There really is something special about Jaguar.
Maybe it's the design, the proportions, the heritage, or even the fact that it has a growling cat on the grille or a leaping one on the trunk, but whichever the case, they just evoke a different aura when you walk up to these cars when compared to competing premium German saloons, Japanese sedans, or even Italian ones. Jags just feel more... special.
That's perhaps the best way to describe the Jaguar XE as I walked up to it for the first time. When Jag dropped it off to our office, the natural sunlight really highlighted the solid shade of Caldera Red. While we like metallic hues, there's something about this relatively classic style of color; no fancy highlights or color-changing effects.
I found myself crouching as I got close to it; from a lower angle, you can better appreciate the clean lines and smooth curves of the car. You'll love the classic profile brought about by that long hood, a fastback-like silhouette and a cabin that looks as if its been set as far back as they can; a very distinct Jaguar trait that can be traced back to the iconic D Type.
The XE isn't actually an all new car; it's been around for the better part of this decade as Jaguar's entry grade model as if you can actually refer to any Jag as “entry grade”. Nevertheless, it's the smallest of the cats that is comprised of the large XJ saloon and the midsize XF. The model we're trying out is already the updated model with the new look, new features, and redesigned details, but it's still pretty much the same model as before.
Now the XE is the modern successor to the X-Type that was discontinued in 2009. Unlike the X-Type under the wider Ford umbrella, this isn't (primarily) a front wheel drive model; this XE that was released under the ownership of Tata is a rear-wheel drive Jaguar, meaning you can pit it against the likes of the BMW 3 Series, the Lexus IS, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. That's a tough list of competitors, but we'll see if this XE can get the formula right.
The interior is definitely impressive. We're not talking about it having a lot of ye olde time accents like bright wood trims or chrome; our generation generally does not gravitate towards those features. Instead, they created a cabin that's well and truly clean. We can talk about how streamlined it is or how innovative the cabin feels that's how it is. They achieved that by using a clean design with minimal buttons and clutter, and they did it by going for a glass cockpit.
Pilots and aviation enthusiasts will understand that older aircraft had cockpits that were cluttered with buttons, toggles, dials, gauges and other bits and pieces. Modern aircraft have what's called glass cockpits, meaning it's pretty much all about screens; in this case, touch screens for the audio system and the climate control panel (which can also display other functions). Even the gauge cluster did away with analog dials; instead you get a screen. They even put screens on the dial knobs for the climate control system.
You also shouldn't mistake this XE for a luxury car either; it's not that kind of car, as Jaguar was going for sport, not ultra luxury. This isn't your grand daddy's Jag; this is a properly modern car that feels like it was made for young and successful individuals that want to drive, not be driven. That's why there's a drive mode selector that allows the driver to pick a sport setting for a more exhilarating drive.
The idea that this XE is meant for younger drivers is also the main reason why the leather seats are on the firmer side of things. The seats are meant to hold you in place when you drive in a more spirited fashion. The rear seats aren't as comfortable as your parents might like too, nor is legroom particularly exceptional, but those are expected.
What did surprise me was the trunk space; it's fairly small, all things considered. It won't have a problem with luggage or groceries, but fitting a golf set in there (the traditional standard of premium cars) would likely involve folding down the rear seats and poking the bag and clubs through.
Press the ignition button and the engine springs to life; well, it judders to life. The reason is because what's underneath that long hood is a 2.0-liter turbo that runs on diesel and not gas... or petrol, I should say.
The engine is called the AJ200D and is part of the new generation from Jaguar called Ingenium, and they use it on other Jaguar and Land Rover models like the E-Pace, F-Pace, Range Rover Velar and Evoque. Some would groan at the idea of a Jaguar sedan that uses compression ignition rather than spark ignition, but really it doesn't matter as much as you'd think; this aluminum engine makes 180 horsepower and 430 Nm of torque. That should be fun.
Taking the XE around the city on a daily commute to the office is a pleasure, provided you have the right route ahead. Again, the XE is not an ultra luxury car like its big brother, the XJ. This XE with the R-Dynamic package is a sportier model geared for younger customers, and that generally means it's sportier. You can feel it in the suspension as it transfers more of the bumps and road imperfections to you, the driver. If you can, you'll want to steer clear of really bumpy roads.
But if you live in an area with nice winding roads like I do, then you'll absolutely love the XE. There's a clean tautness in the way this XE manages its way around the bends, and if you toggle the drive selector to the sport settings, it gets even better. The engine's response is surprisingly quick for a diesel, and maximum torque is available from a very low RPM to get you going.
The transmission is also one of the best in the business: it's the ZF 8HP45. It's also used in a wide variety of automobiles, particularly by BMW and Fiat-Chrysler. The gearbox is smooth, direct, and responds fairly quickly to inputs. I'm actually glad that Jaguar used this gearbox for the XE over a dual clutch; while DCTs are good, they're generally not as smooth in traffic (of which we have a lot) and there can be problems with reliability (i.e. Ford's Powershift). This ZF 'box is proven and reliable, generally speaking.
The one aspect that may need improving with the mechanicals of the XE are the brakes. On a faster mountain drive, they just don't inspire as much confidence as I would like. The brakes aren't bad, per se, but they can be improved upon particularly because your right foot can easily conjure up triple digit speeds without you really noticing. A peek inside the wheels reveals these aren't performance brakes like you would expect in a car that's branded as R-Dynamic; Jaguar's equivalent to BMW's M Sport or Audi's S-Line.
Where the Jaguar XE does shine is in fuel economy. On my typical daily commute that averages about 20 km/h, the XE was doing 9.8 km/l. That means I just consume about 4 liters of diesel on my daily roundtrip (about 40 km). On a highway drive, that figure jumps up significantly to 16.3 km/l (88 km/h average).
Overall, the 2019 Jaguar XE D180 R-Dynamic does have a lot going for it. In all honesty, I enjoyed the XE with its looks, the performance, and the fact that the sporty handling does cater to my personal preferences. More importantly, this Jaguar undercuts its most direct competitor, the 2019 BMW 330i M Sport by PhP 400,000; a huge chunk of change for this segment.
But just when I was about to conclude my drive and return the vehicle, an electronic gremlin decided to show itself. It wasn't major, but basically the audio unit just quit playing any audio via the speakers. The audio system was on, but there was no audio whether it was on the USB input, Bluetooth, or even radio. No matter what I did or how many times I reset the vehicle on the return trip to their HQ in San Juan, it didn't correct itself.
I did get a perfectly good explanation when I brought it back to the distributor/dealer, which is fine. But if you're paying over PhP 4,190,000 (just over USD 82,500) for such a good looking car, you expect it to work perfectly.