A lot of enthusiasts are in love with Jaguar these days. They are pumping out swanky and sexy designs on a regular basis.  You can put the 2017 XE on this list.

I test-drove the XE in Prestige trim with all wheel drive for a pleasurable week. The base XE starts at $45,000, and the upmarket Prestige at $57,500, adding options runs the price closer to $68,000.

Two things are clear, it’s a fine looking car, and it likes to go fast and be driven hard.

The XE was conceived to compete in a well-established class that includes BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-class, Cadillac ATS, and Lexus IS. There’s deep history there, and loyal brand followers.  The XE is in start up stage.

It’s got the design thing pretty nailed down. The exterior view, particularly the side view is flowing and feline and deftly proportioned.

For a photo shoot, I bumped around Barton Street, easing down a side street, to pose it with the old Westinghouse office building as a backdrop. The forlorn, but still proud Westinghouse high-rise made a provocative contrast. The slowly decaying office tower shows the predictable signs of neglect- trees-of-heaven snaking up the facade, padlocked doors and boarded up windows. The reverting to nature tableau made the XE’s crisp lines, and ocean blue paint job leap out of the photo.

Inside the XE falls short of the sophistication and craftsmanship of the German competition.  Pretty much everything was sombre black in the cabin. Adding just a touch of wood or coloured stitching would perk things up. Clutter busters would hate the vast array of buttons splattered across the centre console and populating the steering wheel. Jaguar is still behind on designing rational infotainment systems, and functional menus.  The back seat is snug, and I found over-the-shoulder visibility poor.

But it’s fun to drive, with a supercharged V6 engine producing 340 horsepower, and a let’s go to the races attitude. Even without hitting a sport button, the XE can barely hide its frisky nature. Paired with that ready to rollick personality is nicely weighted steering, that is precise and responsive.  The brakes initially seemed odd, with just a slight delay until they bit into action, but I got used to them.

For the non-sporty driver the suspension on the Jaguar XE will be just a bit too bracing. The Jag’s lightweight aluminum architecture contributes to a controlled ride, but our pot-bunkered roads will knock passengers around. Selectable drive modes offer the chance to dampen the stiffness of the chassis but the effect is pretty subtle.   Seekers of silence will notice tire noise seeping into the cabin. The Mercedes and BMW have a quieter ride.

The Jaguar XE shows a lot of promise.  People who seek a sporty drive may love the 2017 model, for those wanting more luxury and more refinement, stay tuned for future enhancements.

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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