We take the Jaguar onto the narrow, twisty bits around the Koyna reservoir. Mahabaleshwar, here we come!

Jag’s have always held a special place an automotive enthusiast’s heart. There’s much to like about them. The design, for starters. Ian Callum is a genius. I don’t think there’s an ugly Jaguar or Range Rover on sale right now, and while design is subjective, I’d wager more people agree with me than not.

The XE is no exception. It looks sharp and handsome and sexy, especially in this metallic red paint. There’s something about this paint job that really highlights the car’s character, in a way that a white or silver maybe wouldn’t. Even so, it has a lot to prove, considering the class it’s competing in. At the top of the sales charts is the BMW 3 Series, a car that offers a great driving experience, and has been a segment leader for a while now. Then there’s the Mercedes C Class – which is in every way, now, a baby S Class, and the Audi A4, fresh off the boat, and gunning for the segment lead. There’s also a spate of mini SUVs from the German trio and Volvo. Different form factor, but in India, could be gunning for the same customer. So, there’s a lot of competition out there. But Jaguar knew that when they started developing the XE.

They chose to develop and launch this car much before the F Pace SUV, and there’s a reason for that.

 

You see, the SUV segment might be expanding globally, but the sedan segment still boast of larger sales number. Decent sized chunk of a medium sized pie, or small chunk of a really large pie. Jaguar chose the latter.

So does the Jaguar live up to its brand’s credentials? And does it have what it takes to take on the German trio? Well, to find out, I took the car on a drive to Mahabaleshwar. It was a good escape from Bombay’s heat, but more importantly, the mountains allowed me to really test the Jag as a driver’s car. More on that later.

I started my drive early one Friday, spent 3 days in the hills, and then drove back to Bombay. The route had a good mixture of city driving, expressways, national and state highways, some twisty bits in the mountains, and some very narrow roads next to the Koyna Reservoir.

The route had a good mixture of city driving, expressways, national and state highways, some twisty bits in the mountains, and some very narrow roads next to the Koyna Reservoir.

This was my 3rd time in Mahabaleshwar. It’s the perfect weekend getaway from Bombay – it’s about a 5 hour drive away, it’s cooler, it’s pretty, and there’s a lake – a beautiful one actually. I’d be staying at Citrus Chambers, a quaint, cozy hotel located just a 2 minute walk away from the Mahabaleshwar market. Yet, cordoned off from the noise and the crowd. This was my 2nd time at Citrus Chambers, the first time being a couple of years ago when I visited the place in a Mini Cooper. The place left a positive impression on me at the time, and it wasn’t any different this time. It is a truly relaxing place. I was put up in one of the rooms in the older, more classic part of the property. The rooms were neat and tidy, and came with all the furnishings you could ask for. They had a slightly rustic feel to them.

The rooms were neat and tidy, and came with all the furnishings you could ask for. They had a slightly rustic feel to them.

 

The restaurant is located between the new and old wings of the hotel. It’s covered by a plastic roof, meaning it did get a bit too warm during the afternoon (the staff did graciously serve us in the room). But the food totally made up for that. It was absolutely delicious. There’s North India, Continental as well as local cuisine on offer, and they all impressed.

The first day was spent relaxing at the hotel itself. I spent sometime by the pool, and some time relaxing in the gardens. There’s enough space to take a walk inside the property, With a green canopy of trees keeping you guarded from the sun.

On the second day, after a sumptuous breakfast, I went out for a drive. First off on my list was Lake Tapola. It’s about 40km away from Mahabaleshwar. It’s a beautiful drive through the forests lining the Western Ghats – it’s pretty dense in this stretch, even in April – one of the driest months of the year.

This is where the Jag really shines. The steering communicates with you so well. There’s a certain preciseness and accuracy and predictability to its movements, and that inspires a butt-load of confidence. It’s well weighted, and I quite liked the the way it felt in my hands too – the leather wrapping helping in this case.

Talking about the rest of the interior, I felt it was a bit of a mixed bag. I thought he design was simple, and everything was well laid out. I also liked the colour of the lighting, and it was different as compared to what you see in the German trio, more flair too. But the quality of materials left a bit to be desired. Also, the built in touch screen felt a bit inadequate – in terms of its responsiveness, and user friendliness.

The other gripe I had with the car was with its powertrain. The engine is fairly good. There’s enough power on tap from the 2L, 177hp diesel engine. It’ll do a hundred in about 8-9s which is quick enough. But the gearbox just doesn’t get a move on when you press down on the throttle. It’s tentative and confused. The gear shifts themselves are quick, but it seems like the software takes forever to decide which gear to go for. It could be that Jaguar just hasn’t spent enough time refining the gearbox, or it’s possible that the car needs a faster processor to compute those inputs faster. In either case, the driving experience is affected by the gearbox in my opinion. Let it also be known that this is an issue only when you really step on it. In casual driving, the car actually responds perfectly well.

On the twisty bits surrounding the Koyna reservoir, the Jag was overall, a treat. The suspension absorbed the tricky terrain perfectly, not once letting any jerks into the cabin. It does ride superbly this car, and it is immaculately balanced when pushing it hard. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire the entire day of driving around the narrow roads of Mahabaleshwar.

Mahabaleshwar proved to be the ideal weekend getaway, with the Citrus a great place to stay at, and three days of driving about in the Jag XE.