FOUR-DOOR, five-seat F-Type.’ The way Jaguar describes the top model of its first 3 Series-fighter in over a decade could cause another ‘F’ word to spring to mind.
The new XE S squeezes its sixfigure price into a spot among Audi’s S4, BMW’s 335i (soon to be 340i) and Mercedes-Benz’s soon-to-arrive C450.
But its prime F-connection comes courtesy of a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 that, in the F-Type, is one snorting, addictive party drug.
Yet even before finding throttle in the XE S, the new sedan channels some coupe DNA with what must be the lowest, legs-forward driving position in its class.
Nevermind the segment-worst rear legroom behind it. Ignore also the limited boot access beneath a sexy pert lid, because it teams with a short front overhang and (especially) optional 20s to have the XE S looking fine in the flesh.
Jaguar insists that on multiple levels it has created the most driverfocused car in the class. It obviously wants the driver to focus on the punting, too, not the piano-black dashboard that is almost identical to a $70K XE R-Sport diesel’s item.
The Brits also claim lots of F-Type goodies are hiding in the multi-link front and rear suspension of the XE S. However at 1655kg this fat cat is 155kg weightier than a 335i. This makes the 250kW blown V6’s peak 450Nm at 4500rpm a problem when you have a BMW 335i’s turbo six producing its 400Nm from 1200rpm.
Off the line, the XE S lacks proper urgency and its 5.1-second 0-100km/ h only feels that fast when the eightspeed ZF automatic plays the tacho needle through the upper end. The slusher does a sterling job keeping it in the right zone, being snappy but not selfishly holding cogs.
Everywhere, though, the XE S acoustics are smoother than the sound of scotch pouring over the top of ice, and nothing like the booming F F-Type, for better or worse.
Its refined sound is matched by a duo of subtle adaptive suspension settings. Ride comfort in standard is excellent, while Dynamic sharpens things up appropriately.
Even if you then throw the cat around – this Jaguar that is – it is amazingly agile and very grippy.
The XE S doesn’t feel as frisky or playful as a 335i, but it’s a match for front-end pointiness and remains Thatcheresque-solid during quick changes of direction.
The electro-mechanical steering is beautifully immediate on turnin and especially precise when Dynamic mode backs off the assistance a touch. Throttle response is also sharpened when Dynamic’s chequered-flag indicator glows on the centre console, the linear power delivery helping to achieve rewarding rear-steer without getting ragged and requiring a limited-slip differential.
On that, Jaguar reportedly is saving a mechanical differential for later variants, sticking with an electronic version for the S.
The purring XE S is simply unfazed by demolishing distance in either straights or slithers and that means it could be seen as sleepy, or just super sweet, depending on the perspective.
Forget any F-bombs for now, either way. The XE S actually leaves plenty of room for another letter to join the range – bring on the XE R. M
Cohesive steering; ride and handling balance; V6 midrange; great auto
Muted V6 and exhaust; cabin lacks space and equipment