June 17 2018, Jaguar Vancouver


2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD R-Sport Road Test Review

A winner in every respect

Good news, sport-luxury fans. The new 2017 Jaguar XE is here and it’s even better than expected.

What makes it special? So much, but lets start with aluminum. Thanks to JLR’s new iQ modular platform, the XE enters the D-segment as the only bonded and riveted aluminum-intensive competitor. Aluminum reduces weight, but at least as importantly it strengthens the body to improve road-holding, NVH levels and crash protection. Notably the XE’s front and rear crash structures, plus key body panels, are bolted into place to reduce repair time and costs. What’s more, Jaguar even integrated sacrificial slipping fixings within the suspension design to prevent pricey components from getting bent or broken if hit by curbs.

The front chassis incorporates a similar aluminum double wishbone setup to the new F-Pace SUV and F-Type sports car, but the two new models incorporate an entirely new subframe-mounted multi-link system in the rear, dubbed Integral Link. According to Jaguar it’s pricier to produce yet allows greater tuning potential, and after some time behind the wheel it quickly became apparent this advanced suspension and lightweight, ultra-rigid body shell combination was worth every pre-Brexit quid.

Now the five-seater that rolls out of Solihull, West Midlands assembly drives more like that F-Type than any Jaguar since. Truly, this is the car that takes it to the 3 Series. A sport sedan that provides otherworldly levels of grip combined with outrageously reactive, positively precise steering.

Like the F-Pace SUV I drove previously my XE tester was stuffed full of 3.0-litre supercharged V6 and paddle-shift actuated eight-speed automatic for straight-line jab and hook performance that matches this four-door’s ability to duck and slip. The 35t boasts 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, and while slightly muted compared to the snarling growl of the F-Pace, it packed more punch due to its lighter frame, resulting in 5.4 seconds to 100km/h and an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h with Dynamic sport mode engaged.

The eight-speed auto and sport-tuned all-wheel drive come standard with our Canadian-spec XE, while the Intelligent Driveline Dynamics software improves handling by minimizing understeer. Added to that my tester boasted R-Sport trim with optional 20-inch alloys as well as an adaptive suspension. Despite its performance capability the XE’s ride was comfortably compliant with ample wheel travel for enjoyable city and highway cruising. That’s one of the wonders of a stiff body structure, its overall rigidity permitting a little more play in the undercarriage without losing performance.

All this allows one of the segment’s sportiest sedans to simultaneously deliver a thoroughly luxurious experience when not pushing the envelope, the XE’s interior a gluttonous feast for the eyes. My tester was done out in stunning red on black leather, the red affecting the door and seat inserts as well as contrast stitching found throughout the cabin. Fabulously contoured sport seats aside, a stitched leather instrument panel is one of those excesses we’ve come to expect of Jaguar. The British brand continues to impress with soft touch door uppers, leather inserts and armrests, superbly crafted switchgear, beautiful piano black lacquered surfaces and gorgeous metal trim, as well as one of the nicer leather-wrapped sport steering wheels in the industry.

Jaguar also invested heavily into state-of-the-art high-resolution full-colour electronic interfaces, the primary instruments not fully digital like those in the top-line F-Pace, but still nicely organized with a set of metal-rimmed analog dials flanking an extremely comprehensive multi-information display, while the widescreen infotainment touchscreen over the centre stack is a real thing of beauty. Like the F-Pace and other JLR products, the 8.0-inch InControl Touch monitor features scenic graphics including a classic red British phone booth for wireless phone connectivity, text messaging and audio streaming, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, navigation with 3D mapping, and all the usual audio controls that feed a standard Meridian stereo.

While very good it’s all upstaged by a rotating gear selector that powers up out of its flush-mounted dormant state upon ignition. Talk about a sense of occasion, this is the type of feature today’s gadget geek loves while simultaneously freeing space from the lower console. It’s joined by a row of buttons highlighted with a waving checkered flag just behind, that last one for engaging aforementioned Dynamic mode, whereas most of the others are for Normal, Eco and Snow modes. An expected electromechanical parking brake resides close by, while you need to go back up to the dual-zone HVAC interface on the centre stack to power the three-way heatable seats.

All these features in mind, what exactly does $45,000 for the base XE Premium buy you, or for that matter $57,500 for the 35t R-Sport I drove? The former number starts with one of the most progressive entry-level engines in the class, a fuel-efficient 180 horsepower 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with 318 lb-ft of torque that’s good for a sub-8.0-second sprint to 100km/h, and then on top of that base trim includes most expected D-segment features as well as some unexpected items like standard driver’s side memory, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, a garage door opener, a rearview camera, 380-watt 11-speaker Meridian audio, and a handy 40/20/40-split rear seatback that makes the already sizable 450-litre trunk much more utile.

Both engines are available with Prestige trim too, which ups content to include contrast-stitched Taurus leather upholstery, heatable front seats and steering wheel, four-way powered lumbar support, powered tilt and telescopic steering, Jaguar InControl Apps, proximity access, and more, while as-tested R-Sport trim adds a sportier aero body kit, adaptive HID headlamps with signature LED DRLs and auto high beams, metal doorsill plates, an R-Sport steering wheel, satellite radio, front and rear parking sensors, blindspot monitoring with closing vehicle sensing and rear cross-traffic detection, lane keep assist, autonomous braking, and driver condition monitoring, while my loaner also added 20-inch Propeller 10-spoke alloys, Italian Racing Red paint (don’t worry, British Racing Green is still available), and no charge red leather inserts (you can get cream or blue dual-tone cabins too).

My test car also included a Black Pack that replaced standard chrome with glossy black for the grille surround and insert, the “blades” in the lower fascia and the front fender vent trim; plus a Tech Pack with navigation and an upgraded 17-speaker Meridian sound system; a standalone heatable front windshield; plus the previously noted Adaptive Dynamics suspension.

Additional options that weren’t added include various wheels, Satin Burr Ash hardwood or Carbon Fibre veneers in place of the standard Etched Aluminum inlays, adaptive cruise control with Queue Assist, traffic sign recognition with an adaptive speed limiter, head-up display, Wi-Fi, a 360-degree surround parking camera, park assist, cooled front seats, heatable rear seats, a powered rear sunshade, and a powered trunk lid.

Truly, if it didn’t drive as brilliantly as it does its stunning styling and gorgeous interior would be enough to make me a believer, but the new XE runs away from most challengers while providing some of the most advanced tech in its segment. Jaguar XE is a winner in every respect.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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