The new Jaguar XE is now in SA, and I was lucky enough to sample two of these svelte felines during the local launch that took place along some of the most scenic roads that Cape Town has to offer. There were three models to drive but there was a little mix up so I drove the XE R-Sport (badged as 25t) on two stints and then the full beast mode version, the XE S powered by a 3.0 supercharged engine. The diesel was in demand by the rest of the journos and I would have really liked to try it out because the initial feedback was that the car was brilliant in every respect. I'll be sure to get behind the wheel of one soon though.
The 25t-badged car was powered by Jaguar's 2.0 turbo engine making 177kW - the 25t is used to denote the horsepower being at 250. I guess a 177 badge just wouldn't look as good. The petrol-powered engine was introduced in the Jaguar XF and XJ sedans but has been further refined for the XE. It's an all-aluminium work of art that weighs just 138kg and manages to push out a healthy 340Nm, which combined with the 177kW makes for some impressive performance, even in a full-sized sedan. 0-100km/h happens in 6.8-seconds and the car tops out at 250km/h. It's claimed to use 7.5litres/100km on the combined cycle and when driving nicely that should be the case, obviously on the launch it was a little heavier as acceleration tests and overtaking was a common occurance. The XE range shares the same 8-speed ZF 8HP transmission. I really liked this. The changes are super smooth and when you decide to mash the accelerator the 'box finds the appropriate gear almost instantaneously - there's no hunting or selecting a gear and then changing it's mind and selecting another. The transmission ECU monitors your driving style and tailors shift patterns to suit how you drive. I'm pretty sure that on the launch all of the XE gearboxes were changing at their optimum though.
The ride in the 25t was great, the car eats up local tarmac with ease. On corrugated roads where most cars wouldn't be very sure-footed, the Jaguar is quite composed. Giving it a bit of stick in the bends shows the other end of the spectrum and the car feels nice and sporty, even though this wasn't the sports model. The suspension loads up just right and gives a good balance - not too stiff, not too soft. More on that later... The car is nice and responsive, this goes for throttle, steering and braking. Off the line the car goes great, when the smooth auto hits third the car really starts to pull hard.
In the cabin things are rather upmarket, pretty much on the level you'd expect from a Jaguar. There's a lot of space, even the tallest chaps looked at home in both the driver and passenger seats, I'm short though so even cramped interiors don't bother me. The dash looks good, so do the finishings, and once in the low-mounted seats you find that everything you need access to while driving is perfectly within reach. The 8-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system is the centre piece, the software on it is pretty involved and can take a little getting used to. I think a full day of playing around with settings will get you comfortable with the operation, and of course, once it's set up to your preferences there are many functions you probably wouldn't need to access again - unless you're showing it off to your mates. A cool thing is the rotary drive selector that rises up from the centre console. This dial is used to select the gears you need like drive and reverse, it's all very Bond-like. As said, the interior is upmarket, you'll find fine-grain leather and contrasting twin-needle stitching along with gloss black accents, some textured aluminium and of course, contemporary wood veneers that Jaguars are well-known for. Depending on the model, you can also find carbon-fibre trimmings. The ambient lighting in the car is also worth a mention, it's just right and accentuates the elegant lines and curves in the dash layout.
The infotainment system rocks! Having been developed with Meridian you know it's going to be good. “In-car technologies in this ever-more connected and fast-paced world are an integral part of your driving experience. With the all-new XE we’re introducing an entire suite of cutting-edge driver aids and entertainment systems. Designed and developed from scratch, they will ensure that every journey you take is simpler, more relaxing, safer, and effortlessly enjoyable.” says Dr Mike Bell, Jaguar’s Global Connected Car Director. The Meridian audio 11-speaker system does a bang up job. It's great, at high volume it actually sounds like a premium aftermarket install, it's that loud, but also crystal clear. The system qucikly narrows down which tracks on your playlist aren't good quality. The added subwoofer developed specifically for the XE gives good bass response no matter what you listen to - dance music, rap or rock.
As said, I only managed to drive the 2.0 turbo-engined car and the 3.0 supercharged one, the new Ingenium turbo-diesel was sadly missed out on. From the release: “The new generation of Ingenium diesel engines are wholly designed and manufactured in-house at our new engine plant in Wolverhampton. No opportunity has been missed in ensuring their design is right on the cutting edge of technical advancement to achieve the highest levels of efficiency, performance and refinement.” Ron Lee, Group Chief Powertrain Engineer, Jaguar Cars. The new Ingenium range of engines are completely new, just like the XE's suspension setup. The engines are based on a "deep-skirt aluminium cylinder block featuring thin-wall, press-fit cast iron liners: these offer the best balance of weight, surface finish, and robustness." Again from the release, a neccessary copy/paste because I never got to sample one for myself: "The engine’s split-cooling system, mapped thermostat, and fully variable mechanical water pump enable standing water in the block while coolant circulates through the crossflow channels in the cylinder head. So the engine warms up more quickly, reducing friction and therefore fuel consumption. Parasitic losses have been cut in other ways too: the electronically-controlled oil pump matches its flow rate according to engine speed, load and temperature, and switchable piston cooling jets operate only when needed. Variable valve timing has been a feature on all Jaguar petrol engines for many years, and now the technology is making its way into the diesel too: the Ingenium units benefit from a cam phaser on the exhaust side. Variable exhaust valve timing enables more rapid catalyst heating, thereby minimising harmful emissions during the critical warm-up phase. Fuel is fed to the combustion chambers by an 1800bar solenoid common rail system. Key attributes are low noise, high efficiency and excellent mixture formation. Ingenium diesels are characterised by the rapid build-up of torque from very low engine speeds, enabled by highly efficient variable geometry turbochargers. Maximum torque is maintained over a wide rev range, ensuring instantaneous response and strong acceleration whenever the driver demands it."
There's been a lot of work in the XE's chassis and suspension, it's a completely new design and it works, very well. This meant that they could do whatever they wanted and weren't restricted by the designs used on older models - "legacy platforms and carryover components". This means the XE now features the most sophisticated chassis of any vehicle in the same class. The body is stiffer, instead of simple MacPherson strut front suspension the XE range makes use of a double wishbone configuration, which is proven to be superior. "Camber stiffness was an important consideration. This attribute – the resistance to lateral load when the car is cornering – is crucial to steering feel. To keep unsprung mass to a minimum, the forged aluminium knuckles are made from cast blanks using a patented production process. Further weight savings come from the tubular anti-roll bars and springs made from stiffer, narrower-gauge steel. Front suspension geometry was optimised from the outset to suit all-wheel drive and rear-wheel-drive configurations. The suspension mounting points enable efficient packaging of the spring and damper assembly – essential to achieving the low bonnet height fundamental to the XE’s sleek styling and to pedestrian impact protection. The dampers have been meticulously tuned, giving the sublime ride quality Jaguar cars are famous for and the taut body control needed for agile handling."
The rear is also all-new. A conventional multi-link setup wasn't up to the task that Jaguar had in mind, and so the XE now sees fitment of a system called Integral Link, usually only found only in larger vehicles. Integral Link was decided on because it delivers the combination of lateral and longitudinal stiffness needed for the XE’s precise handling and smooth ride. Most of the components are aluminium too, saving weight, which is always something a manufacturer strives for. You obviously can't pinpoint what component does what, but all the changes combined make for a great drive, especially on SA roads. Of course, the best way to test the new setup is to hoon it on a smooth, winding mountain pass.
Then there's that 3.0 supercharged model, the XE S. It's a pricey piece of kit, but it's so damn cool. The lower XE models look good, but the S model has enough changes to the exterior to make it stand out just enough to differentiate it from the others. Air intakes are more pronounced, there are side sill extentions, a great-looking rear spoiler and a gloss black rear valance. The brake calipers have been made red as is the norm with many performance models and they're a great contrast to the dark space that would be seen behind the optional 20-inch Propellor wheels. Inside things are considerably more sporty. The seats are more race-spec and there's aluminium (dark Hex aluimium) finishes added in certain spots. The centre console looks good in the other models, but in the S it's gloss black - and that makes it about 50 times cooler.
The drive in the S is much the same, or should I say the suspension and handling is, albeit it a little stiffer, but not uncomfortably so. Even if it was I wouldn't care much because the growl from that supercharged V6 is more than enough to let many things that might count against the car slide. If there were any. That throttle response that was so good on the other models is even better on the S, and if you turn that selector dial to sports mode, better again. The biggest problem with the S is that all you want to do is mash your right foot flat at every opportunity. The V6 is very smooth, much more so than you'd expect, but then again this is a Jaguar and so a lot has gone into refinement in every aspect. The S makes 250kW and 450Nm, a typically high torque reading for a supercharged setup. With all 450Nm coming in at 4500rpm, the S has a hell of a lot of get up and go hitting the 100km/h mark in a claimed 5.1-seconds while topping out 250km/h (limited). The same 8-speed ZF 'box is used in the S, but I'm assuing the ECU controlling it is a little different as it holds revs a little diffently, and is sport mode will keep the gear you've chosen all the way to redline. The column-mounted paddles are also cool, but only in a straight line, but that's a matter of personal preference. The only time I'd use them is when showing off to a mate.
So with 2 of the 3 models driven, I can confidently say that Jaguar's new XE is a brilliant car all round. The only tough time that Jaguar is going to have is the current pricing thanks to the Rand being properly bashed around. The XE is aimed at the current buyers of Audi's A5 range and the upper range of BMW's 4-Series and those buyers are very brand-loyal as it is. Getting them to jump ship isn't going to be an easy task. Having many great features included in the car as standard instead of being optional extras is one thing the Jaguar has going for it, that and the exclusivity that the brand comes with. As oen of the guys told me on the launch - they were refilling the XE range at a local petrol station and the attendant was super impressed with the Jaguars . The attendant said that the other luxury German cars are cool and also cost a lot, but if you want to show the world that you've made it, you must drive a Jaguar. "With a Jaguar, you have arrived, you are here now."
Spier Wine Estate
This is the second JLR launch I've been on (hopefully there will be more in the future too) and these guys always pull out all the stops. Our accomodation was the Stellenbosch-based Spier Wine Estate. It's one of the oldest wine farms in SA dating back to 1692. Of course it's now a lot more than just a wine producer, it offers some really top-notch accomodation. I'm not a wine drinker by any stretch of the imagination, I only ever have it when the rest of the booze at a party is finished. I know, I know, I can hear wine lovers gasp in shock. When I mentioned where I stayed to my mates though they were all quite jealous and every single one of them asked if I brought any wine back, sadly I didn't.
Our main dinner event was held at Spier, and it was something very, very different. The marketing around the new Jaguar XE is all about exciting the senses, and our dinner did that and more, it totally blew my mind! Our host for the evening was Hein Wagner, a name you may have heard of. As his website's bio states: he's a global traveller, a motivational speaker, a corporate entertainer and a lover of life. He's also been blind since birth. One of the things he does for corporates is called Dinner in the Dark, which is exactly what it sounds like. Hein and his crew set up a room to be completely dark and patrons have to leave any light-emitting devices outside, so no watches, cell phones - anything with glow in the dark bits. Then the fun begins, a full 3-course meal complete with drinks, table decor and even an ice bucket with wine in that you have to pour yourself. It completely messes with your head, it's actually hard to explain, you simply must experience it. In roughly an hour your other senses heighten and your eyes feel strained because they're constantly trying to adjust to the total darkness. We were all imagining our waiters to be wearing night vision goggles because they were brilliant, but in fact all the waiters were either blind or partially sighted. Even the musician, who was brilliant by the way, was blind too.
Experiencing what a blind person goes through on a daily basis certainly gives you a new appreciation for your sense of sight. Simple tasks like eating become an art. I gave up on the cutlery pretty quickly and used my hands. When the lights were eventually turned on, the layout I had pictured in my head was totally different to how it was actually set out. Hein and his team were amazing - if you're ever wanting to host an amazing corporate function, this is definitely something you must try out. I mean take a look at the pic below, how awesome does that dinner look?
Oh yeah, it must also be mentioned that being blind doesn't limit Hein too much, back in 2009 he set a world land speed record for the blind on a runway in Upington. Hein took a Merc SL65 to a speed of 322.5km/h. That's faster than most sighted people I know have ever had the balls to drive, and he couldn't see! I can't even ride shotgun with my eyes closed...
Lust Bistro & Bakery
One one of the routes we stopped in at was Lust Bistro & Bakery located on the Vrede en Lust Wine Estate in Simondium on the outskirts of Franshoek. It was a short, much needed coffee break. I'm not sure if you're aware, but motoring journalists cannot survive without regular caffiene intake. The venue is brilliant, all modern and very upper class. It's a great breakfast venue where clients can sample some of the baked goods made under direction of Patron Chef Jean Pierre Smith.
From their website:
"When Jean Pierre speaks about his bread, his eyes light up. He is an esteemed chef who has had many successes as restaurateur and even a stint as chef to David Copperfield and guests – but when you take away all the fancy food jargon, he is an easy-going but dedicated Afrikaner man who wants nothing more than to feed you fantastic food. His food journey only started after finishing a B. Comm. degree in Industrial Psychology and travelling to the UK and South Korea. His heart was set on becoming a chef and he enrolled at the Stellenbosch Institute of Culinary Arts. “ I had no set plan … I’m lucky it turned out the way it did.”
Leopard's Leap Family Vineyards in the Franshoek Valley was another of the scheduled stops. Once again, it's a great venue that must be visited if you're in the area. They produce affordable, easy drinking wines and at the venue they do many wine tasting events. Obvioulsy this wasn't something that could happen during a motoring launch, so instead we were treated to a coffee and chocolate tasting to again excite the senses. We were presented with three different kinds of chocolate and given three types of coffee that would compliment the flavour. It was pretty interesting, but I think I'll keep my coffee and chocolate time quite seperate.
There was also short presentation from one of the staff about the chocolate they make, where the ingredients are sourced from and what makes chocolate, well, chocolate. There were some samples to try and I must admit that I tried the medium blend chocolate a few times. Then a few more. I also learned that white chocolate isn't chocolate at all, there's no cocoa in it. It's basically a blend of sugar and milk. It was also pretty cool to see the chocolate being mixed in preparation for use in smaller, custom chocolates and treats.
Mo & Rose at Soekershof
A lunch destination was Mo & Rose at Soekershof, a hidden gem of a venue in Klaasvoogds West. The bistro is located in a renovated barn that overlooks an amazing garden that was started in the 1950s that's full of cacti and other succulents collected from around the world. You're free to take a walk through and have a closer look. The venue also has 8 rooms that you can stay at, 2 are family sized. The venue will make a great base to stay at if you want to explore the famous wine routes.
The lunch was great, as was the coffee of course. This was not only a stop off point but also where we'd swap cars, so from this point until the end of the day I was piloting an XE S. Yes, like is good...
Jaguar XE - Full pricing and specifications
2.0 Diesel Pure - R534 800
2.0 Diesel Prestige - R590 400
2.0 Diesel R-Sport - R614 000
2.0 Diesel Portfolio - R654 600
2.0 Petrol Prestige - R638 900
2.0 Petrol R-Sport - R622 600
2.0 Petrol Portfolio - R703 200
3.0 V6 Supercharged S - R908 100
Service & Training
Careplan - 5 year/100 000km (whichever occurs first). Care Plan consists of three components:
Warranty: 3-years/100 000km
Service: 5-year/100 000km
Maintenance Plan: 5-year/100 000km
Jaguar Assist: 24-hour roadside assistance
Half day Jaguar Experience course; 1 driver & 1 passenger
Check out the spec sheet below for more info or head on over to www.jaguar.co.za