LONDON -- Jaguar's new XE sedan is a critical test of the brand's ability to compete for entry-level luxury buyers after production of the Ford Mondeo-based X-Type was stopped in 2009 because of disappointing sales.
The XE is being unveiled today at a gala event in London. The sedan will be the Jaguar's cheapest vehicle at about 27,000 pounds ($44,000) when it goes on sale next year to rival cars such as the BMW 3 series.
The XE will be the first model to use Jaguar Land Rover’s new aluminum rear-wheel-drive architecture. The lightweight aluminum frame will improve performance as the brand seeks to revive the sporty image of its heyday in the 1960s.
Jaguar is confident the car will outperform its rivals dynamically, citing use of a rear integral link suspension set-up. "The integral link rear suspension provides a combination of supple ride and crisp handling that is unmatched in this segment," Mike Cross, the brand's chief engineer of vehicle integrity, said in a statement.
The XE also will be the first vehicle to get Jaguar Land Rover's Ingenium family of four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines. The most frugal diesel XE will have CO2 emissions below 100 grams per kilometer.
Jaguar's effort to bolster the XE's appeal includes the ability to control doors, temperature and even start the engine via smartphone.
With the XE, "they're really making an exciting sports saloon, as Jaguar used to," Graham Searle, general manager of the Jaguar Enthusiasts' Club, said in a phone interview from Bristol, England. Unlike the older clientele of its pricier models, the new sedan is "aimed at the iPad generation," he said.
The XE is part of Jaguar's goal of tripling sales to about 230,000 cars by 2018. XE sales are forecast to peak at 63,700 cars in 2016, which approaches the brand's 2013 global deliveries of 74,500, according to market research company IHS Automotive.