Longtime Car and Driver readers might remember a succession of long-term Jaguars, four of them through the 2000s, that did little to dispel the stereotype of unreliable British cars. The last of these Jags born from the Ford-ownership era to finish its tour of duty was a 2009 XF Supercharged sedan. Its long-term wrap story began with a Seinfeldian inquiry: “What is it with Jaguar and electronics?”
When we next took delivery of a long-term Jag, half a decade had passed, enough time for new owners Tata Motors to develop its first model from the ground up. That 2014 F-type proved relatively reliable but was not without its own problems, including an infotainment system that locked up and required rebooting so often we could only presume it was running on Windows ME. But we’re suckers for a pretty face (and 495 horsepower), so the orange roadster left Eisenhower Place after 40,000 miles with a letter of recommendation and an invitation for Jaguar to send us its next creation.
Enter the XE
That would be the XE, which, along with the redesigned XF, rides on a new modular aluminum-intensive platform called iQ. A small entry-luxury sedan, the XE promises to be the most accessible Jaguar in a decade, with the base 240-hp model starting at under $36,000. Profligate spenders of other people’s money that we are, we chose a much more expensive XE, passing on the entry-level turbo four-cylinder in favor of the supercharged V-6. While you can get into the six-cylinder for as little as $42,695, we wanted all-wheel drive ($2500) and all those sporty exterior bits that define the $7500 R-Sport trim. Running up the price of our long-termer with $6650 of further options brought the as-tested total to $59,345.
Paramount in our minds during the months to come will be the usual two questions that accompany every new Jag: Does it deliver on the marque’s sporting promise? And what sorts of electronic bedevilment will we have to cope with for 40,000 miles?
Drives Like a Jag
Ah yes, the driving. That has been spectacular. Jaguar Land Rover’s corporate 3.0-liter V-6 is a familiar friend, providing 340 supercharged horsepower in the XE. Driving all four wheels, it shot our XE through the quarter-mile in just 13.4 seconds. With the Jag’s drive-mode selector in Dynamic, throttle response is immediate and the engine whips through its rev range, with the eight-speed automatic cracking off shifts just as quickly as you can flip the flimsy plastic shift paddles.
We opted to add $1000 for the 20-inch “Propeller” wheels wearing staggered Pirelli P Zero summer tires, size 235/35ZR-20 in the front and 265/30ZR-20 in the rear. Those short sidewalls are already losing their battle with our medieval Midwestern roads, as just weeks into our test we had to replace a front tire that developed a bubbled sidewall. But the big Pirellis were good enough to pull 0.93 g on the skidpad, as well as haul the XE to a stop from 70 mph in 147 feet. That’s a good number for a sports sedan, especially considering the XE’s portly, 4036-pound curb weight, 52.0 percent of which sits on its front axle. Prior to hitting the track, we could tell how grippy our XE is by the scrubbing from its front tires that we could feel through the steering wheel during tight-radius parking maneuvers.
Toasty hindquarters are a nice bone to throw at rear-seat riders, given the tightness of their accommodations. At least two editors already have managed to knock their heads against the low roof opening while getting into the back seat. When so dazed, the dull interior is less disappointing, but really we have only ourselves to blame for not ordering one of the livelier two-tone leather combinations. We did opt for the Satin Burl Ash Veneer trim ($300), but it does little to spruce up the cabin, as this nice wood all but disappears amid the vast blackness of the dashboard. Our XE is far prettier on the outside, where its metallic British Racing Green paint ($550) looks undeniably classic.
We have a lot of driving to do before we decide whether the XE becomes a classic itself—or perhaps just slinks off with a malfunctioning tail between its legs, another one-and-done model like last decade’s X-type. Initial impressions say that the XE is capable of staking a legitimate claim for Jaguar in an ever-expanding segment. The XE is one of two newcomers this year (the other being the Alfa Romeo Giulia), meaning the established players in the segment—primarily the Audi A4, BMW 3-series, and Mercedes-Benz C-class, plus the Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50, and Lexus IS—have never had so much competition.