First Drive Double Take: Supercharged V6 and Turbo Jaguar XE

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There’s way more to the sedan you see here than just a kitty cat badge and a stunning Aspen, Colorado backdrop. This is the all-new Jaguar XE, and much like its big brother, the XF, it comes in a variety of different flavors, with enough tasteful toppings on hand to make even the most insatiable luxury snob smile with satisfaction.

It’s a car that lands in the middle of a brawl, where the BMW 3-Series, Lexus IS, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class continue to duke it out for the top spot, and yet it harbors a deeply-rooted desire to overthrow the mighty Audi A4 once and for all. But in order to do that, Jaguar first had to build a version that came equipped with a turbo-diesel powerplant, because before you can attack the alpha dog of the pack with a supercharged V6, it’s best to throw them off balance with a torque-rich first strike.

2017 Jaguar XE aluminum architecture

But before the whole “which engine is best engine” debate begins, it’s good to note that the XE offers one of the best warranty plans in its segment. Its five years/60,000 miles of “EliteCare” trumps BMW’s four years/50,000 miles, and covers both a new vehicle limited warranty and roadside assistance coverage. But with a body and drivetrain that is almost entirely made of aluminum, there’s talk that the lightweight longevity of this machine stands a strong chance of shattering the old notion that Jags don’t last.

Handling, both in all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive models, is crisp and borderline needlepoint in its accuracy. With adaptive dampening options and both track and sport modes engaged, the driving feel is rewarding and profoundly precise. It brakes cleanly and doesn’t feel like it needs massive, multi-pot piston calipers, visibility and the cabin are superb, and if there was one driving complaint, it would be that the brake and gas pedal are a hair too close together and may cause the occasional accidental heel-toe. The dead pedal also had this strange slope to it that forced one’s foot to angle outward, which I found to be both odd and uncomfortable.

Interior and tech are all modern-day Jaguar grade, with fine leather appointments, slick electronic controls, and a stylish center stack. While the traditional analog gauge cluster and infotainment screen are easy to read, informative, and quite capable, it was the 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro upgrade that really stole the show, as it annihilated any and all prior qualms we had with Jaguar’s tech glitches. Yes, there were some missing soft leather touchpoints, a slightly tight rear bench, and adding amenities drove the sticker price skyward quite quickly, but all of these maladies tend to plague other small luxury sedans as well.

Styling wise, the back end of the XE is a bit conservative when compared to its earnest and more macho XF big brother. Although it hits all the right boxes in the LED lighting department, brandishing strong lines out front and across its sides, the little Jaguar loses a little bit of its carnivorous self when it comes to its twitching tail. Even the supercharged 35t, with its large dual port, split exhaust, and optional 20-inch alloy wheels, still looked a little cut and dry from the rear. As a result, I still prefer the XF stylistically.

2.0-liter Ingenium turbo diesel engine

Starting on the low end, with lots of torque and fuel efficiency that make you want to reconsider your recent hybrid purchase, is the turbo-diesel 2.0-liter seen here, which starts right under $40,000 and can be built from there. Outside of the reconfigured exhaust ports and some chrome badging, it’s hard to tell that this is a diesel because it really is that quiet. Naturally, it does behave very much like a typical diesel under throttle as well, with 318 foot-pounds of torque quickly causing you to forget that it only has 180 horsepower.

But the big story here is how this feline beast sips crude, because when the Eco button gets engaged and cruise control comes on, you will be amazed by how efficient it is. We were impressively able to average around 67 miles per gallon on flat roads, though this would likely fall significantly when subjected to everyday driving. While daily driving habits will surely yield far more modest numbers, I would not be surprised at all if the average XE owner gets over 40 miles per gallon consistently.

Jaguar XE sport sedan

If diesel isn’t for you, there’s also a supercharged V6 which offers around half the fuel economy but almost twice the horsepower at 340. It may not trumpet its horns the way the F-Type does, and it may be a few ponies behind its German rivals, but snap the 35t R-Sport into agro mode and you really won’t give a damn.

The Roots-style supercharger provides a perpetual acceleratory experience that can only be summed up with one word: solid. No room for complaints here; quite frankly, you don’t have time, and when you do you’re too busy clinching your teeth. This is the same recipe that worked so well with the Jaguar XF, and when the F-Pace decided launch control was best summed up with a four letter expletive. So if fuel efficiency isn’t your thing, by all means upgrade to the supercharged V6 because this drivetrain checks all of the right boxes once attached to the German-built, eight-speed automatic ZF transmission that Audi and BMW also use.

While the car does come nicely equipped from the factory, buying something like a Jaguar typically means you can afford a lot of the extras that come with it, regardless of whether it truly is an “entry level luxury sedan” or not. Wrapped all together with a nice array of add-ons and packages, the average XE will likely run you well over $50,000 and on into $60,000 territory if you toss in things like revolver 20-inch alloy wheels and the available carbon interior upgrade.

I personally feel that if the XE isn’t the top dog in the kennel, it’s pretty damn close. Maybe after a little fine tuning, some minor interior fixes, and the introduction of a SVR version, we’ll see demand spike significantly. But until that time comes our enthusiasm for the XE will remain strong, and if someone asks for suggestions regarding entry level luxury sedans, it will always be one of the first options I mention.

(cheatsheet.com, http://goo.gl/u3AKtS)

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