If ever there was a Jaguar to banish the old-fashioned view of the brand, the XE is it. Remove all thoughts of the X-Type from your mind, as this time around, the Midlands-based firm has hit a bullseye. Launched last year to wide acclaim, the aluminium bodied XE is now available with all-wheel-drive, paired to the most powerful 2.0-litre diesel engine currently offered. Costing £1,800 more than its rear-wheel-drive stablemate, the extra traction means a weight gain of 110 kilograms, a penalty at the fuel pumps of 7.2mpg and 12g/km of extra CO2.
Vehicle excise duty rises to £110 a year, and for company car users, the benefit-in-kind taxation increases from 22 to 24 per cent. But all of those disadvantages are a small price to pay for the extra peace of mind that the all-wheel-drive system delivers, especially if you live in a remote part of the country. There’s also a neat function called ‘All Surface Progress Control’. Designed to limit the amount of torque being transmitted through the wheels, it helps the driver to make progress on more slippery surfaces, like wet grass, snow and ice.
Jaguar cars have long been at the pinnacle of driver satisfaction, and this latest XE is no different. Fluid handling, exceptional body control and an absence of lean when cornering makes this a real driver’s car. You can really throw the baby Jaguar into a bend and the chassis just grips, all in a totally effortless way. It helps that the steering is well weighted and responsive, with the driver always aware of what the front wheels are up to.
Our car came with adaptive suspension, and despite being billed as a firmer sport setup, all but the deepest of potholes and ruts were shrugged off effortlessly, and is worth the additional £1,045 that the system costs. Under the bonnet is Jaguar’s 177bhp 2.0-litre diesel Ingenium engine, which delivers plenty of punch off the line and a strong dose of mid-range torque. The unit is a little grumbly from cold, and you’ll hear it working away in the background, however, at motorway speeds it is nicely hushed. And that combined with little wind and road noise, it is great on long distances.
Jaguar designers are famed for creating some of the best interiors in the business, and this trend continues with the low-slung, wraparound dashboard in the XE. Most of the materials are soft and sumptuous, though there are a few surfaces that seem lower rent compared to the rest. The excellent seats provide masses of support, and there’s a generous amount of adjustment to both the chairs and the steering column. While there’s a decent amount of leg and headroom up front, things aren’t quite so generous in the back, where space is tight. Things aren’t helped by the door apertures being small and truncated, making access to the rear more difficult. Boot space is a little smaller than class rivals, though is sensibly shaped with a low loading sill. Oddment space is similarly well catered for with a handy flat surface ahead of the trademark rising gear selector, and a decently sized glovebox and armrest cubby.