ROAD TEST: Jaguar XE sedan close to purr-fect
OOZING class and prestige, Jaguar's XE sedan could lay claim to being one of the luxury market's most underrated cars.
Not only does it face fierce opposition from the likes of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and the Lexus IS but, like all its competitors, the XE has one fatal flaw - its shape.
Across mainstream and prestige marques buyers are flocking to high-riding wagons, known as sports utility vehicles, or SUVs.
Jaguar is in the midst of an SUV purple patch. The big F-Pace was launched a couple of years back, joined recently by the compact E-Pace, while the all-electric I-Pace is scheduled to touch down later this year.
That leaves the XE, and its bigger XF and XJ siblings, banished to the unfashionable corner.
For those willing to break away from the SUV stranglehold, that's a good thing. There are some good deals around on the sleek compact saloon, which means you should be able to do much better than the circa $60,000 showroom retail price tag.
The Jaguar range, along with its Land Rover counterparts, is renowned for a long options list. Basic XE equipment includes electric adjustable front seats, two-zone aircon, full Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, body kit, eight-inch touch screen with sat nav and automatic parking.
Extras on our test car included 19-inch five split-spoke alloys at $1890, panoramic sunroof for $1890 and metallic paint, which is an extra $1370, taking the bottom line close to $70,000.
Yet from the outside, it looks more expensive. Something about the leaping Jaguar inspires opulent ideals.
The bonnet creases, mesh grille and the colour-coded body kit delivers an air of sporting flair with a healthy dose of English arrogance.
Capped servicing is available for $1500 over five years or 130,000km, with intervals of 12months/16,000km.
Rising from the dash, there's something special about the circular gear shifter that is summonsed from its recess every time you hit the start button.
More than just some R-Sport badges on the leather steering wheel and door sills, this variant gains sports suspension.
The turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine can reach 100km/h from standstill in 7.1 seconds, which is enough punch to make you look like the cat that got the cream, especially after selecting sport mode and making use of the steering wheel paddle shifters.
Feeling nimble and dynamic, the XE feels hungry for the bends and managed to nicely balance daily comfort with sporting prowess.
When exploring its rev range, the soundtrack emanating from the dual exhaust is subdued - this is a Jaguar, remember, my boy.
Commonsense values are retained through the cabin, with dual cup-holders and access to USB ports, although the family was unanimous in their unhappiness with the mesh sports seats, which irritated legs.
Fuel consumption averaged about eight litres for every 100km, which is pretty thrifty.
Maintaining its five-star rating courtesy of the 2015 test, it has autonomous emergency braking (doesn't work in reverse), hazard lights under heavy braking, lane departure warning, rear-view camera and automatic parking.
Optional extras include radar cruise control, lane keep assist and head-up display - all additions we'd expect as standard for the price.
Lexus IS300 F Sport $67,191
Refined and superbly quiet, it doesn't have the Jag's on-road prowess but has a greater list of standard equipment.
Mercedes C300 $69,900
Beautifully designed sedan with an impressive cabin and outstanding on-road dynamics.
BMW 330i $70,900
The brilliant all-rounder is difficult to fault from the Bavarian brand.
AT A GLANCE
Jaguar XE R-Sport 20T
PRICE $62,000 plus on-roads (not bad)
WARRANTY AND SERVICING 3 years/unlimited km (short), servicing $1500 5 years (ok)
ENGINE 2.0-litre turbo 4cyl petrol 147kW/320Nm (punchy)
SAFETY 5-star, 6 airbags, lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, 360-degree camera (ok)
THIRST 6.3 litres/100km (excellent, but 8 on test)
SPARE Space-saver (becoming the norm)
BOOT 415 litres (small, but on par)