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HomeFEATUREDJAGUAR XE S ROAD TEST: Expect a cat-call

JAGUAR XE S ROAD TEST: Expect a cat-call

Jaguar has always had a knack for setting up their high-performance cats with more power than one could ever need. But there’s a good reason for that, they say, even if that reason is to remind the plethora of turbocharged Mercs, Audis and Beemers driving around, that life, and especially life in the XE is always more fun with a supercharged V6 petrol under the bonnet.

Jaguar has never made cars for conformists, and in that spirit, behold the new XE S, Coventry’s answer to the compact sedans of the S, M, and AMG variety. Riding the same thrilling powertrain as its sporty F-Type cousin, offering sporty drivers a power peak of 280 kW at 6,5000 r/min from its V6 petrol engine, and putting a little more purpose into your morning commute.

BLURRING SPORTY LINES

Jaguar XE S

The XE S is not a new car, but is rather a new model addition to the existing XE range that now comprises 11 models. It is the only supercharged variant, though, and reminds you of its distinctive heritage with striking accents throughout the cabin.

Being so acutely focused on the driver, and to a degree also the front passenger, the XE S is tight in the rear, leaving passengers sitting in the back with compromised legroom, especially when the driver is 1.85 meters tall.

Not that this issue is unique to the XE; sedans across the C segment suffer the same fate to a degree. Not that it matters, as the biggest motivator for buying a Jaguar XE S is that you will likely be spending your time in this car in the driving seat.

It certainly is a cossetting place to be, enveloped by the yacht-inspired wraparound dash, which made its debut in the larger Jaguar XF. It is more distinctive than the larger car, but there is no escaping that the XE is a significantly tighter fit.

What the new generation of Jaguars is not short on, however, are high tech gadgets and goodies to keep you entertained and enthralled throughout your drive. The XE S being no exception. Like its brethren (and some of its cousins in the Land Rover stable), the XE S get the brilliant InControl Touch system with its 8” touchscreen display and upgraded Meridian sound system that delivers 380 W of pure listening purrfection.

There is no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, however, and neither are the electrically-folding front seats heated – it’s an optional extra – which doesn’t sit too well when considering that the XE S carries a R260,000 premium over its closest sibling in the range.

Other optional items that should appear on the standard spec sheet, in our opinion, include safety specs such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring.

MAGIC ON THE OUTSIDE

Jaguar XE S

For the exterior, Jaguar has given the S the full monty makeover that echoes the R-Sport trim of the 30t model, but adds some key styling cues not available on the lesser car. These include red brake callipers that peek through what were optioned 20” wheels on our test car (19” split spoke alloys are standard), while the black sills and rear valance hint at the car’s individuality, the twin tailpipes make it official.

ALL ABOUT THE XE S DYNAMICS

Jaguar XE S

In many ways, the throaty V6 is a brute of an engine, while being remarkably well balanced, and behaved. It is fun to burble down the boulevard without being too crass, but put your foot down, and you’ll see the needles quickly head toward the red as the noise rises.

To truly experience what this car is about, you need to turn the gear selector dial to Sport mode and switch drive mode to dynamic.

On the XE S, dynamics are customisable (an option on lower spec cars), allowing you to tweak the engine, gearbox, steering and suspension. It’s here that you can move the Jag on from a slightly sedate throttle response into something that’s very twitchy and taut: once in dynamic mode, it will buck as soon as you touch the accelerator, sending you deeper into the leather sports seats, as the rear wheels hunt for grip.

Unsurprisingly, dynamic mode deactivates the auto start/stop function that comes on in other modes.
This XE sends power to the rear via Jaguar’s sharp eight-speed sequential gearbox, propelling the cat from zero to 100 km/h in a claimed 4.8 seconds. That’s pretty fast by any measure.

And the soundtrack is sporty too, and although you don’t quite get the full range of popping and echoing growls that you’ll find on slightly more powerful engines from the sports saloons in a tier above the XE, it is an authentically Jaguar experience.

At the same time, this is still a Jaguar that remains perfectly composed while cornering nicely, with great feel to the steering and enough flexibility in the sports suspension to keep you perfectly balanced in the corners.

LAST WORD

There is no shortage of predictable rivals in the luxury sports saloon segment – think the Audi S, BMW M Sport or Mercedes-AMG – but if you crave something that is unique, yet is still packed with quality and excitement, then this high-spirited Jaguar might be just the cat you need.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG | Images © DEON VAN DER WALT (TCB Media)

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