Despite being left underwhelmed by the Jaguar XE R-Sport – and with a sore neck – Charlie Flindt wishes the new sport saloon from this much-loved company well
The Jaguar XE R-Sport is the much-loved company’s latest sport saloon. But while the rest of the motoring world are giving it awards and praise Charlie Flindt finds himself left underwhelmed, and with a sore neck.
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JAGUAR XE R-SPORT
I’ve strayed into a Bateman cartoon. I am “The Man who thought the New Jaguar XE R-Sport was a Bit Underwhelming”. While the rest of the motoring world is showering Jaguar’s new “sport saloon” with praise and awards, I’m just back from the physiotherapist, with a sore neck.
For a moment, let’s dwell on where the Jaguar XE R-Sport is brilliant. It’s stunning to look at, cleverly condensing the Jaguar-family look into a three-series-sized package. It’s fantastic at pace, with a suspension and ride set-up that defies belief. And it’s unbelievably economical – the combined mpg on my test “sport diesel” was in the mid-70s. But before you get to enjoy the pace, handling and economy, you’ve got to get the XE going – and I found it a bit of a struggle.
The XE’s target is the “compact executive sector” and the key work here is “compact”. By the time I’d got my non-compact frame settled securely between the door and the central tunnel, I couldn’t find the seat belt slot. I then went looking for first gear. Now, I’m not saying that the six-speed box feels a bit vague but I had a flashback to borrowing a chum’s Austin Maxi.
Next job: pulling out of the farm yard. Put bluntly, visibility is terrible – disturbingly so. Our drive slopes down a bit so the low front roof line is a flipping nuisance. The mirror cuts off everything between 10 and
11 o’clock, and the front passenger head restraints and nearside “B” pillar combine to eliminate anything in the eight- to nine-o’clock sector. And it’s from this last sector that the Hampshire White Settlers come hurtling, oblivious to the idea of other traffic being on the road. No wonder my ex-prop-forward neck rediscovered a bit of a twinge as I twisted and craned for a better view.
Then it was time to join the main road. There was a gap in the traffic so I eased out in first, slipped into second and waited for the fireworks. There weren’t any. The diesel seemed stuck at about 1100rpm and we crept along with only a hint of any acceleration. After what seemed an age, we crept up the torque curve, the turbo started spinning properly and we picked up speed. The queue of cars now on our rear bumper were not alone in asking: “Is that really a Jaguar?”
Of course, given an open road and a bit of a run-up, the Jaguar XE R-Sport would happily leave the tailgaters far behind. Every so often, I managed to find that bit of open road and the Jaguar really did shine. But I never felt comfortable in it – in mind or in body. The XE is lovely to look at and a fine, if slightly claustrophobic, tourer. Much of the rest of the package didn’t impress me.
Luckily, I’m in a Bateman-style minority and the XE is leading the way in Jaguar’s soaring sales figures. Because, deep down, we all love Jaguar it’s good luck and good will to them, even if my neck hurts.
JAGUAR XE R-SPORT
Engine: 1,999cc turbocharged diesel
Max speed: 132mph
Performance, 0 to 60: 7.9 seconds
Combined fuel economy: 75mpg
Insurance group: 24
Would suit the appearance conscious