If you were in the market for a classy saloon car for about Rs 35- Rs 40 lakh, then what would your choices be? You could of course take the Mercedes-Benz C-Class if you wanted something nice and cushy. Or, if you were the thrill seeker then you’d head to a BMW showroom for the 3 Series. The fence sitter would head to a showroom with four rings for a compromise. But you want something different from the pack. That’s where Jaguar’s XE drives in with its uniquely British flavour. The Jaguar XE is the gateway to the world of the leaping cat. Prices start at Rs 36.61 lakh for the base Pure trim, Rs 40.54 lakh for the Prestige trim we tested, isn’t exactly expensive. In fact, it is the most affordable premium saloon you can buy in the country today. Which puts it at a numerical advantage in our price conscious country right at the onset.
Now, in the game of premiumness, being the most affordable involves a risk. The risk of being seen as a compromise. Of course on paper, the Jaguar XE dispels all notions of being one with its 177bhp, two-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. But paper is paper and numbers are often rendered meaningless in the dull and drab environment of the rear world. So there was, in effect, only one way to find out if the Jag was any good. The silhouette is all too familiar. As is the sleek saloon’s styling and musculature. It is a good looking car. I first saw it at the previous Auto Expo and it continues to be one parked at our snack stop at Tamhini ghat outside Pune. On the inside, there’s a sense of being enveloped by that yacht-inspired Riva Hoop that is a Jag trademark. I love it. Because it gives a flair to the cabin that marks the XE as something different than its rivals. The front seats are comfortable yet supportive and there’s plenty of room. And if you want more, the electrically adjustable seats are more than willing to help you find that perfect spot. The same can’t be said of the rear of the Jaguar XE, but do you really care about the rear seat of a Jag or a Bimmer? Thought so.
From the seat that matters, the Jaguar XE actually feels slightly bigger than it is. It doesn’t shrink itself around you but remains its size. Which is a good thing because the XE is large enough to feel premium but not intimidating or cumbersome. Between the corners, the XE growls and leaps ahead with vigour. On these somewhat narrow and twisty roads it’s not the 177bhp at 4000rpm that matters but the 430Nm of peak torque that kicks in at 1750 revs and stays till 2500rpm. Handling is peachy enough for you to forgive the slightly stiff demeanour over rough roads. And just when you settle down into a comfortable routine of throwing it around bends before powering down straights, she gives that little wiggle of that pert bottom, a hint of what she can do should you really choose to play hard. And the grin shines through.