Jag drives towards a

new quality feel

Jaguar XE, front action
Jaguar XE, front static
Jaguar XE, front action 2
Jaguar XE, rear action 2
Jaguar XE, rear action
Jaguar XE, rear static
Jaguar XE, front seats
Jaguar XE, boot
Jaguar XE, dash detail
Jaguar XE, dashboard
Jaguar XE, gearchange
Jaguar XE, wheel

NOT everyone, even people who call themselves keen drivers, cares more about corners than cupholders.

Which may explain why the latest version of Jaguar's smaller saloon - the XE - has been given a very thorough going over inside and out while the way it drives stays much as before.

So just as well the XE was anyway rated as one of the best drivers' cars in its segment, up there with the BMW 3 Series and besting the likes of Audi's A4 when a corner arrived.

Sadly, sales didn't keep up with the smiles of a happy driver on a challenging stretch of twisting Tarmac.

Too many people thought the car looked just a bit ordinary on the outside and lacked the quality feel they expected from a Jag on the inside. These latest changes address both issues.

On the outside, new bumpers front and rear combine with a fresh look for the lights to give the XE what its makers call a more assertive appearance. It works too, adding a bit of visual drama to what was always a nicely proportioned car, only now one you're more likely to notice in the street.

Bigger changes happen when you slip inside, to find a cockpit that feels much more upmarket in style and finish, if still not quite in the league of a Mercedes C-Class, but close enough not to matter so much.

Pinched from Jaguar's F-Type two-seater is a gear selector and JaguarDrive Control switch on the centre console while the all-electric I-PACE SUV donates it steering wheel with graphics that light up and switches for key functions.

A pair of high-resolution touch screens feature on all versions above the entry level and there's wireless charging for your mobile phone for the first time. There are two cupholders up front, for those vital on-the-move drinks.

It all adds up to a car that now feels properly posh with very obviously improved fit and finish that's likely to put a potential purchaser in the right mood even before pressing the start button.

Which will kick into action a range of 2.0 litre diesel and petrol engines producing between 180 and 300 horsepower and all driving either rear or all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Gone from the price list is the option of a manual gearchange and a diesel engine with 163 horses, accounting no doubt for the more than £3,000 hike on entry membership of the XE club, which now starts at £34,555 for the D180 model in S trim and tops out at £44,045 with the HSE and 300 horsepower petrol engine.

All three trim lines (S, SE and HSE) are additionally available as R-Dynamic versions, costing up to £1,800 more and adding 18ins alloy wheels, sports suspension on some versions, and changed bumpers and side sills on the outside and different look leather inside.

Among the options is a £450 ClearSight interior mirror that uses a rear facing camera to show the view behind over a much wider field than the conventional one. Jaguar admits some spectacle wearers won't get on with the new system - and this one didn't.

Most economical of the new XE range is the D180, with up to 50.7mpg on the new tougher Euro economy tests, along with 130g/km of CO2 emissions. Least frugal, unsurprisingly, is the 300 horsepower all-wheel drive and petrol fuelled P300, with 33.6mpg and 167g/km.

It's the quickest version, of course, with 155mph flat out and the sprint to 62mph in 5.7 seconds and will be the version deep pocketed driving enthusiasts will presumably lust after.

Well, they ought to try the least powerful new XE before committing their funds. With 0-62mph available in 8.1 seconds (and 140mph on the autobahn) its 180 horsepower feeling plenty punchy enough to entertain long term. It also easily topped 40mpg on a short test drive.

Earlier XE diesels sounded too coarse for their price bracket but this one's underbonnet stayed nicely hushed as the car wafted along in style and the larger wheels and firmer suspension of its R-Dynamic package still managed to tame a typical UK main road.


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