BMW’s popular 3 Series is essentially the Orange County Camry; well-heeled SoCal drivers probably buy more of these cars than Frappuccinos at Starbucks.
Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V6
Power: 340 horsepower, 332 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 20 city, 29 highway, 23 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): Not yet available
US As-Tested Price: $57,085
CAN Price: XE starts at $48,500, $53,000 as tested
It’s safe to say this Bimmer is the standard-bearer in the luxury compact sports sedan class, a position it has held for longer than we can remember. But it’s hardly the only worthwhile offering in this rarified segment. Rivals like the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Cadillac ATS have chipped away at its hegemony and, in some instances, are even better than the BMW.
Further pressuring the vaunted 3 Series is a new challenger from a brand that’s not on many shoppers’ radar. The 2017 Jaguar XE promises to fuse style, luxury and dynamism in a uniquely British package, all while shielding buyers with best-in-segment warranty protection. We know that sounds like a tall order, but this car mostly delivers.
Breaking New Ground
For years, the leaping-cat brand has lingered on the luxury sidelines, never having a broad enough product range to really compete, but this is finally changing. It now has five different models in its portfolio, something that people have taken notice of.
Its first crossover, the F-Pace, just launched and it’s already leading Jaguar’s sales resurgence. In fact, with 1,123 sold in the U.S. last month, it was the company’s most popular model.
SEE ALSO: 2017 Jaguar F-Pace S Review
Likewise, the XE is breaking new ground by pushing Jag into a segment it has never really competed in before, or at least not very well. From ceiling to sills, headlamps to tail lights, this car is good, right down to its core.
Don’t Build Your House on Sand
Like every other modern Jaguar, this car is built around an aluminum-intensive architecture that provides a rigid yet lightweight foundation. Safety, stiffness and serenity are all baked right in.
When equipped with the biggest engine and all-wheel drive, this car weighs around 3,795 pounds, 217 less than a comparably equipped C-Class. It also has 25 fewer pounds to carry around than a BMW 340i xDrive with an automatic transmission. However, the XE is slightly heavier than the Cadillac ATS or Audi’s new A4.
Like its primary adversaries, the XE offers customers a wide range of engines to choose from, specifically three. There’s a 240-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder, a diesel with 180 ponies, and a range-topping 3.0-liter supercharged V6, which our test car was equipped with.
This engine is good for 340 horses and 332 lb-ft of twist. It’s smooth, responsive and reasonably efficient. According to the window sticker, it’s rated at 20 miles per gallon city and 29 on the highway. Combined, it should average 23 mpg.
Those figures compare quite nicely to its BMW rival, which also features a 3.0-liter force-fed six. The 340i xDrive offers a claimed 320 horsepower and an identical amount of torque.
In North America, the only transmission offered in the XE is a smooth and responsive eight-speed automatic, which is unfortunate. Not that this ZF gearbox is in any way disappointing, it’s just that we always appreciate the option of rifling through the ratios on our own.
Rear-wheel drive is standard with every powerplant, however, if you go with either the diesel or V6, you can get four-corner traction for greater driving confidence in adverse conditions.
All Many the Trappings of Luxury
The XE’s exterior is a breath of fresh air in a segment rife with overwrought design. This car’s styling is smooth, subtle and sophisticated six ways to Sunday. Clearly, Jaguar designers know when enough is enough and when it’s time to put the pencil down. Accordingly, it stands out by being inconspicuous, something Audi used to practice, but not anymore.
XE 35t models kitted with swanky Prestige trim are loaded with features and amenities. Outside, there are heated, power-folding side-view mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, twin exhaust tips, and even an infrared reflective windshield to keep summer temperatures in check.
Focusing our attention inward, you get a standard power tilt and telescopic steering column, mood lighting plus an eight-inch touchscreen display with navigation.
The XE’s interior is comfortable and reasonably roomy, though it does feel a little narrow despite the car being slightly wider than a 3 Series. Headroom might be an issue for taller drivers and passengers. This Jag’s aft accommodations are class competitive, though a little more stretch-out room would be nice.
As for the rest of the cabin, it’s a nice place. The build quality is top-notch and most of the interface points are a snap to use. The climate control is dead simple, as is the rotary shifter that rises from the center console when the engine is started.
What’s not so impressive are some of the interior materials. For instance, the dashboard plastic would look more appropriate in a family sedan than a luxury vehicle — it’s not cheap, but neither is it opulent. Also, the power-window switches are placed in an awkward spot.
The company’s InControl Touch Pro infotainment system is fairly easy to figure out and its 10.2-inch widescreen display is nothing short of gorgeous. This optional goodie is part of the $2,700 technology package, which also includes an 825-Watt Meridian sound system.
Speaking of money, an entry-level 2017 Jaguar XE starts at a little more than $37,000 in the U.S. Our six-cylinder, all-wheel-drive Prestige model exited the company’s Solihull assembly plant with a price tag of $57,085, including $995 in delivery charges. Other extras included Rhodium Silver Metallic Paint ($550), a heads-up display ($990) and the Vision Package ($2,400).
The XE’s driving experience is dialed in. The car feels light, tight and nearly tossable.
The all-wheel-drive system made it seem pretty willing to rotate, but never unsafe. On dry roads, this technology sends 90 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels for sporty handling, but as conditions dictate, it can reverse that proportion for enhanced traction.
Providing class-competitive dynamics is a technologically advanced double-wishbone front suspension. The rear suspenders are of the integral-link variety. Altogether, this car’s handling, steering feel and braking performance are all impressive, and the last item there is particularly important.
This is because the 340-horsepower V6 can provide some serious speed. It’s capable of propelling the XE to 60 miles an hour in as little as five seconds. Its overall demeanor is one of refined capability, though a little extra whine from the supercharger would be a nice addition.
But if all of this goodness wasn’t enough, Jaguar also offers some of the best customer service in the business. Its EliteCare package includes the new-vehicle warranty, 24-hour roadside assistance, complimentary scheduled maintenance, telematics services and more, all for five years or 60,000 miles. That’s generous coverage that doesn’t cost a dime extra.
The Verdict: 2017 Jaguar XE Review
With ample performance and a driver-focused chassis, the 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD offers more than many sport sedan shoppers might expect. With elegant design and a mostly premium interior, this car has the potential to catch the eye of SoCal’s most jaded motorists. So, if you’re bored of driving your fourth or fifth 3 Series, give the XE a try; it could be your new favorite.
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