Driven - March 2016

Jaguar XE Driven: Is there space for a big four?

The C-segment has been going through a war for many years now. The majority of those years have been ruled by one brand, the BMW 3 Series. During this time, Mercedes’ C-Class has been in competition with the Bavarian dictator and they have always come off second best in terms of driving dynamics and excitement but have always led in terms of comfort. Meanwhile the Audi A4 has always been the conservative’s choice amongst the lot and as a result, has had a specific audience to itself. With technology progressing and cars getting better and better, the distinct differences in cars within this segment have lessened, making brand loyalty the biggest decision maker for the consumer.

All of a sudden, though, a smaller more exclusive brand has entered the war and their offering has narrowed the gap even more. That brand is Jaguar and the new XE is their contender in this segment. After spending a week behind its wheel we were left wondering if the big three may need to make space for a fourth.

jaguar-xe-exterior-17

Is it really that good?

Yes, the Jaguar XE is a lovely vehicle. From the way it looks to the way it drives, makes it a very appealing package indeed. Add that to the fact that the nameplate it bears is one that denotes sophistication, class, and luxury. The engine line-up is similar to that of its competitors too, ranging from small 2.0 turbocharged petrol and diesel engines to a brutish 3.0 V6 Supercharged power-plant in the top of the range S model.

We had in our care the 177kW 2.0 i4 Turbo with the R-Sport package, a magnificently beautiful car that is as refined as it is good looking. It’s not all looks with the XE though, the car can manoeuvre its way around bends in a confidence-inspiring way. Dynamically the XE is without a doubt one of the best cars in its segment. It’s comfortable too, our Bavarian friends have often sacrificed comfort for dynamics in their Sports Packages, whereas the XE has a better sense of balance between the two.

jaguar-xe-exterior-23

Elephant in the room:

It is a fact that all car prices in South Africa are reaching a point where most of us will have to take up cycling in the future. Being that as it is, the price of the Jaguar XE is its proverbial 6th toe. The car is simply too expensive compared to the competition. We were distracted by its looks and charm but when we eventually looked at the price of the car, we were astonished at the base price of R695 000 for the model we drove. That is the only flaw we have for the car, besides that one would be nit-picking to fault anything else about the car.

So we’ve established that it’s good, but is it good enough to justify the price? It depends on two things. Firstly and most importantly, the depth of your pockets and secondly what you’re personally looking for in a car. It is a fact that the Jag is the most exclusive car to own in the segment, especially since every second car you see is a 3 Series and every third is a C-Class. So if you want to put your keys on the bar counter and feel special, then the XE may sway you quite a bit. At the same time, as we previously mentioned the gap is so narrow and the competition’s cars are great, so the majority of people would rather save some money and buy the competition.

jaguar-xe-interior-1

So is there room for a fourth space in the club? From a volume perspective unfortunately not, the top three will most likely outsell the Jaguar XE purely because of South African brand loyalty. What is nice though is knowing that there are options out there for the consumer and that the German’s products aren’t the only ones that are well built, stylish and exciting. What the Jaguar XE has done is throw a spanner in the works for the segment. It has elements of all the big three mixed with some Jaguar sauce and packaged very well. The result? A gourmet C- Segment car, but like all things gourmet you pay a premium for it.