Greatest Britain

Having your cake and eating it too

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

The 132kW/430Nm 20d Ingenium powertrain is state-of-the-art diesel freshness, with a level of in-cabin refinement hitherto unknown in this class (until Mercedes-Benzís next-generation 2.0-litre equivalent arrives, if experience in the latest E220d is anything to go by). Assisted by fast and effective idle-stop tech, the new Jag unit is also remarkably frugal yet sprightly enough off the mark to turn diesel doubters into doers.

The all-new Ingenium engine family bodes well for the upcoming

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At least the English have one thing to truly smile about

ON THE evening of September 8, 2014, Jaguar unveiled the XE, its long-awaited successor to the long-forgotten X-Type. And I, for one, didnít quite know what to make of it.

Those first hero shots of the sedan in the desert, finished in Italian Racing Red and propped on 20-inch Propeller 10-spoke alloys, looked for all the world like the lovechild of the original XF (Jaguar, not Falcon) and VE Commodore SSÖ which, though boldly macho yet beautifully proportioned, also seemed somewhat derivative. When your rivals include the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4, a striking first impression is non-negotiable.

Would the new Cat on the block have enough cut-through?

I neednít have worried. Nearly 12 months later, at the Australian launch, the XE persuasively lured me in with its handsome presence, and then had me completely the moment I turned the first corner. Whether it was the base Mondeo-engined 147kW 20t or the supercharged S with its 250kW 3.0-litre V6, it was clear Jaguar had engineered something superlative. That the ride also possessed a supple lushness no rival still cannot match sealed the deal.

The XEís inclusion in our long-termer fleet The XEís inclusion in our long-termer fleet became a priority, particularly after scoring a 2016 Car of the Year award podium finish.

Six months and 6000km later, itís time to bid farewell to DCY-85W, the Jet Blue 20d R-Sport with Jaguar Land Roverís lauded all-new Ingenium 132kW/430Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, driving the rear wheels via a ZF eight-speed auto, and sitting on hot 19-inch black alloys. If youíre buying one, make sure to tick the $1800 adaptive damper option to maintain that doublewishbone and multi-link suspension lushness.

Like a broken-hearted fool whose lover has left him, Iím going to spread smack about my XE experience first, starting with that stupid kneecap-cracking dashboard extremity, which necessitates a measured entry and exit strategy for long-legged types akin (apparently) to mounting a horse sidesaddle.

I grew to accept the cheapo instrument dials, which were clearly nicked from the Land Rover Discovery Sport parts bin, mainly because of the extortionately priced ($1770!) head-up display Ė though you would expect it to actually be visible through polarised sunnies.

I became accustomed to peering over my frames like an unimpressed Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

There was the odd mysterious electrical malady, too. Twice during the many otherwise effortless cross-country drives we undertook, the multimedia system refused to stream music and would eventually shut down; one time the sunroof opened and closed by itself; and the cruise control occasionally forgot to maintain the set speed, especially on declines where speed cameras would invariably lurk. Annoying.

Worst of all, though, was the Jaguarís rearseatback pull cables, which are held in by flimsy clips that break away all too easily, and also donít release half the time. Iíve tugged harder than Steamboat Willie to get them to fold. A speedy solution is in order.

But Iím longing to have one last interstate blast in that XE R-Sport, and not just because of the effortless urge from its smooth and economical diesel powertrain, its fluent steering, athletic handling, soothing ride, brilliant seating, superb driving position or rock-solid build quality inside.

It dawned on me that the XE possesses an X factor that nothing else in its class can match.

Is it the exclusivity that comes from going for days without seeing another? Or maybe the smugness knowing how tantalisingly close Jaguar has come to hitting the medium sports luxury sedan brief after only its second attempt.

Whatever it is, this 20d R-Sport deserves to be at the shortlist pointy end for every A4, 3 Series, Q50, IS or C-Class buyer. That 08/09/14 date marks the rebirth of Jaguar cool.

petrol variants, but donít discount the 25tís existing Ford-sourced 177kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four from the wildly under-rated Mondeo Trend. While it is soon to be usurped by Jaguar Land Roverís own unit, this engine remains a cracker, providing muscular flexibility while being sweet enough to step up the social ladder. Ably assisted by a brilliant eight-speed automatic transmission, it makes the most of the XEís intrinsic chassis goodness.

JAGUAR XE 20d R-SPORT

Date acquired: May 2016 Price as tested: $80,400 This month: 882km @ 7.3L/100km Overall: 6047km @ 6.9L/100km 34 3 334 3 34 3 334 44 3 0 0 7 0 6 7 WEEK 26 URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY