The baby Jag is finally here

Jaguar XE
Jaguar's new XE is a premium, rear-wheel-drive sedan competing with cars such as the BMW 3-series and Audi A4/S4. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

PARIS -- When the Jaguar F-type came out, it seemed that this diminutive roadster would be a baby Jag. At a base price of $65,000, however, it's hardly entry-level. Here at the Paris Motor Show, Jaguar revealed its new XE model, a true baby Jag to compete with other premium mid-size sedans.

Although it has an undeniably attractive body, the XE's design doesn't differ greatly from other mid-size sedans. Its more distinct Jaguar styling cues show up in an extremely raked rear window and a longish nose. A wire grille sports the Jaguar badge and a lip spoiler on the boot lid finishes the look.

Jaguar refers to the body and suspension construction as "aluminum intensive," meaning it contains about 75 percent aluminum content, more than other mid-size premium sedans. Taking advantage of the fact that aluminum is exceptionally recyclable, Jaguar makes use of an alloy that contains recycled aluminum for some parts of the XE. Even so, the base curb weight is still 3,670 pounds (1,665 kg).

Built on an entirely new, flexible platform, the XE also features Jaguar's first use of an electric power-steering system, allowing different steering modes to complement its normal and sport driving modes.

The XE S, a top-trim performance model, comes with a supercharged direct injection 3-liter V-6 engine, good for 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. For better fuel economy, the XE can also be had with a turbocharged direct injection 2-liter, four-cylinder engine. In one version, this engine produces 240 horsepower, while another generates 200 horsepower. Jaguar will also be offering a 2-liter diesel engine for maximum fuel efficiency.

An eight-speed automatic transmission will be available, while some versions will also offer a six-speed manual.

Jaguar XE
Jaguar's new infotainment system features four tiles on its homescreen. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

The cabin shows off premium materials in its base trim, but plastic speaker grilles in the doors show where some corners were cut. The center stack holds an all-new infotainment system on an 8-inch touchscreen. Proving responsive in the example of the XE on stage here, the home screen shows four tiles with navigation, phone, audio, and climate control. Touching each brings up an expanded view of its function.

A secondary screen shows more functions, such as apps, surround view camera, and settings for the car's integrated Wi-Fi hotspot. Apps, integrated with the owner's smartphone, include iHeartRadio for music, INRIX for traffic, and Parkopedia to help find parking spots.

Along with the new infotainment system, Jaguar will offer a laser-based head-up display, although a demonstration of this technology was not available here. Other driver assistance features include automated parallel parking and adaptive cruise control.

The Jaguar XE goes on sale in 2015, but will not come to North America until 2016, and likely only with gasoline-fueled engines. Early speculation puts the starting price at around $45,000 (£28,000, AU$51,000), making it the new entry-level Jaguar.

Click here for more CNET coverage of the 2014 Paris Motor Show.