Unveiled with great fanfare in central London, the new XE is the car that’ll take Jaguar’s game up a notch or two. Parent company JLR is still ramping up the profits, but the big bucks are still coming from Land Rover, even though the Jaguar range has seen some major debuts in recent years. Volume drives profit in the auto industry, which is why the XE is such an important vehicle.
First you have to look beyond the rather excitable launch event (which had echoes of the painfully sincere futurism of GM’s grandly staged Motoroma events of the 1950s and 1960s) and the chunky styling of the ‘hero’ model, the supercharged V6. What lurks behind is Jaguar’s take on solid pragmatism, its first ‘affordable’ car for generations. This is a bold attempt at bringing Jaguar’s values into the small saloon sphere currently led by the German big three.
Car designers don’t like to say it, but styling sometimes takes a back seat to spreadsheets. The XE is a car that’ll be bought primarily by business people, and the rules and regulations surrounding company cars involve complex calculations based on engine size and efficiency. That’s why so much emphasis is being placed on the sporty, emotional qualities that have come to embody Jaguar, in the hope that some of this passion rubs off on potential customers who have to tick certain boxes.
The XE makes a decent fist of what’s become a fairly generic slice of the market. The company’s current design language has finally banished the spectre of retro and the proportions are solid and accomplished, rather than sleek or svelte. Inside, it’s a more exciting proposition. The XE comes equipped with an entirely new media interface, as well as the kinds of safety and performance sensors usually associated with far pricier cars. There’s the promise of smartphone personalisation that’ll sync music and address book data with different drivers, as well as remote unlocking, heating and cooling and an inbuilt 3G wireless network for backseat tablet users.
Throw in a sophisticated new aluminium platform – lighter and stronger than ever before – and a suite of ultra-efficient new engines, and the XE is shaping up to be a proper head-turner amongst a morass of extremely competent but slightly lifeless competitors. The next test is to get behind the wheel.