By Shari Prymak

2017 Jaguar XE 20d R-Sport - If you have around 50 grand or so to spend on a luxury sedan, chances are you’ve considered a Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, or a BMW 3-Series. There are other choices of course, but the German trio has a firm hold of the segment, and none of them are going to cede their share easily. The problem with popularity, however, is that it comes at the expense of exclusivity. Part of the appeal of a luxury car is the feeling of having something that’s a little bit special and out of the ordinary. There’s nothing special about a 3-Series when you see one on every street corner.

Fortunately, for those who value such things, there are a few options that still blend luxury with exclusivity, and one of them is Jaguar. For a brand with such an incredible pedigree, the brand is certainly not where it should be in terms of popularity. But that’s what makes the sight of one so special. Jaguar, however, is under rapid expansion with new models coming to market in recent years. One of them is the XE, which is the brand’s first real attempt at a compact luxury sedan, and it has a lot going for it besides exclusivity.

The XE is built on Jaguar’s aluminum-intensive platform complete with standard all-wheel drive, a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission, and a choice between both gasoline and diesel powertrains. The model I tested came equipped with the 2.0L diesel, and it is quite impressive. It’s smooth, quiet, and, with an incredible 318lb-ft of torque on tap, provides enough power for just about every occasion. Best of all, it consumes as little as 5.8L/100km on the highway. I averaged 7.2L/100km throughout my week. As good as it is, diesels don’t make sense for everyone, particularly those who do mostly short distance driving, which is why the gas options should still be popular.

Jaguar XE

Jaguar pitches the XE as a true sports sedan that’s as athletic and dynamically capable as the segment benchmarks. Indeed there’s a lot to like. The suspension feels both compliant, yet also taut enough to cope with more aggressive cornering behaviour. Body roll is minimal, and the steering is both accurate and nicely weighted. I’m not sure whether the XE is as fun to toss around as a 3-Series or ATS, but it certainly isn’t far off.

With beautiful offerings like the F-Type sports car, Jaguar has been on a roll as far as styling is concerned, and the XE is no different. It’s as handsome and elegant as its upscale showroom mates. It’s also a bit boring and conservative. This high-volume segment isn’t exactly one for adventurous styling and risk-taking, but it would have been nice to see Jaguar push the envelope just a bit.

What I have a harder time getting around is the rather bland, cold-feeling cabin design. Jaguars of old have always had special interiors with acres of rich leather and fine wood veneers. The interior of the XE though is just that, an interior. At least everything is well put together and feels high quality. The weak spot is touchscreen system, which, though sharp in appearance, has a few too many menus to navigate for common functions. Also, the back seat and trunk space are not as generous as those in some competitors.

The XE starts at $45,000 for the entry-level diesel model, and can go as high as 65 grand for a well-optioned R-Sport with the 340 horsepower, 3.0L supercharged V6 engine. That puts it on par with its German rivals, as well as the Lexus IS and Infiniti Q50. It remains to be seen how the XE will do in terms of resale value and long-term reliability. As a lease option or a short-term 4-5 year ownership prospect, however, it should be fine. For someone looking for a stylish and sporty luxury sedan that’s different from the established players, the XE shouldn’t disappoint.