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Aluminum Jaguar XE marks return to compact luxury segment

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Diana T. Kurylko
Automotive News
September 8, 2014 - 3:15 pm ET

Jaguar is re-entering the cutthroat compact luxury segment with the XE -- complete with new engines, new technology and a new modular aluminum-based architecture.

Making its global debut today at a gala event in London, the rear-wheel-drive XE goes on sale in the U.S. in 2016 and will compete with the reigning king, the BMW 3-series sedan, and the Mercedes-Benz C class and the Audi A4. It will be Jaguar's cheapest vehicle, at about $44,000, slotted below the midsize XF sedan, which starts at $52,100 including shipping.

Jaguar only gave details about one variant -- the range-topping S model equipped with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine rated at 340 hp and 332 pounds-feet of torque. It has an eight-speed automatic transmission, paddle shifter controls and can go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. The XE S has an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. All-wheel drive may be optional.

Jaguar, now owned by India’s Tata Motors, exited the compact segment in 2009, when the X Type ended production. The X Type, derived by then-owner Ford Motor Co. from the Mondeo, was widely panned by critics for its transverse-mounted engine, Ford underpinnings and retro styling.

The XE is a crucial vehicle for Jaguar and is expected to provide much needed volume for the brand that has ambitions to grow combined Jaguar and Land Rover sales to 750,000 vehicles a year by 2020, with a longer-range target of 1 million. Last year, Jaguar sold 76,668 cars worldwide and 16,952 in the United States. Jaguar sales through August in the U.S. fell 4 percent to 10,688 cars in an overall light-vehicle market that rose 5 percent.

New architecture, new plant, new engine family

The aluminum-intensive Jaguar XE will be manufactured at an all-new facility -- the flexible Jaguar Land Rover Solihull plant that is part of a $2.5 billion investment.

With a length of 183.9 inches, the XE is slightly shorter than the redesigned 2015 C-class sedan (184.5 inches) but longer than the 3 series (182.2 inches). The XE has a wheelbase of 111.6 inches compared with the C class at 111.8 inches and the 3 series at 110.6 inches.

The XE has a short front overhang, a cab-rearward stance and a coupelike profile. “Our mission was to create an exciting and dynamic design clearly reflecting the XE positioning as a serious driver’s car. The cab-rearward proportions and tight packaging achieve that and give the XE the appearance of movement even when it’s standing still,” Ian Callum, Jaguar director of design, said in a statement. “It bears a strong family resemblance to the F-Type and will stand apart in the crowd.”

The XE uses styling cues from the F-Type coupe and convertible.

Jaguar said it used high-strength aluminum for much of body, and the sides are formed in one piece. The XE also has 110 pounds of recycled plastics and renewable materials.

“The XE is as strong and light as it could possibly be thanks to exhaustive analysis and by bringing the latest engineering techniques to bear on its design,” said Mark White, chief technical specialist, Jaguar body complete. “It has been challenging to accomplish, but the XE structure is absolutely at the cutting edge of what is achievable today.”

Jaguar said the XE also will use its new family of modular four-cylinder Ingenium engines that will be produced at a new engine plant in Wolverhampton, England. They are the first powerplants the company has developed on its own in this century.

Jaguar previously said the new family of gasoline and diesel engines will be lightweight, lower friction and low emissions. It is not clear whether a diesel powerplant will be offered in the U.S.

New safety, infotainment systems

Jaguar said the XE will have its new All Surface Progress Control system that “works like a low-speed cruise control.” It controls the brake system and powertrain up to 19 mph to improve traction in slippery conditions.

The XE also has a high-contrast optional laser head-up display that provides information on the windshield, including speed and navigation.

A new autonomous emergency braking system uses stereo camera technology to apply full braking to avoid or lessen the effects of a crash. The system also recognizes traffic signs and has a lane-departure warning function.

An adaptive cruise control system has blind-spot monitoring and semi-automated parking assist and rear traffic detection systems.

The XE also has a new infotainment system called Jaguar InControl with an 8-inch touch screen, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and audio streaming.

Using a smartphone, the InControl system can remotely set climate, lock or unlock doors and start the engine. Smartphone apps also can be accessed via the touch screen.

Jaguar did not give details on which systems are standard or optional.

 

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