The facelifted Jaguar XE MY20 (MY20 means Model Year 2020 – car manufacturers are one step ahead from the rest of us!) promises more luxury, more technology and better value – so did it deliver?
The international launch of this updated sports saloon car was held in Nice, and we were given a pre-determined route that took us on vertiginous climbs around razor sharp bends right up into the mountains and back again.
The XE took everything Route Napoleon could throw at it in its stride and barely broke a sweat.
Under the wide, planted bonnet that the design-bods at Jaguar insist is assertive and confident rather than aggressive (Jaguar is never aggressive, only assertive and confident, and even then, only if it’s done elegantly) there’s a deceptively quiet turbo-petrol engine that ate up the miles without making a fuss – but putting your foot down on the accelerator gave a loud burst of power that got us out of a tricky spot more than once (foreign drivers are still pretty bad, even when you’re technically the foreigner).
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But then you probably knew that already; a new Jaguar is always going to purr when contented and snarl when necessary. The previous incarnation of the XE did exactly that, and not much has changed mechanically - so why is this updated version of the XE quite so special?
As Adam Hatton, Creative Director of Jaguar Exterior Design, put it: ‘On a freshening of a model, the main thing you need to do is work on the face of the car. This car is all about accentuating the sportiness and the visual width. The grill, the lamps, the intakes – they all set the character of the car. The grill is wider, slightly shallower, and it sets off the tone of the front end. We set out to slim the headlamps down; we work by millimetres in the design studio, and we took 12mm of the height of the lamps which gives a really elegant, beautiful, assertive look to the car.’
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And if that elegant assertiveness of the car’s exterior impresses you, it’s fair to say that the interior eclipses it. The interior has more luxury than the previous XE in terms of its detailing. Nobel chrome plays its part, giving a satiny sheen that juxtaposes perfectly with the soft leather of the seats, but the technology is where the XE 20MY comes into its own.
I was a bit dubious about the ClearSight rear view mirror, a device that utilises a wide-angle rear-facing camera to feed images to a screen within a frameless rear-view mirror. Would it feel like watching a film, and distance me too much from my immediate surroundings? My fears were unfounded, as it took seconds to get used to, and never think about again. I found it a bonus as a passenger too; I like to know what the car is doing even when I’m not the pilot, but with a traditional rear-view mirror that’s angled so the driver can see out the back, the passenger literally doesn’t get a look in. With our rear view projected rather than reflected, as a passenger I had the exact same view as the driver, which I found I appreciated no end. You can set it back to being a plain old mirror, but honestly, why would you want to?
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Small things also made a huge difference, like the changing plate that you simply sling your mobile onto and forget about – no trailing wires to connect or get under your feet, it just streamlines the experience that little bit more.
The Touch Pro Duo infotainment system and 12.3-inch interactive driver display work perfectly in terms of what Jaguar likes to call ‘eyes-on-the-road design’ – you never have to look too far away from the road to see where you’re going, and to clock what speed you’re getting there at.
There are negatives, of course – I found the seatbelt’s height particularly restrictive, being a person firmly in the five foot area as opposed to the more giraffe-like six foot space, and it cut across my neck uncomfortably. I was surprised that with the rest of the almost obsessive attention to detail a seatbelt height adjuster had been missed – or perhaps I just couldn’t figure it out.
The ride comfort was lovely, but I confess to feeling a touch of car-sickness when I wasn’t driving – but with hair-pin bends and terrifying drops perhaps that’s to be expected.
If you’re in the market for a luxury car in the £34,000 bracket, then you could do a lot worse than the updated XE.