Refreshed, powered-up range-topping S model adds even more appeal to this fine performance saloon range
When a manufacturer is revamping an already good car, there’s always a danger that they’ll throw the baby out with the bathwater.
It’s good news, then, that Jaguar has managed to enhance its 2017 XE S without losing any of the old car’s charm.
That’s actually quite an achievement. When the performance version of this saloon first came it sported 335bhp under the bonnet. Now the supercharged V6 has been given the same 375bhp-spec engine as the most powerful V6 F-Type sportster. It’s also got Jaguar’s latest InControl Touch Pro infotainment system, which features a 12.3-inch TFT instrument display cluster and 10.1-inch touchscreen with dual pixel technology (so passengers can tune into a movie while the driver is watching the sat-nav, both using the same screen), and extra driver helpers like pedestrian detection that partners up with automatic emergency braking, blind spot assist and forward traffic detection.
Jaguar XE S
Engine: 3.0-litre, V6, supercharged, petrol
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1655kg
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 34.9mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 194g/km
In terms of the 0-62mph time, that additional 40bhp snips only 0.1 second off, bringing it to five seconds. The best thing about the change isn’t to be found in numbers, though, but in the new-found joyousness of the engine as it spins through the upper reaches where the extra 40bhp lives. Most drivers will be happy to explore that region in exchange for the sonic reward. Put the eight-speed automatic into Dynamic mode to work it with the paddle shifters and you’ll be able to enjoy one of the best-sounding – and least artificial-sounding – drivetrains in this segment. The F-Type is more barky and crackly, but not by much.
Or you can just cruise around quietly, feasting on the plateful of torque that the responsive transmission will place before you. Its combined figure of 34.9mpg might look thirsty next to an equally sporting diesel alternative, but no diesel can dish up anything like the same wealth of character. This very pleasing dual-personality nature permeates the entire car.
You can tick a box for Jaguar’s configurable dynamics system as a standalone S item, and we’d recommend it for the extra flexibility it brings. In the softest mode it swallows up bumps large and small: switch to the sports setting for an almost balletic agility belying the car’s 1665kg weight.
Braking-induced torque vectoring lets you steam out of a bend with steering lock still applied, maximising grip by juggling torque to the rear wheels while still allowing a degree of easily controllable back-end slip. The individual elements of engine, gearbox and chassis are so nicely blended, you wonder if this new S was the XE Jaguar wanted to offer from the start, with the sales-relevant diesels and smaller petrols coming off that branch.
This isn’t an instant tyre-destroyer. It’s a sweetly balanced driving machine that can also carry five and a fair few of their accoutrements. BMW’s 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class both have roomier cabins, but the Jaguar adds something special that’s felt in the hairs on the back of the driver’s neck rather than in the knees that may occasionally be wedged up against the back of their seat.
If you have £55,000 to spend on an involving luxury saloon, get this and save yourself £7000 at the same time.