(Pocket-lint) - One of the things that Jaguar does rather well, is lighting a fire under its cars. While there's no of shortage of big diesel Jags eating up the miles on Blighty's roads - as there are Audis, Mercs and Beemers - it's always more fun with a supercharged V6 petrol under the bonnet.
Say hello then to the new Jaguar XE S, riding the same engine as the F-Type, offering sporty drivers a thrilling 380PS from its V6 petrol engine, and putting a little more purpose into your morning commute.
This is Jaguar's answer to something like the Audi S5 Sportback, fusing luxury with power in a wonderfully apologetic way.
Jaguar XE S: Sporting lines redefined
Okay, so we'll admit that this isn't an entirely new car, as it's the same design in and out as the 2015 Jaguar XE, the most compact of Jaguar's saloons. This is really a car that's designed around the driver, as the rear passengers will probably be complaining about the lack of leg room if they are over the age of 8.
That doesn't matter though, because the biggest motivator for buying a Jaguar XE S is that you'll be in the driving seat. As we've said before, there's a lot we like about the interior design, especially the way the doors meet the dash. It's more distinctive than the larger Jaguar XF, but there's no escaping that there's less space overall.
For the exterior then, the XE S gets itself a full sporty makeover, not unlike the R-Sport trim, but set off nicely here with the £650 Firenze Red paint job. The de rigueur red brake calipers peek through the 19-inch split spoke wheels, while the black sills and rear valance indicate this is something a little different, while carrying the twin tailpipes with distinction and poise.
We still think this is a great looking car, but it doesn’t quite have the same road presence as BMW's M Sport 4-series Gran Coupe, which will likely turn heads a little sharper than the XE S. But there is some charm in that. While the sporty accolades may go to BMW, the Jaguar has subtlety that BMW swaps for brutality. It's less boy, and more gentleman, racer.
Jaguar has some of those options though. If you want carbonfibre door mirrors or side vents, you can spec these options separately, but that will send the price soaring.
Our test drive model includes twin colours of interior leather, bringing a lift to the door linings and sports seats which we rather like, although this will be an acquired taste. It's also included, so won't cost you more, even if some basics, like powered folding door mirrors (£295) you'd expect to find included on a car that costs nearly £50k, aren't.
Jaguar XE S: Driving is all about dynamics
Thumb the start button and the V6 springs to life, cocking your mouth into half a smile. Your neighbours might resent that early-morning roaring of the V6, but that's half the fun of owning a car like this. You could have a Ford Mustang GT after all, so your neighbours should be grateful that you took the luxury option, as it's not the noisiest car around.
In many ways, this engine is actually remarkably well behaved. It's fun to burble through the towns without being too crass, but put your foot down and you'll see the needles quickly head toward the red as the noise rises. But that's the experienced of a slightly tamed cat.
To really experience what this car is about you'll need to depress the dial slightly and switch to sport mode. That's not the only step, because even that doesn't really let it out of the bag: you'll also have to switch to dynamic.
The dynamics are customisable on this model (an option on lower spec cars), allowing you to decide how you want the engine, gearbox, steering and suspension to behave. It's here that you can move the Jag on from a slightly sedate throttle response into something that's very twitchy and taut: once in dynamic mode, it will buck as soon as you touch the accelerator, a perfect recipe for spinning your rear wheels, while you jolt back into the loving caress of the leather sports seats.
So in this mode it's not great for the sort of stop start driving that you get around town (there's even auto start-stop to save you fuel in those conditions), but it does mean that once you're under way, it feels much more like you're driving a sports car. Jaguar isn't alone in this, of course, but there's something special about feeling the XE S come alive the way it does, something feels inherently right as you take this luxe machine and throw it around with dignified abandon.
This more powerful version of the 3-litre petrol engine gives you 380PS, routing through the sharp 8-speed automatic gearbox, taking you from 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, which is pretty fast by any measure. It's almost as fast as that big Ford we mentioned, with a 34mpg figure given for a combined cycle and emissions of 194g/km.
The soundtrack is sporty too, but you don't quite get the full range of popping and echoing growls that you'll find on slightly more powerful engines from the sports saloons in a tier above the XE S, but it does some completely authentic and fitting. At the same time, this is still a Jaguar that drives perfectly comfortably, cornering nicely, with great feel to the steering and enough flexibility in the sports suspension to keep you flat in the corners, but not breaking your spine on the rougher routes.
It's driving pleasure, well managed and flexible, a wonderful combination of comfort meeting sporty thrills and few spills.
Jaguar XE S: Internal tech
One of the fun features of the latest generations of Jaguars is the InControl Touch system. This gives you an 8-inch central display, flanked by controls, but fully touch-enabled. It's paired with a standard driver's display, but you do get an upgraded Meridian sound system delivering 380W of excellent sound.
For £1090 you upgrade this to InControl Touch Pro, which swaps the central display for a larger 10-inch screen that loses the buttons for a cleaner look. Meanwhile those analogue dials are exchanged for a fully-digital driver's display. This is all a little more futuristic, and can integrate features like navigation maps along with offering a range of customisations. Best of all, when you're in dynamic mode, the display dials turn red, sticking the rev counter in the centre.
This upgrade keeps the 380W system and also gives you 10GB internal storage where you could keep your favourite tunes, while your connected smartphone will let you make calls, play music, as well as powering Jaguar apps.
There are plenty of rivals in the luxury sports saloon space and in many ways, the rivals are getting rather common. Sure, there's the cheaper (both in price and in quality) Ford Mustang that's rather more rare on the streets, but there's no shortage of Audi S, BMW M Sport or Mercedes AMG on the roads.
So if you want something that's a little more unique, but still packed full of quality and excitement, then look to this high spirited Jaguar.