25t) are spread across three trim levels (Prestige, 25t-only Portfolio, and R-Sport), priced from $60,400 to $70,400, while the 250kW/450Nm 3.0- litre supercharged V6 petrol powers the $104,200 S flagship. All include driverassist systems and fixed-price servicing. In-house Ingenium turbo-petrols will replace the current Ford-sourced units later in 2016, followed by (we hear) an M3-rivalling all-wheel-drive XE R.