JAGUAR had a lot riding on its XE saloon and the investment seems to have paid off.
Having tentatively dipped its toe in the water some time back with the X-Type, many thought the prestige car maker had bowed out of the compact executive saloon segment.
But if Jaguar Land Rover is to achieve is stated aim of selling more than a million cars in the not too distant future it really needs cars like the XE.
Launched in a blaze of glory, the XE has some tough competition to contend with in the shape of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class.
An all-new car from the ground up (the X-Type shared its underpinnings with the Ford Mondeo), the XE looks good and makes extensive use of aluminium to deliver a very light car with the aim of maximising driving dynamics.
The XE is also a ‘proper' Midland car, made in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham and most being fitted with the Ingenium four-cylinder engines manufactured at Jaguar Land Rover's engine plant in Wolverhampton.
I would imagine most of those sold are the diesel variety but based on my experience of this petrol-powered model it is well worth a look.
With lots of question marks over ‘dirty' diesels at the moment perhaps the obituaries being written for petrol power were premature.
While this isn't one of the super-small but efficient and frugal units manufacturers are currently investing a lot of time and money in, it is still an impressive all-rounder.
It will propel the car from 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds and delivers official combined economy of 37.7mpg.
Okay, in this day and age that sort of economy might not seem overly impressive but given the fact you're getting a really spirited sporting saloon it starts to look very tempting.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine is mated to a very smooth and slick eight-speed automatic gearbox.
You can opt for manual with the XE but it would almost be a shame to dispense with the wonderful rotary gear selector, pioneered on the original XF, which pops up when you push the start button. It's one of those features that not only looks great but feels good too.
This car had the higher-powered of two four-cylinder petrol units - similarly there are also two four-cylinder diesel variants - and for those who want a bit more a 3.0-litre supercharged petrol V6.
While that V6 no doubt delivers thrills aplenty the surprisingly potent 2.0-litre unit in this car offers an awful lot. It's a super-smooth and refined engine that delights in terms of performance and there's a new more powerful Ingenium petrol on the way, which will no doubt be even better.
The XE's handling is first-rate it has to be said. Jaguar Land Rover's lightweight modular aluminium architecture - the iQ platform - makes for a light but strong and stiff body structure that gives the XE a huge advantage, something that is enhanced by a mixture of aluminium and high strength steel body panels.
A wonderfully supple suspension set-up completes a winning recipe to deliver a car that is a real joy to drive.
Jaguar's Drive Control allows you to select Normal, Eco, Dynamic or Rain Ice Snow modes.
The XE's cabin is stylish, with plenty of luxurious Jaguar trademark features and fit and finish is up there with the best. It's reasonably roomy too, with rear seat passengers well catered for.
This R-Sport model sits in the middle of the range but is noticeably plush and well equipped - the trim hierarchy consists of SE, Prestige, R-Sport, Portfolio and S models.
All XEs come with climate control, parking sensors and a touchscreen infotainment system, while the R-Sport adds many extras including heated seats, leather upholstery and brushed aluminium, which adds a real sporty flourish to the cabin.