by Frank A. Aukofer

We live in an era of automotive excellence, so to conclude that the 2017 Jaguar XE is a worthy competitor in its class amounts to high praise.

Its particular drawback is the current direction of the automotive marketplace, in which crossover sport utility vehicles are conquering traditional midsize and compact sedans. So the XE appears to be rolling onto a cluttered and confusing stage.

Still, Jaguar needed to complete its sedan lineup, which was limited to the midsize XF and, at the top of the line, the superb XJ luxury sedan—especially in its limousine-like long wheelbase L version.

The XE is not Jaguar’s first foray into the compact sedan territory. From 2001 to 2009, when the company was owned by Ford, it sold the X-Type, which was based on the same platform as the European Ford Mondeo.

JAGUARXEAWDLocation09Now Jaguar is owned by Tata Motors of India, which has had the good sense to bolster financing while leaving the British company’s designers and engineers to their own competences. The results have returned Jaguar to the forefront among luxury and sports cars, though it remains a small player against BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

Some critics carped that the old X-Type cheapened the Jaguar brand. It competed against the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. But sales never met the company’s expectations and the X-Type was consigned to museum duty.

Now there’s a new small Jaguar sedan. Marketed with rear drive or optional all-wheel drive, the XE sits right on the line between the compact and midsize categories with 110 cubic feet of total interior space—95 cubic feet for passengers and 15 cubic feet in the trunk.

There’s adequate room for four adults, although as usual in most cars these days, the middle seat in back disrespects a fifth passenger.

There are 19 XE variations using three engines: 180 hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, 240 hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, and 340 hp, 3.0-liter supercharged V6 gasoline engine. Transmissions are eight-speed automatics with manual shift modes.

Prices start at $35,895 for the 25t with the four-cylinder gasoline engine—not available at introduction—and top out at $58,995 for the 35t First Edition AWD V6 model. The lowest priced 20d diesel has a base price of $37,395.

An all-wheel drive 20d R-Sport diesel was tested at the introduction, though fuel economy ratings were not finalized. It performed smoothly and quietly on the road. With 318 lb-ft of torque to augment its 180 hp, it had strong acceleration, rated by Jaguar at 7.5 seconds to 60 mph. Its price tag, with options, was $56,345.

The focus here is the most powerful XE. Jaguar says its 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque deliver a 0-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds, with a top speed of 120.

JAGUARXEAWDStudioInteriorEquipment included automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats with driver’s memory settings, motorized sunroof, heated steering wheel, pushbutton starting, navigation, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, and HD and satellite radio.

The test car also carried extras that included 19-inch black alloy wheels, cooled front seats, heated rear seats, Wi-Fi and a head-up display, all of which brought its suggested delivered price to $61,385.

Developed on the same platform as Jaguar’s new F-Pace crossover sport utility vehicle, the tested XE AWD R-Sport exhibited a fraternal kinship. The simple and functional instrument panel was similar to that of the F-Pace and, of course, the power train was a duplicate of the F-Pace’s 340-hp model. Interior surroundings also bore a resemblance to the ambiance of the F-Pace, with uncluttered design and quality materials.

The XE also shared a few of the F-Pace’s shortcomings. The sun visors do not slide on their support rods to fully block sun from the side. And the shade for the motorized glass sunroof is made of a thin, perforated cloth that admits too much sunlight. Sunshades should be opaque—as they are on Jaguar’s flagship XJ L sedan.

On the road, the XE is a silent runner with minor intrusion of mechanical, road and wind noise. The powerful V6 triggers a quick jump off the line and the eight-speed automatic shifts crisply.

Augmenting the power on the test car was a sport tuned suspension system and steering, along with Jaguar’s full-time all-wheel drive, which kept the tires planted in aggressive cornering. Though it has a luxury persona, the XE earns sports sedan credentials.

JAGUARXEAWDLocation07Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD R-Sport four door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter V6, supercharged, 340 hp 332 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 95/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,795 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/29/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $52,695.
  • Price as tested: $61,385.

Photos (c) Jaguar Land Rover North America