JAGUAR XE

FINALIST Stage THREE

JOHN CAREY

OUTSTANDING EXECUTIVE-SIZED CAT CLAWS ITS WAY TO COTY’S BUSINESS END T W E N T Y C A R O F T H E Y E A R S I X T E E N

FINALIST Stage THREE

“FEELS POINTY, ALIVE AND EAGER, YET THERE’S NO TRADE-OFF IN RIDE QUALITY” ALEX INWOOD

T W E N T Y C A R O F T H E Y E A R S I X T E E N

Finalist

We E ALREADY knew the XE was good. Even before its launch here last September, overseas drives indicated this Jaguar had the talent to be a real premium medium-class contender.

Performances in local tests and comparisons, when they came, only reinforced that view. Now we also know the XE is one of the outstanding cars of its year.

The Wheels COTY test program is tougher than any normal road test. It’s a week-long search for weakness. Every drivetrain, every suspension calibration and every facet of every model in the line-up is subjected to sharp-eyed scrutiny, at length and in depth. It’s a process guaranteed to find faults and flaws, and the XE was no exception.

But this was also the car which emerged as the strongest challenger to our winner.

Jaguar’s stated mission was to create a car more sporty in spirit than its mostly German competition. And the British brand nailed it.

More than a C-Class or a 3 Series, the XE is a car engineered to enchant those who enjoy driving.

The Jaguar’s electrically assisted steering provides a silky sense of connection and control. This holds true throughout the variety of tyre-size and chassistune combinations offered in the XE. Equally alluring is the finesse with which this Jaguar treads the ride and handling tightrope. Such a balanced blend of agility and comfort is as rare as it is remarkable.

The XE’s chassis is perhaps at its best in the least costly and most basic Prestige grade. The 20d model in this specification supplied for COTY testing was impressive, both at the proving ground and on the road. Choosing R-Sport, which has a distinct chassis tune to go with its package of exterior and interior visuals, adds a dose of discipline to the damping. While the handling benefits are tangible, there’s remarkably little loss of ride suppleness. Although Jaguar offers adaptive dampers in these four-cylinder models (they’re standard in the has-everything range-topping S with its supercharged V6), the excellent passive suspension means this option can be safely ignored.

It was disappointing that the use of aluminium hasn’t made it lighter. Although the metal makes up more than 75 percent of the body structure, the finished result is really no lighter than its main rivals. To some judges, the poor aluminium dividend seemed like a golden opportunity missed.

But Jaguar’s engineers have delivered a structure of terrific integrity. The strength of the body is unmistakable. Even at Lang Lang, where high body loads are generated when cornering, the XE never showed the slightest sign of flex. Jaguar says this is the stiffest sedan the company has ever created, and that’s how it feels. With a 0.26 drag coefficient, it’s also the most aerodynamic.

The all-new Jaguar Land Rover 2.0-litre turbodiesel introduced in the XE provided further proof of engineering expertise. While some judges noted the noisiness of the Ingenium from outside, there were no complaints from behind the wheel. Inside the car, the engine is satisfying; quiet, smooth and torquey. It also co-operates in unobtrusive harmony with the ZF eight-speed automatic that’s used in all Australian-spec XE models. And the sub- 8.0L/100km consumption during COTY’s briskly driven public road loops was pretty impressive.

Both the 147kW 20t and 177kW 25t versions of the XE’s 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol were also judged to be good things.

These Ford-made Ecoboost fours might be a stopgap measure until JLR’s own petrolburning 2.0-litre turbo Ingenium comes on stream in 2016, but they work very well.

They’re refined, eagerly responsive and reasonably

P E D D L I N G T H E M E T A L

The XE is the first vehicle to boast Jaguar’s new modular architecture, building on the car maker’s aluminium expertise. More than 75 percent of its monocoque is aluminium; a layer of sound-absorbing foam is sandwiched between high-strength steel and aluminium to form the A- and B-pillars; steel is used for the rear underbody, doors and bootlid, while the front-end carrier and beam are cast magnesium.

Yet the star of the XE is RC5754 – a unique grade of aluminium recycled from the company’s own off-cuts.

T m a m fo a u th Y a

“DESPITE AN ALUMINIUM BODY, THE XE ISN’T LIGHT” TOBY HAGON

G R E A T C R A S H E R

No independent data was available to aid judges in their rating of the XE’s safety before the final COTY vote. They had to rely instead on their own assessment of the car’s a ctive safety features (like ESC) and careful examination of the car’s passive safety hardware. It was only as this issue of Wheels was closing on deadline that news arrived that the XE had indeed earned the full five stars from Euro NCAP. A stellar 92 percent rating for adult occupant protection and a ‘Good’ rating for the effectiveness of its standard AEB system contributed. av ow featu t dea in effecti A contr h a s

economical. Their only obvious downside is shorter service intervals than the XE’s Jaguarmade engines.

It’s the thirsty supercharged 3.0-litre V6 of the S that’s the least convincing engine. This Jaguar-made unit is the same as that used in the base F-Type. While the engine’s performance is properly lusty, some judges lamented the loss of the caterwauling accompaniment to hard acceleration that it provides in Jaguar’s sports car.

More importantly, most noted the negative effect the heavier V6 had on the XE’s sublime balance.

The S feels nose-heavy compared to the fours, and is definitely more understeer prone. And at almost $34K more than the most expensive four-cylinder model, the $70,400 25t Portfolio, it’s also arguably the poorest value proposition.

All XEs were found to overspeed on cruise control. On a downhill stretch all models would coast more than 10km/h past their set speed. This is a serious flaw, and one Jaguar should attend to.

While the XE’s exterior is sleek, its 40/20/40 split backrest makes the XE a reasonably versatile load carrier. The boot, though smaller than rivals, is at least a neatly regular shape. But that stylish silhouette dictates a rear door aperture shaped to make access awkward. Once inside, the rear seat is adequate rather than excellent. Though there are three lap-sash belts, the shape of the backrest side bolsters forces outboard passengers towards the centreline, leaving little room between. The seats themselves are comfortable, but headroom and toe room are average and there’s a real shortage of storage space.

Same goes for the front half of the cabin.

Jaguar’s space-consuming pop-up gear Jaguar’s space-consuming pop-up gear selector dial in the centre console contributes to the problem, but why do the cupholders and door pockets need to be so shallow and narrow?

Yet these aren’t the main reasons the XE’s interior is its greatest weakness. No COTY judge thought the cabin conveyed the same classiness and elegance that its engineering finesse and exterior style do. While the low cowl ahead of the front passenger creates a pleasant sense of space, the instrument panel lacks the visual luxury and curated craftsmanship the car deserves.

There were too many notes on specific shortcomings to include all of them here.

Everything from the coarse resolution of the between-the-dials screen in the instrument binnacle to the sloppy-looking stitching on parts of the seats and dash. There were odd anomalies, too. Such as the plank-like hardness of the passenger side seat cushion in the S, for example (otherwise the front seats are all fine).

Judges agreed it was the least expensive version of the XE at COTY, the $62,800 20d Prestige, that had the best interior. This was partly because this particular car came with the happiest combination of interior finishes. The other reason was that its plastic-covered dash, without obvious stitching seams (around the passenger front airbag aperture, for example) actually looked higher quality than the leather-covered versions.

Quality perception is at the very core of premium-brand appeal, and the XE’s interior falls short. But pure driving pleasure is also an essential ingredient, and here the XE stands tall. As a consequence of this conundrum, scoring the Jaguar against COTY’s Function and Value criteria was difficult. It earned solid ratings for Technology, Efficiency and Value, so there’s a question to be asked: Would the XE have won Wheels COTY 2016 with a different, won Wheels COTY 2016 with a different, better interior?

That’s something we’ll never be able to know…

“A BETTER CAR WITH LESS ENGINE” DAMION SMY

BODY

Type 4-door sedan, 5 seats L/W/H 4672/1850/1416mm Wheelbase 2835mm Track (f/r) 1602/1603mm Boot capacity 455 litres Weight 1530 – 1665kg

DRIVETRAIN

Layout front engine (north-south), RWD Engines 1999cc 4cyl turbo-diesel (132kW/430Nm); 1999cc 4cyl turbo (147kW/280Nm); 1999cc 4cyl turbo (177kW/340Nm); 2995cc V6 supercharged (250kW/450Nm) Transmission 8-speed automatic

CHASSIS

Brakes ventilated discs (f), solid discs (r) Tyres 225/45R18 – 255/35R19 Spare space-saver ADR81 fuel consumption 4.2 – 8.1L/100km CO2 emissions 111 – 194g/km Front airbags .

Side airbags .

Curtain airbags .

Knee airbags .

Collision mitigation .

Crash rating 5-star (Euro NCAP) Prices $60,400 – $104,200 3-year retained value 48 – 49% Service interval 12 months/16,000km (petrol); 24 months/34,000km (diesel)