1. It's sized like a 3.
The XE is sized within 2 inches of the BMW 3-Series in every external dimension but feels slightly smaller inside. It's 1.5 inches wider and 0.6 inch lower, though, and with its wheels pushed right to the outside, it looks low and sturdy on the road.
2. On sale next year.
Jaguar's saying we'll see our first XEs on sale in "spring 2016," almost a year behind the rest of the world. Reason for the delay: JLR doesn't want the car on sale until the all-wheel-drive model is available. Its development isn't finished yet.
3. A V8 will fit under the hood.
At launch, the XE will carry the familiar 3.0-liter, supercharged 340-hp V6. This isn't the best six in the world, but if it fits in the car, that means a V8 will, too. Reason being: This V6 shares its external dimensions with the company's V8—it's essentially the same block, just with the rear cylinders left out.
4. It's aluminum, but don't tell the scale.
Jaguar claims a base rate of 3671 pounds in Euro trim, so we expect it to actually weigh at least 3750 pounds. That's a lot—far more than a 3-Series, but you can blame that lump of a V6 for part of it. Indeed, the four-cylinder diesel model weighs less than 3400 pounds.
5. Stick shift and diesel coming.
A few months after launch, we'll see a 180-hp, 2.0-liter diesel. All models will come with an eight-speed automatic and optional all-wheel drive. Later in 2016, we'll see a gas version of that 2.0-liter, with an optional six-speed manual on rear-drive variants.
6. You don't have to yell; we already did.
We've already blasted Jaguar for not considering a manual on the V6 model. The company's product planners are apparently stuck in the 1990s, when college professors bought stick-shift Toyota Tercels to save a couple bucks. Don't worry: The F-type's manual bolts right up, and there's plenty of time for Jaguar to wake up and smell the clutch smoke. N
7. Electric power steering: heresy?
Not this time. Jaguar waited until EPAS technology had become good enough, and it says the XE's on-center steering feel is better than the old hydraulic system's. It is no such thing. But it's easily among the best electric setups to date—if not the best—and we applaud that effort. That said, we drove two cars, and only one was actually communicative—the V6 with adaptive dampers and 19-inch wheels on supersticky Dunlop SP Sport Maxx RTs. The other—a 180-hp diesel on smaller wheels with Pirelli P7s—had no on-center feel at all. Let's hope the former was what we'll see in production.
8. Suspension from the gods.
Jaguar doesn't muck around when it comes to suspension, and the XE is certainly no exception. Double wishbones up front, Jaguar's unique "Integral Link" multilink setup in back, and a whole lot of attention paid to the ride-and-handling equation pays enormous dividends to the driver. Body control is downright flawless no matter which model, but adaptive-damper models ride more smoothly. Steering precision makes the 3-Series feel like a Buick. (An old Buick—the new ones aren't bad, remember.)
9. Oh, my God, that powertrain.
We can complain about that heavy V6, but its exhaust sounds magnificent. It's matched to that incredible eight-speed ZF automatic and bangs off shifts like a line worker on amphetamines. The XE uses an open rear diff, but we couldn't get it to light a one-tire fire, and unlike the F-type, which would rather be sideways, the XE puts its power down like a champ. (We'd still rather be sideways, but it's nice to know you have the option of going straight.)
10. Oh, my God, that touchscreen.
Jaguar's 400-year-old, slow-as-molasses touchscreen infotainment system has been replaced by a new one. It's much more colorful, slightly quicker, and still sucks. Okay, perhaps that's harsh, especially because it shows the most adorable Bob Ross paintings when it comes time to exit a highway—bucolic scenes with happy little trees and pretty little bushes. Too bad the system lacks happy little radio presets, and too bad it often takes many complicated button presses to accomplish simple little things.
11. Laser head-up display.
The XE's option sheet contains a claimed world's first laser HUD. It is indeed clearer and sharper than other systems, but if you're the kind of person bothered by flickering LEDs, steer clear of it. It seems to produce its orange-colored speed display by alternately, and quickly, flashing red and green images onto the windshield. Anti-seizure medication is not included with the purchase of this product.
12. The new driver's-car champ in the 3-Series segment.
The Jaguar XE murders the 3-Series in terms of driving dynamics, but that's not much of a shock. The big surprise is that it beats the current champs, Cadillac ATS and Lexus IS 350 F Sport. We'll wait until we get them all together, but we're pretty certain that it'll win top honors in ride, handling, and steering—and then put the full smackdown on both of those cars where the powertrain is concerned. The Lexus's V-6 is spectacular, but its transmission is way behind the ZF—and the ATS just can't compete in power, response, smoothness, or refinement. (Lest we forget CUE, which is far worse than even Jag's new touchscreen.)