UPDATE: We've include details of Jaguar's CarePlan which comprises maintenance, warranty and roadside assistance.
CAPE TOWN - Jaguar is touting its new XE, the automaker's smallest sedan to date, as a villain. You may have a seen a series of television commercials online with well-known British actors depicting their darker side while driving the XE in recent months.
The new XE has finally arrived in South Africa in August 2015. Jaguar hopes its new sedan will take on local D-segment rivals. The XE also forms part of a four-model assault for SA.
Jaguar SA set up a demanding driving route with a clear goal to show off the XE’s rear-wheel drive dynamic capabilities with routes along Helshoogte in Stellenbosch, Franschoek pass and Du Toits Kloof pass towards Worcester in the Western Cape.
The XE uses a segment-first integral link rear suspension and is built around an aluminium-intensive monocoque to reduce weight.
2.0 TURBO PETROL
At the launch in Cape Town, three different models were available to drive: I started off in the 2.0 turbocharged petrol which kicks out 177kW/340Nm. Its fitted with an eight-speed auto, has a top speed of 250km/h and sprints to 100km/h in 6.8secs.
So what do all of those numbers translate into? Well the engine didn't feel as powerful as I thought it would, there was some turbo lag but the biggest problem was that it didn’t feel like a Jaguar. A Jaguar should feel like a comfortable sedan but when needed it can morph into a sports car.
The 2.0 litre forced induction unit didn’t do justice to the XE; I was expecting an exciting villain, instead it felt like a hapless burglar who couldn’t cut eye-holes in his mask.
It felt lethargic and out of character with its hunkered stance, 17" wheels and a leather-trimmed interior.
The steering weighs-up perfectly in Sport mode is engaged via a thankfully less chintzy rotary controller (drive selector in Jaguar-speak).
Drive control has three settings - normal, winter and dynamic. The modes offer varied throttle response and stiffens steering and suspension (dynamic mode).
3.0 SUPERCHARGED V6
The 3.0 V6 is what a Jaguar should be; loud, powerful with an air of pomp and ceremony. The 3.0 litre supercharged unit, reserved for the top of the range XE, has the most power (250kW/450Nm) and is mated to an eight-speed auto.
It felt rapid and reassuring along Franschoek pass though perhaps not as engaging as a BMW 335i. The new chassis and weight reduction (aluminium architecture) made a huge difference in the big cat.
Its sonorous engine will make many owners happy and that’s a good thing as it makes for a swift sedan.
The ride quality is great in normal and eco modes while dynamic mode dials in some hooliganism and the sound emanating from the twin pipes is simply glorious.
The final drive of the trio was the model Jaguar SA says will be its best-seller - the 2.0 litre D. This was undoubtedly the star of the show. It blends a frugal engine (averaging 6.6 litre/100km on our arduous test route) and power (132kW/430Nm) in a package that is hard to fault.
Jaguar's the diesel engine, called the Ingenium, is a gem.
There is a smack of torque that kicks in at 1750rpm and it’s a more responsive surge compared to its petrol sibling.
A drive through Du Toitskloof Pass was in order and I opted to use the paddle-shifts located behind the steering wheel. The turn-in was impressive and the benefits of the aluminium monocoque really showed its strong points.
Another notable technical highlight is torque vectoring when braking; this system eliminates understeer by offering increased torque on the outer wheels.
Media scoffed when we saw the pricing of the new XE: starting from a smidgen under R535 000 to a whopping R908 100 for the range-topping V6 model.
Jaguar SA sales director Robin van Rensburg dropped a bombshell - the XE won’t take on traditional rivals and will instead, the automaker says, compete against the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe and the Audi A5 Sportback.
The reason for the price increase? Jaguar is at the mercy of the Rand/Pound exchange rate and pricing was set at the end of July 2015, said Van Rensburg.
He adds that Jaguar hopes to sell 540 units locally by March 2016.
IS IT MENACING ENOUGH?
The 3.0 litre supercharged definitely has a villainous streak, thanks to that amazing engine and dynamic chassis. The 2.0 litre Diesel was the pick of the bunch in terms of usable power and dynamic sweetspot.
I wouldn’t recommend the 2.0 litre petrol turbo; I think there are better rivals in the market who offer a better engine and pricing.
The new XE can definitely compete with its D-segment rivals as it offers enough tech, power and quality to challenge competitors.
2.0 Diesel Pure - R 534 800
2.0 Diesel Prestige - R590 400
2.0 Diesel R-Sport - R614 000
2.0 Diesel Portfolio - R654 600
2.0 Petrol Prestige - R638 900
2.0 Petrol R-Sport - R662 600
2.0 Petrol Portfolio - R703 200
3.0 S/C S Pure - R908 100
Models sold with a five-year or 100 000km service plan, a five-year or 100 000km maintenance plan, a three-year or 100 000km warranty and 24-hour roadside assistance.
MORE FROM JAGUAR...
A series of new Jags are on the way to South Africa including the ultra-cool Project 7. The new sports car will be delivered to five local customers at R2.9-million each.
Finally, Jaguar’s first SUV, the F-Pace could arrive in August or September 2016.