Jaguar’s much improved 3 Series competitor, the XE sedan.
I say much improved because the fit and finish of this car has come on in leaps and bounds since I first drove it for Car of the Year.
The interior back then was pretty drab and ordinary.
Now however the cabin has received a complete makeover and is spectacular, with its glass screens, configurable dash and televised rear vision mirror.
This car has got so much more character and appeal than a Beemer.
What’s it cost?
There’s two models, the SE and better equipped HSE — priced from $65,670 plus on roads.
I had this car pegged at $80K sitting in the driveway, which means I just pocketed $15,000 — gotta like that.
But I suspect a few options had been fitted — for starters it rides on 19s instead of the standard 18 inch alloys.
The XE boasts all the features you’d expect from a premium sedan and then some.
Standard gear includes leather and dual zone climate air, rear air outlets for back seat passengers, along with grained leather 12-way electric front sport seats with 2-way manual headrests and contrast stitching.
There’s also satellite navigation, traffic sign recognition, all-LED headlights and tail-lights, front and rear park sensors, rear view camera, park assist, lane keep assist, DAB+ digital radio, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
A number of options packs are also available.
The $2160 technology pack includes the wow factor video mirror while the $1340 Drive pack brings adaptive cruise control and high speed emergency braking.
The larger wheels add $1000, premium paint $700 and a power boot lid $450.
Both packs were fitted and together with a couple of other addons bring the price of our test vehicle to $74,390 by the time it’s on the road.
The classy, glass surfaced Touch Pro Duo infotainment system and 12.3-inch interactive driver display shared with the all-electric I-PACE are customisable, intuitive and responsive.
The XE scores five stars for safety, with Head-Up Display, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) City and Lane Keep Assist and Driver Condition Monitor standard — but take note that Blind Sport Alert and adaptive cruise control are part of the optional Drive pack.
What’s it go like?
The car sits long and low, with little protection for the rims from the liquorice strip rubber.
Getting in and out requires some agility and may rule out some older buyers in the demographic.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine pumps out 221kW of power and a handy 400Nm of torque, the latter from 1500-4500 rpm.
It’s hooked up to a slick 8-speed auto, that features large metal gear change paddles and JaguarDrive Control that offers s choice of Comfort, ECO, Dynamic, and Rain, Ice, Snow driving modes.
Drive of course is to the rear wheels.
Lightweight aluminium is used extensively in construction of the car keeping the weight down to around 1600kg.
With plenty of motivation under foot, the dash from 0-100km/h takes a rapid 5.9 seconds, with an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h.
Double wishbone front and integral link rear suspension, delivers agile handling and a communicative ride.
A new steering wheel, shared with the all-electric I-PACE, features light up graphics with tactile switches for intuitive control of key functions.
If, for example, the phone rings the buttons on the wheel suddenly grow larger and are illuminated red and green.
The optional, first-in-segment ClearSight interior rear view mirror is activated by the flip of a switch.
It changes the standard mirror into a wide angle, video-fed screen with amazing, high resolution clarity.
Two things however: it made my wife sick and the distance between moi and my multifocals was insufficient to bring the image into focus, and I found myself looking over the top of my glasses.
The glass-screen infotainment and climate control panels look amazing.
Attention to detail is apparent everywhere, with felt lining for storage bins to stop items sliding and rattling around.
There’s plenty of get up and go in default mode, but sliding the control to Dynamic or sport mode has a noticeable impact.
The engine takes on a throaty enhanced note, the throttle becomes more responsive with faster gear shifts, and the steering becomes heavier and more direct.
Adaptive Dynamics constantly adjusts the dampers to provide the optimum balance between comfort and refinement at all times and in all driving situations.
Dynamic mode also changes the colour scheme of the instrument cluster to an angry red (funny how it’s always red).
The standard brakes are excellent, if a little sharp at times.