Aluminium platform, roof and bonnet mean the lightest XE weighs 1,474kg

Aluminium platform, roof and bonnet mean the lightest XE weighs 1,474kg

Jaguar's worldwide sales were up by 50% in February, and by 47% for the year to date, thanks in no small part to the XE. The brand's new best seller now has some revisions for the 2017 model year, aimed at keeping that momentum going.

It's taken a while but finally, Jaguar has a range of cars which covers many of the sweet spots in the global market. Yes, there are still some big gaps - something with which to challenge the Audi A3 sedan and Sportback, as well as the Q3, Q5 and Q7 crossovers - but more models are on the way, even if it's going to take up to five years or more to fill out the range.

The XE was a long time coming but it definitely arrived at the right time, six months ahead of the latest Audi A4 sedan. That gave it a strong advantage, especially in Europe, and specifically in the UK, where Jaguar sales are now soaring. Brand registrations for February were up by 211% and 159% respectively. ACEA's totals show Jaguar having delivered 2,741 cars last month, compared to just 982 in February 2016.

Even though JLR has been building the XE for almost 12 months now, it's still worth refreshing our memories of what a revolutionary model this sedan has been for the D segment: no other rival has an aluminium architecture. The main benefit is getting a sub 100g/km CO2 average for the base variant, as well as a 75mpg average for this entry level diesel.

JLR calls the XE's platform D7a and it is based upon PLA, as used by the Range Rover and RR Sport. The new generation XF is another model to be constructed from the lightweight metal, as is the F-PACE. The XE was the world's first car to use RC 5754, a then-new grade of high-strength aluminium.

High-strength alloys, including AC300 and AC600 grades, are used in the A-pillars, front and rear crash structures, and the cant rail. The B-pillars are high-strength aluminium reinforced with ultra-high strength steel, with a layer of high-density foam between.

Opening the driver's door offers no clue that the car is mainly constructed from light metals, which is because like the bootlid, the doorskins are steel. If you're familiar with the XJ and latest XF sedans, you'll find some strong links to those cars' interiors. The main sensation is of being cocooned in a cockpit. The steering wheel has three thick spokes with the speedo ahead of you on the left and the tacho, which has larger numbers, to the right. On automatic cars, such as the one I tested, the selector is JLR's familiar illuminated dial, which rises and descends just after you press the START or STOP button on the centre console. It's to Jaguar's credit that the interior has a distinctive look that's quite different from those of its relevant Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Lexus and Infiniti rivals.

The engine line-up is likely to gain some additional units later in the model's lifecycle but for now it's as follows:

  • 163PS 2.0-litre diesel manual/ automatic RWD
  • 180PS 2.0-litre diesel manual/ automatic RWD, automatic AWD
  • 200PS 2.0-litre petrol automatic RWD
  • 240PS 2.0-litre petrol automatic RWD
  • 340PS 3.0-litre petrol automatic RWD/ AWD 

A 240PS version of the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel will probably be added for the 2018 model year, and a 300PS version of the Ingenium 2.0-litre petrol also seems likely. The current 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines are supplied by Ford. Above the supercharged 340PS V6, meanwhile, expect something special for the forthcoming SVR, which will be powered either by a more powerful supercharged V6 or JLR's supercharged V8. What about a PHEV? Yes, that's also said to be under development, based on the the Ingenium 2.0-litre petrol.

Having begun producing series production XE sedans in April 2015, Jaguar has now announced various additions to the range for the 2017 model year. These include InControl Touch Pro, a new infotainment system; torque on-demand all-wheel drive; F-TYPE-derived Configurable Dynamics; plus a wider range of driver assistance systems. 

InControl Touch Pro, which has been developed around a 10.2-inch touchscreen, has better graphics than the previous system, a wi-fi hotspot for up to eight devices and apps for wearable tech. In the original, 2016 model year cars, the screen's diameter was only 8.0 inches.

All-wheel drive, the main drivetrain news for 2017, is available - as noted above - for cars powered by the 180PS Ingenium diesel and 340PS supercharged V6 petrol engines. In both cases, an electronically controlled system sends torque to the front axle only when needed, the idea being to not only save fuel but to retain a rear-wheel drive feel. There are in fact two ZF gearboxes for AWD XEs: the supercharged V6 has the 8HP70, while the Ingenium diesel is paired with the lighter, more compact 8HP45.

Cars with AWD also have Adaptive Surface Response (AdSR). This sees the mapping of the powertrain and Dynamic Stability Control system instantly adapting to changes in the road conditions. Owners now also have more opportunities to tailor their vehicle to a preferred personal driving style. That's courtesy of Configurable Dynamics, which I've tried previously in the F-TYPE. You can adjust the settings for a more sensitive throttle response, transmission shifts that hold onto gears for longer, and set up the continuously-variable damping system for a firmer ride.

Other tweaks for the new model year include the worthy additions of the potentially life saving Lane Keep Assist and Driver Condition Monitor: these can detect and warn against driver fatigue. And if you spend a lot of time on motorways, you'l be interested to hear that the XE can now be ordered with Adaptive Speed Limiter. This can be configured to automatically increase or decrease vehicle speed as speed limits change.

The as-tested 3.0-litre supercharged V6 almost makes you wonder if there is a need for an SVR variant, with 0-100 km/h taking 5.1 seconds but obviously, when the competition has rivals boasting a sub-5.0 second time, Jaguar will want to be matching or bettering that. The 340PS engine has no noticeable supercharger whine and the exhaust note is just the right side of menacing without being anti-social. The CO2 average is 194g/km but considering the performance, that's an excellent number. If, on the other hand, you really need to have a 99g/km average, then the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel is the engine to go for.

It's not hard to like the Jaguar XE, and so well engineered and thought out is its design that serious flaws just don't seem to exist. Some buyers might want an estate bodystyle but Jaguar would instead point them in the direction of the similarly sized F-PACE. And if you need more rear legroom, then that's where the new XF comes in. As a conquest car which can match or in areas better the C-Class, 3 Series and A4 sedans, the XE is clearly doing its job very well indeed.