JAGUAR is the cat with the cream in the shape of the new XE premium saloon.
Pitching in against some longer established rivals from Germany, it not only has the measure of them but can beat them in many respects.
We first drove the XE Portfolio last year and were impressed with the new 180ps diesel engine, but for this longer evaluation we tried the cheaper 163ps 2.0d in the R-Sport trim, which is more sporting in appearance and dynamics and which qualifies for the low emissions BIK for business users at just 99g/km.
It is a driver's delight despite its lack of horsepower because it pulls well nevertheless and its handling is as agile and sharp as you could want.
The power delivery is good and matched with the six-speed manual gearbox it can be stirred along without a problem and it returned close to 60mpg, which is very good for a car of this size and performance.
Jaguar ride quality is always a talking point among driving enthusiasts and they have a very good balance between comfort and capability under the XE.
Optional lightweight large alloy wheels have firmed up the ride a bit but its not hard or uncomfortable and you merely hear the suspension working away to soak up the bumps, but the way it absorbs the shocks is good.
Few make it to the cabin and then the big seats soften them still further while holding occupants securely and without rolling around. Adjustment range is good on the front pair and while three will struggle to sit together in the back it is very good for two on the offset split back seat.
For the driver, the new electric power steering is very good without being vague, the car turns tightly and neatly and it does not suffer vibration from the road.
I liked the very strong brakes and the progressive clutch and precise gearchange, while secondary controls are sensibly placed and worked well.
Instruments are fairly basic but clear and easy to read with straightforward heating and ventilation filling the cabin with desired air. Oddments room is fair but not outstanding.
Good wipers, low waistline and big windows are matched with powerful lights for clear visibility in any situation.