By Anandarup Dutta
Very soon Jaguars are going to be jostling for attention on the roads, alongside the Mercs and BMWs. TheBritish luxury auto maker Jaguar, owned by Tata Motors since 2008, has made a pronounced effort to widen its clientele beyond the uber elite with the soon to be launched Jaguar XE – its first ever compact saloon – a spunky descendant of the X type. Gearing up to pounce on the compact executive class segment, Jaguar is clipping close on the heels of the Mercedes C class and the BMW 3 series, which currently holds a lion’s share of the market. This new addition to the Jaguar fleet was showcased at the San Francisco International Auto show and was the star at the London Motor Expo. It will announce its entry into India via the 13th Auto Expo 2016 to be held in February in New Delhi
An array of promising new features and live wire publicity is expected to bring to fruition the company’s plans on taking the entry level sports/executive segment by storm. Expected to hit the roads next year, Jaguar XE is likely to be assembled at the Pune plant for the Indian market. This could help reduce the on-road price, not having to pay 110% duty on imported cars or even the 60% on completely knocked-down (CKD) car kits, giving it a definite edge over its rivals.
Since the announcement of this model in March 2014 at the Geneva Motor Show, spy shots and subsequent releases have revealed the XE to be an almost exact replica of the XF or XJ, with the obvious difference of it being smaller – with a more compact version of the XF’s massive chrome grille adorned with the leaping cat emblem, frog lamps, daytime LEDs and all the usual fittings that comes with any Jag. What’s new is the strikingly lighter bonded and riveted aluminium exteriorconstruction with key body panels being bolted to the monocoque chassis – simultaneously reducing repair time and insurance costs while making the vehicle lighter on the run. Smooth aerodynamic lines and quirky air vents reduce drag, making this smoother on a protracted drive than its rivals. As an additional safety feature, the XE comes with a pop up bonnet feature to provide extra protection in case of a crash with a pedestrian. Ian Callum, who lays claim to the design of the XE has done little to change the outer looks – overall this sports compact is very quintessentially Jaguar, albeit a little smaller.
To look at the interiors in comparison to its predecessors would be doing injustice to the XE – Alacantra and fabric seats replace the leather XF Seats, elegant fibre plastics fill up the trim lines instead of polished wood. What is delightfully new is a 20 cm touch screen monitor on the centre console to serve up all manner of entertainment coupled with a colour HUD projection system that paves out landmarks and navigation routes and car performance specs on the windshield, much like a fighter jet cockpit. A rising rotary gear selector that swirls up as the car starts is an additional feature.
Does the smaller dimensional capacity of the XE compromise with its performance? The simple answer would be an absolute NO. The powertrain comes in two variants – first is the performance-orientated supercharged 3.0-litre V6, the same one driving the F type and the other is an all-new diesel 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit from the Wolverhampton-built Ingenium range that will make its debut in this car, and spread rapidly through the Land Rover and Jaguar model line-ups. The petrol variant with its twin swirl vortex roots type blower produces 335 bhp and 332 lbft of torque.
Achieving a top speed of 250 kmph and an acceleration of one to a hundred in just 4.9 seconds, the XE aims to fit into all demand sections. The diesel variant has been designed mainly to achieve lighter weights and lead to friction reduction with a variable exhaust cam timing, resulting in an impressive 161 bhp.
Jaguar plans to launch, in the initial phases, only a rear wheel drive, but the modular Jaguar iQ(Al) modular architecture provides the foundation for a future four wheel variant. This directly competes with the Audi Quattro and BMW X drive models.
A ZF 8HP 8 speed automatic structure makes it lighter than the 3 series. Jaguar plans to launch a six speed manual only on diesel models. A traction control system – “All Surface Progress Control” inspired by the Terrain Response system fitted on the Land Rover off roaders has been incorporated on the XE as well, making it a formidable compact sports version, allowing the drivers to choose from four different operating modes – Normal, Eco, Winter or Dynamic. A plethora of electronic driver aids that are becoming more and more common in premium cars: autonomous braking, adaptive cruise, parking assist, reverse traffic detection, blind spot monitoring and road sign recognition – are also available with the XE.
The Chassis and Suspension
Light and sporty, that is what the designers had aimed for while conceptualising the XE. A wheel base of 2835 mm, just 25 mm longer than the German rivals and a curb weight between 1479-1665 kgs makes this just about perfect for this segment. The aluminium riveted structure – a weight saving measure in itself – is coupled with a double wishbone layout that delivers superb control, with a corresponding increase in cost. The independent rear suspension called “Integral Link” mounted on the sub-frame provides considerable lateral stiffness. This too is an expensive addition to this car and has been seen so far only on costlier versions like the XF.
All in all, this car seems to have captured the attention of buyers across the world looking for a sedan, which serves the combined purpose of the harrowing office commute and the luxury of a weekend highway drive. The on-road prices expected to be between Rs 30 and 50 lacks, which might be ever so slightly more expensive than the German rivals. But given the attention to detail, fresh techs built in, and the sheer power of the brand, the XE might just become the biggest cat in the jungle.