SIX-CYLINDER COMPACT saloons are a dying breed more often seen on the endangered- species list than spotted out in the wild. Take the supercharged Jaguar XE S; the rear-wheel-drive V6 has warbled its last and been replaced by this addition to the XE range, the 300 Sport special edition.
The yellow badges and interior stitching from the limited-run F-Type 400 Sport are back, but this time there’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged four with all- wheel drive, which sounds like a poor substitute for 3.5 litres and rear-drive.
Struggling to get excited? Don’t blame you. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much better the 300 Sport is on the road than it reads on the spec sheet. Although the new car is slightly heavier, the weight distribution is better, with the result that it flows fluently along the British country roads it was developed on.
Performance is slightly down on the old V6 – but this isn’t a slow car. It’ll rev cleanly all the way to 6750rpm if you want it to, but with peak torque at 1500rpm there’s more than enough shove to get you up to speed without any hassle.
There is, ultimately, a lack of sparkle and an absence of edge. Put your foot down and there’s no visceral noise to tickle your senses. At low speeds the starter motor and bassy engine resemble the diesel version, which isn’t something you could say of either the old XE S or the F-Type 300. Looked at another way, it’s comfortable, refined and well equipped. And its relatively good official mpg and emissions figures should help it dodge destiny’s bullet for a while.
JAGUAR XE 300 SPORT
Subtle, better- balanced, but will remain a rare sight
★ ★ ★ ★ ★