By Eric Barton
City & Shore Magazine
There was a shopping center in my hometown with a parking lot that ended abruptly – no guardrail, just a steep drop to the rocks and stream below. Far from the stores and traffic, it went unnoticed except for a few troublemaking kids. Late at night, they’d take a shopping cart and give it a good push. Wheels would shake and metal would rattle as the cart careered toward the edge.
Then the cart would take to the air, followed by a moment of silence before it clattered onto the rocks. A few more collisions later, the cart would come to rest in the stream, and the kids would run for it – all full of adrenaline and smiles and the hope that their sneaks could make them run faster.
It’s a feeling we try so hard to reproduce now as adults, attempting to replace the adrenaline rushes of childhood mischief. Kite boarding in a hurricane. Bungee jumping in South America. Or, better, flooring it in the new Jaguar XE, a sports car with the heart of a rabblerousing kid.
The XE is the baby of the brand, Jaguar’s newest small sedan. Admittedly, it looks similar to its slightly larger cousin, the XF, with just a few svelte nicks and tucks here and there.
But the trims do much to make the XE look sportier, with doors swooping in at the bottom, wheel wells bulging and corners sculpted, front and back. It looks like a cat ready to pounce.
Inside, the cabin is decidedly spare – English modesty in leather made handsome by blue, red, or off-white trim. The most dramatic flourish is a shelf that starts gradually in the doors and becomes a half circle above the dash – pretty but also removing the place where you might normally rest your arm.
The suspension and seats seem ready to pounce, too – jarring for a commuter, perhaps, but a hard and tight embrace when pushing it into a turn.
This is a car, though, that seems built fundamentally for something more than commuting. After all, the V-6 under the hood of the sportier trims is borrowed from Jag’s incredibly fun F-Type. Which means the XE feels just simply always fast, from the stoplight at the entrance ramp, to the moment of merging into the fast lane, zero to 70 (or so) in what feels like no time.
Just by the numbers, the XE hits 60 in 4.5 seconds, better than many two-seaters, leaving behind the Audi TTS and Porsche Cayman S. But there’s also just something about how fast a car feels, some kind of un-trackable statistic about just seeming surprisingly swift. And the XE is that, quick like a teenager’s fingers over a text message, just something you don’t expect to move that rapidly.
As it rushes through traffic, the otherwise quiet engine belts out a chorus, sometimes tinny but always fierce, like a Spitfire coming in low for a run.
Maybe it feels like that too. Maybe piloting an antique English fighter plane gives you that jolt of adrenaline, like giving the shopping cart a push toward the ravine. Like hitting the gas on the XE and watching in the mirror as traffic fades away.