If at first you don't succeed, wait 10 years

If at first you don't succeed, wait 10 years. If that's the philosophy that got us from the lamentable Jaguar X-Type, the brand's first real attempt at a mass-market compact sedan, to the 2017 Jaguar XE, a vehicle that out of the gate represents a clear threat to the established luxury pecking order, then it may be in everyone's best interests if more companies were to adopt Jaguar's refractory period.

Decades of class-leading full-size sedans and intriguing high end sports cars are no guarantee of success in the more attainable spectrum of the automotive market, but the clean-slate approach taken by Jaguar in developing the XE - which rides on an all-new platform and introduces the Ingenium family of in-house engines - is to be commended based on the fruit it has borne. This small sedan proves that there's room for one more in the crowded entry-level premium car segment.

2017 Jaguar XE

The 2017 Jaguar XE is also an intriguing illustration of how a company of modest means has been able to selectively invest in its products to the point where the mix of new and old creates something greater than the sum of its parts. The XE's aluminium-based platform has been designed to be modular in nature (and is in fact shared with the also-new Jaguar F-Pace sedan), which allowed the company to justify pouring most of its development dollars into making the chassis as competitive as possible with leaders like the BMW 3 Series in terms of dynamics.

Mission accomplished. On the challenging roads that carve in and out of the mountains that define Aspen, Colorado's topography, the Jaguar XE's suspension was up to processing every input thrown its way, including the occasionally uneven asphalt of U.S. 82. The XE presents the total package: calm and collected at speed, willing to respond to a flick of the wheel without a moment's hesitation, and perhaps most importantly, capable of transmitting what was happening under the front rubber directly through the steering column to the driver. In an age of electric power steering systems, this locking down last achievement has become something of a dark art, and not a claim that can be made by many of the car's premium peers.

2017 Jaguar XE

The fresh architecture underpinning the 2017 Jaguar XE works together with both existing and newly-introduced power plants. A 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder Ingenium turbodiesel engine makes its debut under the hood of the XE 20d (and will also be available in the next-class-up XF sedan), where it produces 180 horsepower and 318 lb-ft of torque. Although Aspen's altitude likely contributed to some of the off-the-line lag we experience when driving the XE 20d, once underway the 4-cylinder felt stout and responsive, even when passing uphill.

While the turbodiesel XE might be more oriented towards frugality (expect a highway efficiency rating in the neighbourhood of 5 litres per 100 kilometres), the XE 35t turns its eye towards all-around performance. Claiming the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 that has become ubiquitous in Jaguar showrooms, this version of the compact sedan churns out 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of twist, and like the 20d, is linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. It's the more engaging of the two Jaguar XE drivetrains Canadians will be offered, although the following model year could see the inclusion of the turbocharged 4-cylinder motor destined for the American market on the vehicle's options list.

Mechanically sound and dynamically interesting, the 2017 Jaguar XE makes itself a triple-threat by way of its sultry styling. Looking enough like a smaller XF to cause more than one journalist to remark on the potential for the entry-level four-door to cannibalize sales from one of Jaguar's own, the XE's first impression is one of supreme confidence, ratcheting up to aerodynamic insouciance when found in top-shelf R-Sport form. It's a handsome car that caught the eye of more than a few Aspen residents during our time behind the wheel, an impressive feat considering just how many three-comma clientele regularly pass through the mountain town.

2017 Jaguar XE

Temper your expectations once you open the door to the Jaguar XE's cabin, however. There's really nothing out of place about the compact sedan's interior design, and there were certain elements - such as the wrap-around dash linking the tops of the doors to the front of the vehicle - that were inspired. Still, a little too much hard plastic and not quite enough leather or soft-touch materials where our knees, hands, and fingers came into contact with the XE (especially on more affordable models) was hard to ignore in the face of what is on offer from Mercedes-Benz (the C-Class) and Audi (the A4).

Moving back into the plus column, the plastic in the XE's passenger compartment was balanced out by a respectable rear seat, a high level of active safety equipment, and the feature Jaguar fans have been waiting for for quite some time: a class-competitive infotainment system. Jaguar's InControl Touch Pro is light years ahead of previous navigation/communications/entertainment interfaces from the brand, and the 10.2-inch HD screen is a marvel to look at. In fact, we can't recommend upgrading from the slower, and less attractive standard InControl Touch system enough when ordering the new XE - it's that much more responsive and easier to use.

2017 Jaguar XE

It'll cost you $45,000 to get behind the wheel of a diesel-powered version of the 2017 Jaguar XE, and another $3,500 to step up to the supercharged V6. That's almost $6k more than a base, rear-wheel drive BMW 3 Series, and a few thousand above an entry-level Audi A4 - but the key difference here is the lack of a turbo four in the current XE line-up to go head-to-head with its cheaper Euro rivals. Matching six-cylinder cars reveals the Jaguar to be priced more competitively, undercutting all but the Cadillac ATS. Will entry-level luxury buyers make the leap past the bottom rung and grab Jaguar's trapeze in mid-swing? For those that do, the rewards are substantial.

 

2017 Jaguar XE

 

ENGINE

2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel / 3.0-litre supercharged V6

OUTPUT

180 hp / 318 lb-ft & 340 hp / 332 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION

8-speed automatic

0-100 KM/H

7.5 seconds / 5.1 seconds

TOP SPEED

193 KM/H (35t)

FUEL ECONOMY

N/A & 11.8 L/100 km city / 8.2 L/100 km highway

WEIGHT

1,618 kilograms (3,560 lbs)

SEATING CAPACITY

5

CARGO VOLUME

N/A

BASE PRICE

$45,000

AS-TESTED PRICE

$57,500

 

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