Jaguar’s recent “it’s good to be bad” villains campaign – Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong valiantly taking the piss out of themselves – was partly about repositioning the brand as a “disruptor”. Yes, the Germans make excellent cars, but where’s the fun in toeing the party line?
The XE is Jaguar’s riposte, a sharp-suited sports saloon, underpinned by a ground-breaking new aluminium chassis, powered by an all-new range of engines, and featuring future-proofed, class-leading in-car connectivity. An enormous chunk of cash has been invested in this thing, to the extent that swathes of the Midlands are relying on it for employment, and the XE generates the sort of holy industrial glow politicians just love to bask in.
But is the Jaguar XE any good?
Yes. GQ was invited to sample a prototype – approximately 94 per cent the finished article, according to a Jaguar spokesperson – and despite having a serious moment on black ice 2000m up a Portuguese mountain – a 360° spin, big drops on one side, angry rocks on the other, brrrrr – the XE is really very good indeed. It has tight proportions, and a lean, nose-down stance, which immediately nudges it ahead of the slightly beaky BMW 3 series and the chubby Mercedes C-class. Jaguar has a habit of hobbling its cars with lame looking alloy wheels, but the XE – if not wildly imaginative – is unarguably handsome.
Company car rules are a minefield of ‘benefit-in-kind’, CO2 figures, and tax. Suffice to say that the XE turbodiesel hits all the right notes with the bean counters, and the 180bhp version gets an eight-speed auto, and can reach 62mph in a pretty lively 7.8 seconds while coughing out just 109g/km of CO2. This is seriously impressive, should you care about this stuff.
It’s almost impossible to fault inside, either, unless you crave the car interior equivalent of Tracey Emin’s Saatchi-sponsored bed. The cabin layout is unfussy and clear, the materials a mix of soft leather and durable plastics. There are proper dials rather than a TFT display (closer to a proper chronograph), and the all-new eight-inch InControl telematics system is easy to use if not especially graphically inspired. It’ll also hook up to your smartphone or Android device, and the inevitable XE App can pre-heat the cabin up to seven days in advance, and warn your dealer if something’s wrong with the car.
In the pre-digital age, back when the British government thought it could run a car company (how demented an idea does that seem now?), unreliability would have been the only you could have relied on. But Jaguars are almost bulletproof these days, and the XE has a satisfyingly well-engineered feel to it. It’s also the first Jaguar to use fully electric power steering – which helps reduce emissions – but as it’s been calibrated by the best in the game, it feels linear and responsive.