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2017 Jaguar XE
The new 2017 Jaguar  XE sports sedan is set to challenge venerable German cars in its class..

Prices: $34,900-$46,500

The new 2017 Jaguar XE compact sports sedan has the goods to challenge established German rivals such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

 Jaguar long has offered sexy cars. Most buyers it is seeking with the XE likely have forgotten or are unaware of the old reliability problems Jaguar had before Ford bought it in 1990. Ford tore down the automaker's old plant and then poured money into it.

Financial circumstances caused Ford to sell Jaguar to India's Tata Motors in 2008. Tata is a large outfit that has maintained a "hands-off" policy in letting Jaguar be on its own and continue operations in England.

Smart move. Jaguar has come up with very competitive models such as the XE. It's expanding its lineup with this car, which is an especially important one for the automaker because it will draw younger buyers. Jaguar hopes such buyers will purchase its costlier models as they get older and more affluent.

The XE sure looks like a Jaguar, with its sweeping silhouette, long hood, short rear, strong rising waistline and athletic stance. It has a leg up on rivals with its weight-saving aluminum construction.

I found while testing the XE that its handy size makes it comfortable in crowded urban driving near downtown Chicago.

The XE could cruise all day at 85 m.p.h., but my test drive mostly was in the moderately heavy to heavy traffic that most XE buyers are expected to encounter.

I also drove the car on a large simulated race course marked by pylons, where it displayed almost sports car moves.

The electric power steering has the right amount of quickness, and the smooth ride is almost a Jaguar trademark. The ride is largely due to such things as a double wishbone front suspension and a rear suspension with an integral link system that delivers lateral and longitudinal stiffness for precise handling and a supple ride.  

Engines range from the 20d (turbocharged 180-horsepower four-cylinder diesel), 25t (turbo 240-horsepower gas four-cylinder)  and 35t (supercharged 340-horsepower gas V-6).

Trim levels are XE, XE Premium, XE Prestige and XE R-Sport. Rear- or all-wheel drive are offered.

Most list prices range from $34,900 to $41,700. However, Jaguar also offers an extra-sporty $46,500 R-Sport version. Its features include large front air intakes, satin chrome side vents, side sills and a discreet rear spoiler. No more horsepower, though.

The XE has a smooth, responsive eight-speed automatic transmission. It has Jaguar's console-mounted rotary shifter, which doesn't like gear changes to be rushed. Steering wheel paddles can be used for quick manual shifts.

The transmission shifted smoothly in Drive mode virtually all the time, but momentarily hesitated  between gears in slow bumper-to-bumper traffic when I accelerated a little, then quickly backed off the gas--and then accelerated again. With eight speeds, the transmission apparently was wondering what gear I wanted to be in.

I drove the 340-horsepower R-Sport to see how it fared during typical crowded urban/suburban driving. I wondered how docile this car is, considering it does  0-60 m.p.h. in 4.9 seconds and tops out at an electronically-limited 155 m.p.h.

No matter what the speed, the lush-life interior has fine-grain leathers and details such as contrasting twin-needle stitching. There's a choice of gloss black, textured aluminum and wood veneers for a hand-crafted feel

A new InControl infotainment system features an 8-inch capacitive touch screen that's easy to use. The "InControl Touch" supports Bluetooth, audio streaming and USB connectivity.

 Sound systems are a big deal to many luxury car buyers. The XE has two Meridan audio systems which have unique algorithms that tailor sound experience to the interior's acoustics. Systems range from 380-watt, 11 speaker systems to 825-watt, 14 speaker systems with stereo and surround-sound processors.

Heaven forbid an XE driver has an accident, but safety systems include adaptive cruise control, closing vehicle sensing, blind spot monitoring, semi-automated parallel and perpendicular park assist--and reverse traffic detection.

The XE accompanies Jaguar's first SUV, the F-Pace, and a redesigned XF sedan. Jaguar thus may be getting a better seat at the table.