Is that perceived small back seat just smoke and mirrors?
First published in the December 2016 issue of Wheels magazine, Australia's most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.
Is the Jaguar XE’s rear seat really too tight for two adults, as some critics claim?
The opportunity to find out presented itself recently after loading my Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0d with three well-nourished mates (all firemen, as it happens) for a 90-minute drive from Melbourne to Airey’s Inlet on the famous Great Ocean Road. Only 10cm separated the shortest (me at 178cm) and the tallest (my bestie Dean).
Getting everyone inside required some calisthenics, but soon we were all snug. “I love the all-enveloping interior; it wraps you up like a Greek grandmother!” Dean quipped, angling for a laugh at my expense. Instinctively, I took that to mean overbearing and smelling of mothballs, but he actually meant that the Jaguar’s cabin is cocooning. Accommodating, comfy, quiet and not at all stuffy.
Near journey’s end, though, the lack of headroom clearance – our XE has a sunroof – was brought up. “You wouldn’t want to travel too much further in the back seat,” Dean observed, “but I guess that’s not what these things are built for.”
Interesting. Dynamically focussed, the XE clearly isn’t about transporting taller folk for long stints in the back seat, and that’s clear just by looking at it. The cabin is compact. But what we did find out is that, even after 122km, it’s cosy and calm back there, even on 19-inch wheels. That scalps may occasionally be gently caressed by the roof lining shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
Heading homewards, with Dean at the wheel, I discovered that foot space in the back is limited with the front seat cranked down on its lowest setting – or maybe my mate was finally exacting revenge for something I did in seventh grade. As with his driving position, we go a long way back.
With plenty of rain about, someone asked how the XE handled the Great Ocean Road’s turns since it was “a little damp underfoot”. Fireman lingo is so quaint. “Brilliant,” Dean replied. “Coming out of every corner with the confidence to continue hard into the next is something to crave… it feels like we’re just two-up in a much smaller hatch. It just won’t slide. Seems you really can enjoy sports car performance from a two-litre diesel sedan.”
Crikey! He’s spot on. It seems anybody can review cars. I’d better watch my back. I wonder how I’d go handling a fireman’s hose…
Two years in, the XE’s design is ageing well. At a time when BMW seems to have lost its 3 Series styling mojo, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class’s curves already seem dated, and the A4 is just too similar to the previous iteration, the Jaguar’s proportioned cab-backward silhouette and wide stance are right on the money. Plus our R-Sport’s combo of blue paint and black alloys is as fashionable as watching Stranger Things. Like aspects of that show, the Jaguar’s looks have a way of getting under your skin.
JAGUAR XE 2.0d R-SPORT
Price as tested: $80,400
This month: 981km @ 6.9L/100km
Overall: 3953km @ 6.7L/100km
Date acquired: May 2016