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New York – The Jaguar XE is refreshed, luxurious and eager to remind you that the Brit brand still makes fast rear-wheel drive cars.

Remember Jaguar sedans? The sleek cats have, along with its growling sports cars, defined the brand for nearly a century. All that changed in 2016 when Jaguar – following Porsche’s lead with the Cayenne and Macan SUVs – translated its sporty DNA into the F-Pace ute which instantly became the hottest-selling Jaguar. By a lot.

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Its 18,000-a-year sales dwarfed those of its XE, XF and XJ sedan stablemates. It led to the launch of another small ute, the E-Pace, that was based on a front-wheel-drive Range Rover Evoque, for goodness sake. When it came time for Jag to introduce an electric car, it even crafted that as a higher-riding SUV.

The athletic XE takes Jaguar back to its roots while adding significant interior and engine upgrades.

The entry-level compact sedan maintains its light, mostly aluminum platform which has won raves as one of the nimblest in the luxury jungle. The Jag is available in rear-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations driven by one of two Ingenium 2.0-liter turbo-4 engines, one making 247 horsepower and the other 297. The latter can spring from zero-60 in 5.4 seconds.

Gone from the menu are the diesel and 340-horse V-6 options.

The most notable change comes inside where the previous model was dinged for failing to match luxury-class expectation.

"The last car, frankly, we left a bit short," says Jaguar design chief Ian Callum. "The whole interior has been retouched."

Surrounding the monostable shifter is an optional 10-inch console screen that mimics the design found in the upscale I-Pace EV as well as SUVs from Jaguar's sister Land Rover brand. Below the main screen is a second 5.5-inch touchscreen controlled by two fat knobs that separate climate control from the upper infotainment screen. Twin-screen systems are back in vogue these days with Audi adopting a similar layout, ditching its long-time rotary controller.

To keep the driver’s attention through the twisties, the instrument panel behind the steering wheel is 12.3 inches wide and stoked with digital information. A head-up display is also available, as are clever features like self-park-assist and a rear-view camera mirror like that innovated on the Cadillac CT6. With the flip of a switch, the mirror can toggle between reflective and camera views.

At the driver’s fingertips, a rotary shifter has been replaced by monostable device familiar to the F-Type sports car. Like the F-Type, the XE will only be available with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

All this tech is wrapped in more luxurious materials than before including new door handles and standard leather seats.

Befitting the Jaguar’s sleek, purposeful exterior design, wardrobe changes are small. The grille has been widened up front and the headlamps and air intakes leaned to give the car a more athletic stance.

“The new Jaguar XE is all about building on the undeniable sporting proportions of the original car,” says designer Callum. “We’ve given the car much bolder graphics and more visual width, planting it in a way which really illustrates its dynamic intent."

The XE will go on sale this summer. Right next to the brand’s SUVs.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

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