2018 XE New Car Test Drive
Jaguar's approach to the XE design is consistent with that of its German competition and in fact with most contemporary sedan styling: a readily recognizable front fascia (long established at Audi, BMW, and Mercedes) and subdued sculpting elsewhere. The Jaguar XE may not turn many heads when it cruises by, but on closer inspection it becomes more seductive.
We've already noted the sporty proportions, and the brim-full wheel wells. More subtle is the way the tight fit of the sheetmetal, which emphasizes the muscular elements of the design like a spandex outfit on a high octane athlete.
Ian Callum says the shape is “about paring it down to the bare essentials. Good designers have always said less is more.”
Less also applies to curb weight, thanks to extensive use of aluminum in the XE's body panels and structural elements.
The clean contours are also about aerodynamic efficiency, contributing to a quiet interior and, together with the relatively low curb weights (substantially lighter than a corresponding BMW 3 Series, for example) respectable EPA fuel economy ratings.
Jaguar sedan interiors were once distinguished by handsome swaths of walnut or bird's eye maple, and glove leather upholstery. That was a long ago era, of course, and interior materials have changed. But the cabin of the new Jaguar XE is just as posh as its elegant ancestors, with a far greater array of infotainment and driver-assistance features.
Simplicity is the critical element in successful design, and the broad sweep of the XE's upper dashboard looks one continuous shape, rather than the busy ups, downs and cut lines of some contemporary layouts. The instrument binnacle shelters electronic interpretations of the classic analog tachometer and speedometer, made modern by the info display tucked between them. The grippy three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel includes a variety of auxiliary controls, as expected in a modern entry luxury automobile.
And of course access to a good many infotainment and connectivity features is achieved via a center dash touch-screen, another increasingly common feature in contemporary cars. There are drawbacks to this dependence on touch-screen: being precise with the touching can be tricky when the car is in motion.
On the other hand, the climate controls, located just below the center screen, consist of familiar switches, well marked and easy to adjust. This also goes for seat heater switches.
Other demerits: the nav system is slow and a little labyrinthine. And the circular gear selector, a feature pioneered by Jaguar, can be irritating. Not for its function; drivers have long since come to accept dial-a-gear. But the selector's chrome top gets painfully hot in direct sunlight, even when it's not deployed.
Also, roominess is not an XE long suit. Making adult-size rear-seat passengers happy requires a bit of cooperation from those up front, and the center rear seat is not a perch we'd assign to anyone we liked, though that's true of pretty much any so-called five-passenger sedan in this class.
Back on the plus side of the score sheet, the seats are long-haul comfortable, and the perforated leather makes those hides of yesteryear seem antiquated.
As you'd expect, there is a comprehensive complement of contemporary safety features.