Jaguar has been, over the past five years, transformed dramatically. What was once a struggling, traditional English luxury car company with limited cash from a cash-strapped Ford Motor Company has been injected with fresh funding from Tata Motors and fresh talent from all over the industry. This half-decade has turned the brand into a styling powerhouse, with more than just a few great models on their stage. The XJ has been turned into a sleek animal of a flagship sedan, where a stodgy and outdated sedan once stood. The rise of the F-Type coupe and roadster mark the end of the line for the XK series, which despite its best efforts was always rather second fiddle to the king of its segment (I think it begins with the letter P). Finally, the XF has exorcised the demons of the frumpy and unappealing S-Type, for better much than for worse. However, I’m here to talk about the car that I think is going to bring the Jaguar name from an afterthought to the front of our minds: the new XE.
Jaguar has not had a compact luxury sports sedan in their lineup since I was in high school. Those days, their offering was a joke. The X-Type was a re-skinned Ford Mondeo aimed at buyers who were able to afford two of those and have enough money left for a weekend in Tahiti. The venture failed, because the X-Type was underpowered, ugly, and cheaply put together. The new XE, a car that promises quite a lot, needs to be a game-changer for this company and has to do what the X-Type couldn’t–attract younger buyers who have the money for luxury.
The XE, luckily, looks like it will do just that and accomplish more than get new buyers. It has to conquest sales from stalwarts like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Infiniti. Finally, aluminum body panels will be a part of this landscape. Jaguar has already launched a new turbocharged inline-four to offer in the XF, which will probably make an appearance in the new XE. The aluminum body panels and advanced suspension will allow this car to be lighter and maybe handle better than the BMW F30 3-Series and the much-applauded Cadillac ATS (the latter of which is a favorite around these parts). It may not need to outsell the 3-Series to make a statement, but if sales can bring Jaguar to the public eye even at a lower level, then sales of their more expensive vehicles (which are already regarded well here at Mind Over Motor) might increase alongside it.
If Jaguar is to be sure that the XE sells here in America, then they must make sure of a few things. First, while it may be the first car in its class to use an aluminum structure, the development cost will be higher as a result and Jaguar must avoid skimping on the interior or on the amount of interior room, which Cadillac has unfortunately done. Second, if the engines chosen aren’t smooth enough to be imperceptible, people will complain and sales will drop. However, the most important thing is that it must do for this segment what each of Jaguar’s newest models already have done–generate enough buzz to stay relevant beyond the segment’s established leaders. The F-Type has managed to do this, so has the XJ. The XE has been timed right in between the ATS and the 3-Series’s development cycles, and just after the A4’s mid-generation update, while two others are new. The C-Class may not generate as much buzz because it hasn’t officially launched yet, while the Q50 has been out for a year. Jaguar has timed the XE to stay in the conversation, which they plan to see through to the end.
-Albert S. Davis