Jaguar XE R-Sport

180 AWD

Jaguar XE R-Sport, front static
Jaguar XE R-Sport, full front static
Jaguar XE R-Sport, dash detail 2
Jaguar XE R-Sport, front static 2
Jaguar XE R-Sport, front static 3
Jaguar XE R-Sport, side static
Jaguar XE R-Sport, rear static
Jaguar XE R-Sport 180 AWD, boot
Jaguar XE R-Sport, rear seats
Jaguar XE R-Sport, front seats
Jaguar XE R-Sport, dashboard
Jaguar XE R-Sport 180 AWD, gear knob

HEAD for central France and you can drive around a race track day or night for nothing - but don't forget those pesky French speed cameras lurking quietly and ready to spoil your holiday.

The address to put in the sat nav is the bustling town of Le Mans. Even the most non-enthusiast car owner will recognise it as the place where on a June weekend every year one of the world's most famous motor races takes place.

And mostly on public roads closed for the event but otherwise used by locals to get to the supermarket or into town for dinner.

Being at the wheel of a Jaguar and on holiday in the area it was near impossible not to head for the track/public road and soak up a bit of the atmosphere that makes Le Mans a mecca for thousands of Brits each year.

Especially in a Jaguar, if you've any interest in motor sport. For the Coventry cats have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans a total of seven times - with five victories in the 1950s and then in 1988 and 1990.

Of course the Jaguar being written about here shares nothing but its name badge with those track heroes, although in R-Sport form it looks a bit racy with a body kit that includes chunky front bumper, extended side sills, bootlid spoiler and satin chrome side vents.

Add 19-inch alloy wheels in black (£1,255), no-cost black window surrounds and this corris grey (£650) XE was handsome enough to draw admiring glances from French pedestrians as we trundled demurely through town.

Posing for its photos on parts of the road/track striped with colour and with enough sandy run-off to stop a runaway racer, the smallest Jaguar saloon felt at home, and ready to go rather further on a gallon of diesel than the Audis that made the race their own in recent years.

A smudge under 49mpg was an outstanding result over 1,300 miles, some spent with the XE's automatic gearbox in sport setting to encourage this compact five-seater to feel almost sports car lively.

The economy might even have tipped over 50mpg if this particular XE hadn't come with optional all-wheel drive. It adds 50 kilos weight, hits the official fuel consumption and emissions figures, pops £1,800 on the bottom line and only engages (the front wheels) if it detects slip at the rear.

I'd be happy to save the cash and put most of it towards the superb advanced parking assist with surround camera (£1,610) that made parking the XE an absolute doddle even in the tightest spaces (think forecourt of city centre hotel, for instance).

No need for cameras while parking the car on the DFDS ferries that carried us to and from France, where well practised arm waving from the crew had us stationary and heading for the comfortable lounge in seconds.

Back in the car, there was time to sum up this thoroughly modern interpretation of a Jaguar saloon. Like its handsome Sixties' forebears, there is less room in the rear than many rivals - tall passengers need to mind their heads on entry.

FAST FACTS

Jaguar XE R-Sport 180 AWD

Price: £37,085

Mechanical: 178bhp, 1,999cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 140mph

0-62mph: 7.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 60.6

Insurance Group: 27

C02 emissions: 123g/km

Bik rating: 26%

Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles

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