2017 Jaguar XE R Sport Review and Road Test

2017 Jaguar XE R Sport

Jaguar’s littlest kitty is quite playful, especially with a dose of supercharged catnip

Words by: Adam Allen

To those who thought fun, compact sports sedans were a thing of the past- Jaguar would like a word with you.

People who call themselves fans of the entry level sports sedan segment- and we wholeheartedly include ourselves in that group- have had very little to get excited about in recent years. Sure, Cadillac gifted us with the remarkably well sorted ATS at the same time where the BMW 3 series was being chastised for being too heavy, its sharpened reflexes dulled by the march towards recruiting a much broader buying audience. It’s hard to fathom that we even wrote the last sentence; a Cadillac schooling a 3 series in dynamic excellence. Yes, it’s a strange time we live in. Even stalwarts like the Audi A4 have begun to mortgage their past of producing engaging transportation in favor of something with more of a flair for digital niceties than a penchant for clipping apexes. Jaguar, who’s been on a bit of a roll since the XF sedan first appeared a decade ago has staunchly refused to be pigeon holed with the cream puffs it will compete against and has provided enthusiasts with something to giddily celebrate: a sports sedan that hasn’t forgotten it’s supposed to be fun.

AN XE, huh? Sorry, we thought it was an XF.

Every manufacturer seeks to imbue each model in its stable with a common thread of corporate design language. Acura has its trademark shnoz, Lexus does a spot-on impersonation of the Predator in its front grilles and BMW has its twin kidneys up front. Jaguar’s lineup follows this ethos with iron clad dedication- everything from the racy F-Type to the top rung XJ all share a strong resemblance- and the XE continues the tradition, although some bemoaned it looks like an XF that was left in the dryer a bit too long. While we do share the opinion somewhat that the two distinct models look almost identical, the XE is proportionally perfect, wearing the same suit as the XF but expertly tailored to its size. The result is a look that’s far from groundbreaking but unmistakably handsome. Even wearing more subdued rolling stock that’s part of the winter tires we had installed on our tester, the XE still drew its fair share of admiring glances.

Let’s talk about the interior.

No one has ever accused Jaguar of not being able to craft compelling interiors, and we think that tradition will continue unabated. If the last occasion you spent considerable time in a Jaguar interior was 20 years ago or beyond, you’ll marvel at how utterly unlike the modern Jaguar cockpits are compared to their wood veneered, deep pile carpeted ancestors were. While we have a soft spot for that old-world luxury, we can’t say we’re disappointed by where the brand is now. Supple and comfortable leather seats grip their occupants gently yet remain supportive, and fingers and eyes run over materials that are first rate and look to be assembled with care. The interior also nails the intangibles, like successful mitigation of any untoward noise, vibration and harshness. Cruising the highways make for a relaxed, serene experience but open that taps and just enough noise from the snarly V6 with its accompanying supercharger howl make it to your ears.

Noted. What was it they used to say all Jaguars should have? Grace, space and….

That would be Pace, and under the right circumstances, the XE will paste an ear-to-ear grin on whoever is lucky enough to be behind the wheel in showing what it can do. It starts with good fundamentals- XE engineers used generous amounts of aluminum in the structure to give a feeling of unyielding solidity coupled with playful responsiveness. That’s exactly what you get with the XE; it feels solid when traversing tapestries of nasty tarmac but will obediently follow any changed to the course with a twitch of the steering wheel. About that steering wheel: its attached to what must be one of the best electric power steering systems available today, and by far and away tops in the segment. Throw in ZF’s peerlessly excellent 8-speed automatic that can be shifted by paddles (as small, plastic afterthoughts they are a bit disappointing) mated to a supercharged engine that first showed us its zest for revs while doling out commendable power in the F-Type are all present and accounted for. The end result of all these ingredients is a car that sashays with equal parts athleticism and precision on your favorite serpentine rural road but also doesn’t beat you up when it’s time to head for home. It’s so good it almost feels analogue in a segment dominated by digital. Our tester also featured all-wheel drive which gives the XE an even greater degree of control. In a recent dumping of snow, we thumbed the switch to switch the traction control off and marveled at how well the car’s attitude could be adjusted by subtle movements of the throttle. Allowing the XE to get into a smooth, controlled drift and then reel it everything in easily and free of drama was great fun, we must admit.

What might go wrong?

It’s no secret that Jaguar has had issues taming its electronic gremlins over time, and while they have come along way there is still work to be done. The rotary shifter, which rises out of the console on startup, would sometimes refuse to select Drive or Reverse. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen when performing a three point turn in downtown traffic during rush hour with a chorus of angry horns rising to a fevered pitch as we experienced. Likewise did the infotainment system appear to have been hampered by skittish behavior. On one occasion, we couldn’t get any sound to play from the speakers no matter what audio source was selected; another time the reverse camera stayed on for the entre drive after we left for work in the morning. In other instances the glacially slow response to commands caused enough frustration that we’d just leave it alone, forgoing the on-board navigation system for a smartphone app. It’s confounding how Jaguar has such proficiency in building incredible cars and yet cannot fully shed its reputation for exorcising bad behavior from some of its electronics. The only other complaint we had was a rear seat that’s awfully snug for adults.

Should I buy an XE?

If you have been holding onto your E90 BMW 3 series well past your planned date of replacement because all the choices in the segment are underwhelming, the XE is one of the cars that should be on your very short shopping list. If the last time you drove or spent time in a Jag was in the steel, rubber and glass turd known as the X-Type then yes, you need to recalibrate your experience with the brand and the XE is the perfect way to do that. The only time we’d advise you not to buy an XE is if you want something that’ll give BMW M cars, Audi S4/S5 and Mercedes Benz AMG models a run for their money. It that’s your objective, wait a little while- there’s an XE coming down the pipeline we think you’ll find is worth waiting for. It’s been rumored that Jaguar will introduce an XE with the brand’s monstrous supercharges V8 in the engine bay (it fits perfectly.) Stay tuned.


2017 Jaguar XE R Sport- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $67,822
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Engine:  3.0-litre supercharged V6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower:  340 @ 6,500 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 332 @ 4,500 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,721 kg (3,794 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 13.4/100km (18 MPG)