Cars

Published on April 26th, 2016 | by Subhash Nair

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Jaguar XE: The New Cat on the Block

The compact executive segment is one dominated by the Germans, who continue to redefine and refine expectations. Here you’ll find the luxurious C-Class, the technologically superior A4 and of course the indomitable 3-Series. Sure, Japan might give them a little competition in the form of the Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50, but all-in-all, this is a European game.

Many argue that no matter which you go for, they’re all essentially the same old German sausage, with all the same boxes checked off in slightly different ways. It’s about time some disruption took place.

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Well, that’s what Jaguar figured as well. Their latest entry is the XE – is the most affordable in their vehicle line-up and represents a rebirth for the brand. How does is stack up to the competition? On paper at least, it seems to do quite well.

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There isn’t really a pound-for-pound comparison to go by here – the XE has 3  variants and none of them have a corresponding German rival to go against in terms of price. Yes, this is an expensive car – but the result of that is exclusivity. There was a time not so long ago where owning a European car meant something special. It would elevate your social status in a way only royals were familiar with. But now that online stores have lowered the entry cost for new businesses, there’s plenty of cash to go around. Parked in every street corner is a BMW, Merc, or Audi. You know what you still rarely find? Jaguars.

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And it’s likely that the XE will keep that trend going. The base model, The XE Prestige is priced at RM340,000. It comes with a 2-litre turbocharged petrol unit sending out 200PS and 280Nm of torque to the rear wheels through an 8-speed ZF automatic. The top-of-the-line XE S comes with a 3-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine and the same gearbox, but at RM580,000 – this version will probably be out of the reach for all but those with millions in reserve.

In the middle sits the XE R-Sport. This version makes the most sense and is the version we’re testing here. For RM365,000, you still get a 2-litre turbocharged Ford-derived motor, but here’s it’s producing 240PS and 340Nm of torque – a pretty bonkers amount of power. Contextually speaking, a BMW 330i does have about the same amount of power, but the XE distinguishes itself in a couple of very meaningful ways.

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Importantly, it makes you feel very special. If you drive a regular car, you’re expected to move out of the way for the Germans. But in this, you will find drivers of German sedans one class above the XE moving out of the way.

Maybe it’s the post-colonial mindset kicking in here. Jaguar is a brand that represents Britain better than most and Malaysian drivers seem to be hyper aware of that fact. Say, “He drives a Beemer” and they’ll assume the driver’s parents are rich. Say, “He drives a Jaguar” and they’ll assume his grandparents were as well.

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Yes, Jaguar, even in 2016 has an old-money feeling about it – though it’s difficult to put my finger on where exactly that comes from. It comes mainly from a design that is equal parts brave, impractical, and stunning. From dramatic dashboard swoops to multi-tiered door cards, the XE takes a lot of bold steps but does things in style. There is little doubt in my mind that this is the classiest interior in the segment.

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The exterior shows a lot of aggression. Its ‘ready-for-the-pounce’ silhouette is extremely appropriate, capturing the essence of a sports sedan well. It does bear a heavy resemblance to the XF. Being a fresh start for the brand, we were hoping for a more modern reinterpretation of the Jaguar design language. That being said, there is a sense of timelessness in the XE’s design – it isn’t caught up in the edgy, busy designs that its rivals are going for.

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In that sense, the XE manages to cut away from the pack. There is a tendency (or at least was one about up until one generation ago) for the big three in Germany to look at what the other was doing new and try to imitate each other. With the Jaguar, it’s clear they’ve gone in with their own goals. In many ways that’s a very good thing. This is especially true when you consider that the equipment loadout isn’t lacking in any department. In the R-Sport, you get Keyless Entry and Start, a powered bootlid, a reverse camera and a full-fledged infotainment unit with navigation.

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This particular unit had RM40,000 worth of additional options including gorgeous 19” Venom rims in black, a tyre pressure monitoring system, a panoramic moonroof, an excellent sound system courtesy of Meridian, an additional forward facing camera, Adaptive Xenon headlamps and a few other aesthetic upgrades. It’s really with these upgrades that the XE starts to look like the menacing feline it really is.

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Perhaps the most meaningful way in which the XE stands out is from the way it drives. It’s not immediately apparent. In fact, if you get in the car and start cruising, you’ll notice it’s not like the rest at all in the way it deals with gear changes and corners. There’s a slight twitchiness to everything. And that’s because everything is set up for an exhilarating ride.

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That’s exactly what you get in the XE R-Sport. Forget the computer game experience the rest of its rivals are giving you, the Jag does things raw. The ESC is happy to let you slide things a little in Sport mode and that’s such a rare thing to find these days. It may not be the most precise to drive, but it’s certainly the most fun. It’s even loose enough to let some actual noise into the cabin. When you put your foot down, there is no distance to the engine and exhaust notes.

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In closing, the Jaguar XE R-Sport does live up to the hype. The Jaguar ‘sense of occasion’ is present no matter where you look here. It may not be the cheapest in its class, nor the most practical, but it makes up for that by being the most fun.

Jaguar XE R-Sport Specifications

  • Engine:  2-litre In-line 4 Turbo
  • Capacity: 1999cc
  • Power: 240PS @ 5500rpm
  • Torque: 340Nm @ 1750-4000rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
  • 0-100km/h: 6.8secs
  • Top speed: 250km/h
  • Price: RM365,000.00

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