Test Drive: 2017 Jaguar XE AWD R-Sport

I admit that I am a Jaguar fanboy. Something about the British marque has always made me lust for it, and the current crop of designs is simply spectacular. The 2017 Jaguar XE is the best-looking mid-size car on the market. Period. Full Stop. The $1,500 20-inch propeller wheels help set this off, as does the subtle aero kit.

Jaguar has built a beautiful little rig chock-full of driving enjoyment.

Not only was it a car I was anxious to drive, the XE has come with a large amount of fanfare and fuss. I was careful not to read too much about it before I drove it, lest I load up on hype, only to be left disappointed. I was not.

Jaguar has built a beautiful little rig chock-full of driving enjoyment.

A supercharger forces air down the raspy throat of the 3.0L V6 to send 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of power through the AWD drivetrain and 91 decibels of pure sex out the exhaust.

The eight-speed ZF auto box shuffles gears quickly and the paddle shifters allow the driver to call up downshifts even when they land you perilously close to the 6,500 rpm redline. I know this because tunnels.

On paper the Jaguar should be faster than the BMW 3 Series, so I was perplexed when research uncovered a half-second discrepancy in their 0–100 times: 4.9 s for the 340i and 5.4 for the Jaguar XE. That’s despite 12 less kg aboard the 1,721 kg Jag and 20 less hp available from the BMW. The difference, looking purely on paper, would be the flatter, earlier torque curve available from the turbocharged BMW versus the supercharged Jag: 330 lb-ft from 1,380 rpm versus 332 from 4,500 respectively.

And when rolling on throttle, the Jaguar does have mild hesitation, especially from low speeds. The XE builds momentum more like a motorcycle than the tidy, linear acceleration of most modern cars. Instead, the Jaguar gathers speed exponentially, with far more pull up high than down low.

It’s a good thing the gearbox is compliant because you need to go looking for the power.

If you prefer outright stopwatch prowess or immediate, tangible throttle response, this engine is not for you. But if you enjoy feeling acceleration build to a crescendo, this will do it. It’s not so much that it isn’t fast because it is. And it feels fast – but only once you let the needle climb.

Where the Jag comes to the fore is in the corners. It changes direction willingly, even excitably, answering the call of the steering wheel with an eager and enthusiastic response. The body stays flat and the front tires bite well providing good feedback through the double-wishbone front suspension. The XE takes a set and maintains its trajectory with impressive stubbornness, and despite the wider front track the back end is a loyal follower to the front. The only problem with all this agility and good behaviour is that it can feel tame. The presence of AWD and brake-based torque vectoring limits your ability to stand on the oversteer pedal should the mood effect you. Not that it ever would, of course.

All this sportiness comes with very little penalty in ride comfort and I found myself almost feeling like the ride was too soft – in a car like this I kind of want to be jostled about so I can feel like I’m driving a sports sedan. I am likely in the minority however, judging by the tuned suspension trend in pretty much every new car.

The one big letdown of this Jaguar XE is the infotainment system. Now sexier and sleeker than the previous generation, and upgraded with a larger, 8.0-inch touchscreen, the system mixes large on-screen buttons and redundant hard buttons in an ergonomically solid format. Unfortunately, pressing any of those buttons results in a lengthy delay while the computer travels back in time to find a 486 processor, fires it up, runs the code, and then finally responds to your command.

A second or two to respond to a command is an eternity when Barbie Girl suddenly comes on the radio. I’m just glad the windows were up.

The slowness in the infotainment system will be a genuine issue for its target market. Those who like flashy, fast and fun cars are likely not going to be willing to stick around for a slow human machine interface – no matter how slickly styled.

Having said that, maybe they’ll be won over by the “Dynamic” screens that let you set the suspension, throttle, transmission and steering response. Maybe they’ll be enamoured with the onboard g-force meter (or maybe they’ll wrap themselves around a lamppost trying to set a new record). If they’re like me, they’ll enjoy the way the gauge colours turn to red when you put the XE into Dynamic Mode.

I personally got a big kick out of the green leaping Jaguar in the head-up display every time I started the car. It was enough to distract me from the 1988-Toyota-spec blue trim on the seats. I’m generally all about colour in my interiors, but this one was a bit of a miss.

Looks aside, the seats are supportive and comfortable as well as effectively bolstered. The driver and front passenger are blessed with head room and space, the second row passengers less so. Sitting behind myself wasn’t particularly comfortable and I’m not exactly a tall bloke. The ridge around the dashboard ties the interior together well and is supposed to remind one of a boat – specifically the type of power launches favoured by the well-to-do. It doesn’t, but it does look good.

The rising gear-selector knob and lashings of aluminum accent, plus the blue stitching in the dash and the “R Sport” logo in the stitched steering wheel add welcome theater to the interior.

Trunk space is a very decent 450 litres, and is expandable courtesy of a 40-20-40 split fold rear seat. This, I suspect is where a lot of that rear leg room has disappeared to – the 2017 BMW 340i xDrive has only 368 L of cargo volume by comparison.

In keeping with market trends, Jaguar has flooded the XE AWD R-Sport with its semi-autonomous safety aids, throwing in lane-keeping assist and driver-condition monitoring, blind-spot monitor with closing-vehicle sensing, reverse traffic detection, front and rear parking aids, plus autonomous emergency braking into the $57,500 base price for this R-Sport trim.

The sexy wheels are extra, as mentioned, and it costs $350 to turn the grill surround and side vent markers to black from chrome. An option I’d skip. At $2,000 I would also struggle to justify the “Comfort and Convenience package” which added heated and cooled front seats (heated front seats are standard) and heated rear seats, as well as a power rear window sunblind and a powered tailgate – in a sedan.

As much as I enjoyed the 360-degree parking aid, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, I would hesitate to fork out $3,100 for those features. I would however fork out $2,600 for the Tech Pack, purely for the Meridian Digital Surround Sound system which sounds glorious. The Pro Services (concierge-style, OnStar-like service) and navigation system are nice, but in a world where Android Auto and Apple CarPlay exist those systems are ever more useless. The fact Jaguar has put in its own Jaguar Apps smartphone system in place of those boggles my mind, particularly given the flakiness of the rest of this system.

Visually and feature-wise the Jag software is excellent, but its poor responses and glitchiness are disappointing. That’s why Jaguar should just add Android/Apple to it and get back to doing the car bit.

Because the actual “car” part is really good. There is a really strong argument for choosing the Jaguar XE AWD R Sport over the BMW 340i and little between them in pricing. The key wins for BMW are the HMI and infotainment system and rear leg room, while the Jaguar takes a bit of a kicking in the fuel economy stakes too.

It’s rated at 11.8/8.2/10.2 L/100 km city/highway/combined versus 10.9/7.3/9.3 for the BMW. On my watch, the XE took a very, very heavy “Hey, listen to this!” fuel economy penalty and I ended the week on an EPA-enraging 15.2 L/100 km. Whoops.

But that’s kind of the point here. This is a car designed to pull on your heartstrings, via your eyeballs and ear drums. The styling and aural excitement of the Jaguar make it a compelling choice.

2017 Jaguar XE AWD R-Sport
Engine Displacement: 3.0L
Engine Cylinders: V6
Peak Horsepower: 340 hp
Peak Torque: 332 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 11.8/8.2/10.2 (L/100 km, cty/hwy/cmb)
Cargo Space: 450 L
2017 Jaguar XE AWD R-Sport
Base Price $57,500
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,500
Price as Tested $68,100
Optional Equipment $9000 – Comfort and Convenience Package $2,000; Technology Pack $2,600; Black Pack $500; Adaptive Dynamics $1,000; 20-inch propeller spoke wheel $1,500; heated front windscreen $400; head-up display $1,000
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.3
10 Styling
7 Powertrain
8 Quality
8 Comfort
8 Practicality
9 Drivability
4 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
7 Features
6 Value