For several months now, anticipation has been building around the upcoming release of Jaguar’s all-new range-completing XE small saloon. We have already been teased with various sightings of the big cat during testing and most recently Inside Lane exclusively brought you a handful of spy shots of the XE prototype being put through its paces on the Sierra Nevada in Spain. With the unenviable task of taking on the German C-Class and 3 Series juggernauts, luxury saloons that simply don’t do things by halves, the smallest Jaguar yet would have to tick an innumerable amount of boxes to genuinely stand shoulder to shoulder with its firmly established rivals. All this build up culminated this week in a star-studded world premiere at the glitzy setting of Earls Court, London.
Our patience was well and truly rewarded. After possibly one of the most elaborate car reveals ever, involving a Red Arrows fly-past, a helicopter trip over Tower Bridge, a high-speed boat journey up the Thames, a robotic guard of honour and a musical journey charting Jaguar’s entire history performed by some of the UK’s biggest stars, the cat itself was finally unveiled.
Slotting in below the larger XF and XJ in the Jag stable, the XE will be the British marque’s first crack at battling the C-Class and 3 Series since the ill-fated X-Type, discontinued in 2009. However, this latest contender could not be further away from its rather underwhelming predecessor.
In terms of style, the new XE is clearly derivative of the gorgeous architecture inspired by Jaguar design guru Ian Callum that has proved such a hit on its bigger sister cars; some would say totally transforming the image of the brand in the last few years.
The sleek coupe-like profile is evident from the short front and longer rear overhang as well as the position of the cabin more towards the rear of the car. Its sports saloon credentials are also backed up by the characteristically low driving position.
At the front, the sculpted bonnet has a suitably muscular look to it, while the form of the rear section takes more than a little inspiration from the effortlessly elegant F-TYPE Coupe. These parallels continue inside, courtesy of F-TYPE-style dials and the incredibly cool sweep of the needle as the engine is fired in to action.
The engines in question include Jaguar’s all-new series of Ingenium low efficiency power units. The first of these off the production line will be the 2.0-litre diesel versions, joined later by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol option. Each of these will be offered with an 8-speed automatic transmission, whilst buyers who prefer the diesel model can also plump for a 6-speed manual gearbox.
However, for top end performance, the XE S is on hand to deliver the thrills and take the fight to AMG and M-Sport. Distinguished by its large front air intakes, chrome side vents, rear spoiler and optional 20-inch alloy wheels, this top of the range cat gets the same supercharged 3.0-litre V6 engine that underpins the exceptional F-Type . With 335bhp and 332 lb/ft torque on tap, the XE S will spring from 0-60mph in just 4.9 seconds, all the way up to an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph. All this power is channelled through a paddle shift variant of the 8-speed gearbox.
The rear wheel drive Jaguar XE is also the lightest and most aerodynamic Jaguar saloon ever built. Its electric power steering is a first for the British brand and is tuned for maximum responsiveness and feel on the road.
Full details of the entire XE range will be announced at the Paris Motorshow in October, including spec and the all-important pricing.
The early signs are very encouraging indeed but the Jaguar XE still has a daunting task ahead of it to bring its highly polished German rivals down a peg or two. The mission will commence when sales start in 2015.