TAKING on the big guns from Germany when vying for sales in the executive saloon market is no easy challenge, but Jaguar has just upped the ante with the launch of its latest XE model.
The original four-door XE marked the company's return to the mid-size saloon scene after an absence of almost 10 years following the discontinuation of the X-Type, but the latest vastly improved version is another step up.
With a new grille, along with new front and rear bumpers and slim LED headlights, the 2019 XE looks lower and wider although the dimensions haven't changed. It's very clever design trickery.
Our R-Dynamic HSE car also boasted some sportier styling cues such as a sports front bumper, side skirts and body-coloured rear valance, 19-inch gloss dark grey alloys, Matrix LED headlights with signature daytime running lights, privacy glass and a sliding panoramic roof.
Move inside and the cabin oozes class and thankfully the tech guys at Jaguar have finally introduced full smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to the mix so you can really appreciate the quality of the pitch perfect Meridian sound system.
Occupants are surrounded by the finest Windsor leather upholstery and it's worth mentioning the finer details like the ‘JAGUAR' name printed on the air vents.
As one would expect, there's a wealth of technology to explore, including a laser operated head-up display and the smart Touch Pro Duo system with two screens. The top screen controls the infotainment settings and car systems, while the lower section is where the climate control is located.
All this sophistication and high-end technology comes at a price, but Jaguar would be very quick to point out that the XE is pitched very competitively against its German rivals. Our model started out costing £40,335, although a whole host of optional extras bumped up the final price to £46,315.
When it comes to performance the XE cannot fail to impress. The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine matched to an eight-speed automatic gearbox offered ample power and the car eats up the motorway miles for fun. It can sprint from 0-62mph in a very rapid 6.5 seconds and maxes out at 155mph, delivering combined fuel economy of 33.3-36.2mpg (WLTP) and carbon emissions of 159g/km.
Out on the open road, the XE is beautifully balanced and corners with confidence. It sweeps effortlessly through country lanes yet also proved to be relatively agile in city centres where the Park Assist system will make you look a complete expert when squeezing into tight parking spaces.
There are different drive modes called Rain/ice, Eco, Comfort and Dynamic that alter the way the car reacts with Dynamic adding considerably to the fun factor.
Comfort levels are good up front with all the seat adjustment needed to find a perfect driving position. On the downside, rear leg room is still quite limited and taller passengers will find their knees pushing into the backs of the front seats.
Storage options are good with a boot capacity of 455 litres, plus a lockable glovebox, cup holders, a central storage box, door bins and a drop-down sunglasses holder.
The Jaguar XE features a comprehensive range of safety features and driver aids, including anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist, lane keep assist, driver fatigue monitor, dynamic stability control, hill launch assist, adaptive cruise, high-speed emergency braking, blind spot assist and a full suite of airbags.