Having spent most of our time on-track at the international launch, crankandpiston.com hit the streets on home turf
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|V8, supercharged, 2995cc||335bhp @ 4500rpm||332lb ft @ 4500rpm||5.1secs||250kph||1665kg||$68,600|
As I prepare for my first drive in the new Jaguar XE S, I can’t really shake the memories of the X-Type, the Mondeo in Jaguar’s clothing produced at the time when the BMW 3-series was a top seller. But given our experience at the XE launch at Navarra, this is hardly a hack-job.
But as much as I am looking forward to the drive, I find it unusually difficult to get in. Everything is low, close to the ground, and hard. Where I was expecting plush velour, I find butt-spanking seats, and it takes a while to find a proper driving position
Still, once there, everything falls into place. Jaguar has teamed up with Meridian to provide the sound system and the audio is outstanding. Bluetooth connectivity is easy and, surprisingly, the car allows you to connect a phone while on the move. Then again, it reminds you not to look at the map every time you switch it on, so halfway there.
At 340bhp and 1665kg the XE S is a lightweight, 0-100kph done with in just over five seconds, and the eight-speed automatic is super swift. I was wary of the new electric steering, fearing it might be numb, relieved to find it is precise and responsive. With 332lb ft on-tap, the XE S has torque to spare, and combined with a rear-wheel drive-only transmission, offers quite a bit of fun. On the other hand, this can make driving the S slowly difficult: there is so much torque that engaging first gear is accompanied by an unpleasant kick, and at every opportunity the car demands to go faster, a hallmark of that ‘S’ badge.
Fun it is though, most definitely. Jaguar introduces the Torque Vectorial braking featured on the F-TYPE, a system that gently brakes the inner wheels mid-corner to compensate understeering. The result, heroic cornering speed and poise, thanks to the integral link rear suspension, which is very rigid but at the same time, very direct.
And here is when it finally hits me: I am not in an uncomfortable Jag; I am in a sportscar with the Jaguar Badge. And that changes everything. It now isn’t unpleasant or undignified to get in or out of the car, nor are the seats too low and hard. Jaguar has made a luxury sports car, the ventilated seats and parking aids mask the true character of the Jag. Once you peel back this façade, the XE S is fantastic. Fast, nimble, and when you want, childishly spectacular.
So, what are out final thoughts?
As much as I love it for what it is, the Jag does beg some questions, the first being its rivals. The C63, the M3 or the RS4 pack too much punch, while the C45, the A4 or the 340 are ‘just’ fast saloons, different in sporty character to the XE S. Volvo S60 Polestar? Maybe…
The second is the Jaguar XE R. As good as the XE S is, and well worth forking out $70K of your hard-earned loot for, I wonder how much of a leap the new ‘R’ will be when it eventually arrives. As we’ve already discovered, there’s something very S-pecial at the base.
Technical specifications available on page 2