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2017 Jaguar XE S review: First drive

The Good

  • Exciting drive
  • Faster
  • Sounds great

The Bad

  • Gearbox can be slow to react
  • Pricier
4.5

We had a test drive of the new MY18 Jaguar XE S, which now develops a more tantalising 374bhp from its 3.0-litre V6 supercharged engine.

There was little incentive to drastically change the Jaguar XE S because everyone and their dog liked it. So Jaguar didn’t. Instead, it gave the MY18 model bigger and shaper claws and left it at that.

You still get rear-wheel drive, a balanced chassis, classy looks and lightweight steering – there’s just more power to contend with and a few other changes you would struggle to notice.

Until the rumoured XE SVR comes along, creating an M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 rival in the process, this is the most powerful XE money can buy. So what exactly is new and would we still recommend it?

We headed to charming The Fuzzy Duck pub in a sleepy part of Stratford-upon-Avon in search of answers, having been invited to sample the MY18 XE, XF, F-Pace and F-Type SVR.

2017 Jaguar XE S: What is it?

The 2017 Jaguar XE S compact saloon is the British-built equivalent to the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series Mercedes C-Class. Underneath its rather pretty exterior lies a new, predominantly aluminium monocoque that is there to reduce weight and improve rigidity.

In XE S guise, it gets a serious dose of performance in the form of a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol – an addition it communicates to the world via a body kit. Because faster cars have to look more aggressive.

Direct rivals include the Audi RS4, BMW 340i and Mercedes-AMG C 43, all of which are talented in their own ways and offer very different driving characteristics. All cost sub-£50,000 before you get a bit over-excited with the car configurator.

2017 Jaguar XE S: So what is new?

Not a lot, to be honest. But what is new is the performance increase, which sees the horsepower total increase from 335bhp (340PS) to 374bhp (380PS). Torque, meanwhile, is the same 331lb/ft (450Nm).

Jaguar has also enhanced its Blind Spot Assist system, which will now try to gently steer you away from trouble if you try to change lanes with a vehicle next to you, and it is now possible to pay for fuel using the touchscreen interface at Shell service stations. Take that, cold weather.

The £48,045 price tag makes it the most expensive XE, a fact somewhat compensated by the addition of a 380-watt Meridian sound system, 19-inch alloy wheels and perforated leather sports seats with 10-way adjustment and heating.

2017 Jaguar XE S: How does it drive?

Given the time between driving the original XE S and the new one, it is hard to say exactly how much of an impact those extra ponies have. Put your foot down in sport mode and the eight-speed ZF automatic keeps the revs where they need to be for savage, unrelenting acceleration.

0-62mph now takes 5.0 seconds, which is one-tenth faster than its predecessor and competitive in the saloon crowd. That makes it slower than a Focus RS, but then the supercharger’s snappy power delivery would keep things even.

All power is sent to the back wheels and that means more potential to get it sideways, which is always tempting. But carving an efficient line through corners and putting the poised chassis to proper use is as satisfying.

Jaguar loves to bang on about lightweight materials but the kerb weight of 1,655kg is a mere 35kg lighter than the 3 Series M Sport. So do a really big shop and the difference vanishes. Both cars share a top speed of 155mph.

The steering is very light, but it does communicate what the front wheels are doing and lets you corner with precision. It helps that you can clearly hear the tyres begin to lose grip (if the radio is off), helping you avoid an expensive mistake.

By being smaller than a 3 Series, the XE S feels noticeably more agile, more chuckable. This is a car that makes you feel good at driving, especially as you can approach the car’s limits a little too easily.

Unlike a four-pot, the six-cylinder petrol engine is a delight to listen to. Though it could be the placebo effect talking, the extra power does seem to translate to a tad more engine noise leaking into the cabin, addressing a minor criticism of the old car.

At lower revs the XE S barks (which is odd for a cat) and at higher ones the whine of the supercharger joins in with a high-pitched whine. Audi’s five-cylinder in the TT RS is more dramatic and likely to please a crowd, but it is pleasing enough to encourage a heavy foot.

Getting a sporty saloon right is difficult as the balance between involvement and comfort is as difficult as giving a cat a bath. The Audi S5 is very fast, but the sensation of speed is very muted. The BMW, meanwhile, feels purposeful but there is little drama.

Jaguar’s take on it manages to tick both boxes. Soft and forgiving enough to hit a pot hole mid-corner and keep its line and glide over most undulations, but firm enough to connect you to the road and inspire confidence – this is how it’s done.

One negative is the pokey rear window that can make some manoeuvres more difficult, but the £650 Parking Pack – comprised a front parking aid and rear view camera – is an easy remedy. Or you can blow £1,045 on the Advanced Parking Assist Pack for even more help.

We got a lot of flak for saying the XE S was top of its class (mainly from BMW owners), but we stand by the fact this really is the driver’s choice.

2017 Jaguar XE S: What about the interior?

Still comfy and rather nice to behold, actually. The arrangement of the cabin and the huggy nature of the sports seats make the cabin feel intimate, while the fit and finish matches the price tag.

The inside of an Audi is sleeker and the Alfa Romeo Giulia is sportier, admittedly, but the Jaguar XE is on a par with BMW. We actually find the XE is better inside than its F-Pace SUV sibling and more welcoming than the larger XF.

Leg room is less generous than in the larger 3 Series, an obvious and inescapable consequence of the size difference, but we would be happy in the back on all but the longest journeys.

More of an issue is the narrow width, which means getting very cosy with fellow travellers, and the curved roof line that can cause folk above six feet to brush their head on the ceiling.

2017 Jaguar XE S: Running costs and price?

The new Jaguar XE S is now subject to the 2017 VED changes, which means it costs more to tax in the short-term and is hit by the £310-a-year tax on nice things, but over a long enough period of ownership it actually works out cheaer.

CO2 emissions are 194g/km, the same as the old car, which means a first-year road tax bill of £1,200 followed by £140 annually. The combined fuel economy figure of 34.9mpg is also unchanged.

More horsepower should mean a drop in fuel efficiency, but it will take a more thorough test to see if that is the case. To be fair, this is a car you drive fast and so you will spend a lot of time filling up the 62-litre tank.

In terms of depreciation, we found a few cars from 2015 with fewer than 20,000 miles for around £32,000, while cars from 2016 were around £37,000.

The old XE S originally started from £44,865 so you are paying extra for more power (and for currency fluctuations and Brexit). That makes the Audi S4 and Mercedes-AMG C 43 seem like better value, but neither is as powerful.

Our test car came in at £57,555. Some of the extras responsible for the increase included the Black Pack (£370), Firenze red paint job (£650), head-up display (£1,350) and 10-inch dual view touchscreen (£625).

2017 Jaguar XE S: Any other considerations?

There aren’t any if you want four doors, but the sheer amount of fun you get from a BMW M2 (not to mention the sizable price difference of around £4,000) does make a case for losing two doors and downsizing.

Then there is the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, which is as good as it gets for excitement in the saloon world and only slightly more expensive to buy outright if you were thinking of speccing your XE S rather generously. Which you probably shouldn’t.

2017 Jaguar XE S: Should I buy one, then?

If you want an exciting four-door saloon for under £50,000, the answer is a resounding yes. Its direct competitors are nearly as quick, but the XE S rewards the driver best. We take to its balance of engine noise, performance, comfort and exhilaration like a cat to cream.

You would need to drive the old and new XE S back to back if you wanted to see how much faster it is, admittedly, but then the outcome would be of little consequence. Paying an extra £2,700 for an extra 39bhp is easily forgiven once the traffic subsides and you can put all the horses to good use.

Specification

Engine3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol
Power374bhp (380PS)
Torque331lb/ft (450Nm)
Acceleration0-62mph in 5.0 seconds (top speed 155mph)
Emissions194g/km of CO2
Economy34.9 mpg (combined)
PriceFrom £48,045

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