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Jaguar Takes On the Germans

One of the most interesting new car releases this year is Jaguar's new compact executive saloon, the XE. It enters a market sector populated with some very high-quality competition in the form of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Audi A4 and the mighty BMW 3 Series - arguably the one to beat. For buyers in the sector, this could lead to some interesting new car discounts. Even so, Jaguar appears serenely confident that it's on to a winner here. After its last compact executive failed to impress - the X-Type was little more than a Ford Mondeo in a posh dress - the firm has taken a more sensible but expensive approach with the XE and started from scratch. While that involves considerable investment of resources, Jaguar is on a roll at the moment, and a happy result is expected because the XE is in fact a very impressive piece of metal.

On the Road

It is powered by some good petrol engines and an all-new 2.0 litre diesel unit which lacks the refinement and power of some of its rivals but is delightfully clean, green and efficient. It is available with 161bhp or 177bhp. The petrol models offer great performance but do sacrifice some economy in the process. 2.0 and 3.0 litre models are available, the second of which is a racy little number offering plenty of excitement on the road. In terms of looks, the XE is one of the more glamorous options in the compact executive saloon market. It looks conservatively modern, and the cabin boasts the solid build and high-quality material you;d expect from a Jag. The XE is a little cramped in the rear of the cabin, and the boot is a little small compared to its rivals, but for many buyers that won't be an issue. The XE is the model you buy for driving pleasure rather than practicality, because it is quite simply the best-handling car in its class. None of the German compact execs can achieve quite the same level of steering response or agility on the road. The ride is silky smooth, but there's just the right amount of feedback from the controls to make things interesting. Even the 3 Series feels clumsy next to the supple XE.

Ownership

Euro NCAP crash testing hasn't been carried out yet, and it's too early to predict reliability, but the signs all look good. The XE has plenty of modern safety equipment in its arsenal, and Jaguar was placed in between Audi and BMW in 2015's JD Power dependability survey. Price-wise the XE is competitive, with a 99g/km CO2 entry-level model to appeal to company car buyers and generous levels of standard equipment. A fixed-price servicing scheme helps to keep ownership costs down, so all in all the XE is a value-for-money package, if not a cheap one. It looks as if the compact executive saloon battle is going to be won on performance - previously the forte of the BMW 3 Series. The XE can match its rivals for comfort and certainly for design, but it's arguably the less practical choice. However, that's not likely to count for much behind the wheel.

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