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Jaguar presents its 3-series challenger

Date: 08 September 2014   |   Author: John Mahoney

The new upper medium XE from Jaguar is looking to woo fleets.
John Mahoney gets the inside line on the 99g/km BMW 3-series fighter

Make no mistake, the all-new XE could prove to be the most important car in Jaguar's entire history - the model that finally took the battle to BMW and stole 3-series sales.

Crucial to its breakthrough is fleet. Forget the glitzy, celebrity retail launch because it will be company cash that makes or breaks the XE.

To help it succeed, Jaguar has done the automotive equivalent of the betting the whole farm, investing more than £1.5bn on an all-new production plant, state-of-the-art engines, technology, and expensive, lightweight aluminium clothes. It claims, following the official launch in October at the Paris motor show, that the Jaguar XE will set new standards in the compact exec class.

BusinessCar travelled to the company's sparkling new Solihull plant in the West Midlands to see how Jaguar's XE is shaping up.

Looks and badge cache are crucial in the compact exec class when you're up against the BMW 3-series and the Audi A4, and it's clear this time around Jaguar might have what it takes.

Up close you'll appreciate its coupe silhouette, sporty, long nose and large, upright imposing Jaguar grille. Inside, there's an interior inspired by the F-type, and that's a good thing: it's clean, minimalistic and sporty. Thankfully, packaging also hasn't taken a back seat, with the small Jag matching the Mercedes C-class for rear space. It's not the class best but should squeeze four adults in easily. The boot's big too, but it's under the skin that the XE really impresses.

Instead of being based on an existing platform, Jaguar started from scratch with the XE. Even more impressive, the new car's undergarments are made almost entirely of aluminium. This hi-tech approach shaves serious pounds from the kerb weight, which in turn boosts efficiency.

Under the bonnet there'll initially be the choice of an all-new 163hp 2.0-litre i4 diesel and the Ford-sourced 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol. The i4 diesel is part of the all-new Ingenium family of engines that is launched with the XE. It will also power Land Rover and even Range Rovers of the future. Following the launch, there'll be a new derivative of the Ingenium engine every three to six months, including a twin-turbo diesel and a petrol.

The majority of all XEs sold will no doubt be fitted with the launch engine. That's because, factor in trick aerodynamics (that include aerodynamically tuned wheel), it's capable of more than 75mpg and emissions of 99g/km of CO2. There's also the choice of an eight-speed automatic and for the first time in six years for a Jaguar, a manual gearbox option.

It's not just efficiency Jaguar is hoping to set the benchmark for. Refinement was also a priority in the XE's development. The new engine gains acoustic soundproofing for the block, while all other unwanted sounds have been smothered.

Jaguar claims that from day one it has worked hard with leasing companies to lower whole-life costs and reduce the value of repairs. That's why most of the front end bolts together like an adult's Meccano set. The new front suspension, meanwhile, has a neat trick. If you're unlucky enough to smack a kerb, it's built to absorb the impact and save the suspension.

It's also said to reduce the damage to the alloy itself, but you'll still need to visit a dealer to reset the wheel, although that's still cheaper than replacing wishbones. Staying with the suspension, Jaguar also claims to have matched the athleticism of a BMW while offering far better ride comfort - in other words, another claimed class best.

Also helping keep costs under control are service intervals that stretch to 21,000 miles and suspension that has been set up to ensure low tyre wear. Insurance, too, should be cheaper thanks to standard new tech such as autonomous emergency braking.

Other new technology includes Jaguar's all-new In Control infotainment system that harnesses smartphone technology on the move, but can also operate your car when you're away, setting the climate control or even remotely unlocking the car. Forget where you've parked and it will also direct you back to your XE. Finally, the small Jag can become a mobile wi-fi hub for eight users.

Finally, safety-wise, Jaguar is claiming the XE will score top marks at Euro NCAP with new tech such as reverse traffic detection and blind spot detection and lane departure warning.