It is always interesting to spot which cars are at the centre of landmark moments in national life. The cars of choice are usually from the British-built Jaguar Land Rover stable. So a new princess was collected from hospital in a slick black Range Rover, and a freshly re-elected Prime Minister headed for audience with the Queen in a sleek Jaguar XJ.
With the prices of both elevated beyond what most of us can afford, our own notable life events are unlikely to be ferried in similar style. But aspiring to drive a Jaguar is about to become relatively more affordable with the arrival on the scene this summer of the new compact-size Jaguar XE.
With prices starting from around £27,000, the new Jaguar goes up against prestige German rivals in the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. So it has tough competition, but how does the home-grown Jag shape up?
Having driven it extensively on its international launch, over some of the most dramatic roads of northern Spain, I have no hesitation in saying that Jaguar has come up with a winner. The XE is slickly styled with shapely curves and that slightly predatory big cat face fronting the long bonnet. More importantly, it is really good behind the wheel, a driver-pleasing car that credibly challenges the might of the German opposition.
What really engages a keen driver is the way a car handles on a twisty country road. The XE certainly doesn’t disappoint. It has crisply communicative steering, and slickly poised handling. It is a honey to hustle along a winding B road. The junior Jag rides well, absorbs all but the worst bumps, and is nicely refined, so no need for raised voices when you’re cruising at motorway pace.
The range starts with a two-litre petrol model and a kick-off price of £26,995. Most buyers are likely to go for the two-litre diesel engine, offered in a choice of two power outputs, with prices starting at £29,775 and rising to over £33,000. The flagship model is a supercharged three-litre, top-spec car at almost £45,000.
There are four trim and equipment levels, with prices on an ascending scale, but the base Prestige trim comes very well equipped and is the one to go for if you want value as well as comfort. Colour screen satnav is standard on all versions.
So if you are into patriotic car choice, leapers and growlers, Jag’s new cub model is going to be well worth a closer look. Leapers and growlers? That’s what Jaguar calls its badges, featuring a big cat either jumping athletically, or its snarling face in the grille. Grrrr!