Five years after the Jaguar XE first entered showrooms across the UK, the company has given the ‘baby’ car of its extensive range an update. In the wake of pioneering and innovative developments within the Jaguar F-Pace, E-Pace and I-Pace, the improvements — and they are significant improvements — to the XE arrive not before time.
When the XE was first launched it was pitched against the established premium cars in its sector – the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, and BMW 3-series. If truth be told, the Jaguar never quite matched its rivals, let down, specifically, by a less-than-premium interior.
So, no surprise then that while the new XE — dubbed the ‘2020 model’ by Jaguar — benefits from sharpened external styling, a simplified range and a more-focused range-topping P300 petrol, much attention has been paid to ensure the cabin delivers in terms of premium quality and technology.
Jaguar XE HSE R-Dynamic P300 AWD
Engine: 1997cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power: 296bhp @5500rpm
Torque: 295lb/ft @ 1500-4500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, with all-wheel drive
Top speed: 155mph 0-62mph: 5.7secs
Economy (WLTP): 30.5-33.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 167g/km (NEDC)
The changes are instantly noticeable. Across the more streamlined range, which we’ll detail later, the cabin enjoys a higher quality fit and finish, plus there’s updated infotainment and controls. Pride of place falls to the triple-screen infotainment system borrowed from the I-Pace, and there’s no denying the touchscreens look fantastic.
Most of the menus are easy to navigate. It’s also worth highlighting there are none of the high-tech voice or gesture controls that you get in the latest BMW 3 Series.
But it’s clear Jaguar has paid attention to raising the quality of materials in the cabin. While the new leather-trimmed gear selector, drive mode toggle switch and metal gear-shift paddles are rather more subtle improvements, you’ll find that no mater where you push and prod in the cabin your fingertips will be met by something that feels soft and yielding. Gone is the scratchy, brittle trim which so let down the 2014 XE.
Jaguar’s decision to streamline the XE range makes complete sense. There’s now a single diesel, the 178bhp D180, which is available in rear- and four-wheel drive forms, plus two petrols – the 247bhp P250 and 296bhp P300. Like the diesel, both are available with either two- and all-wheel drive. There are also two basic models, the standard and R-Dynamic versions, each available in S, SE and HSE trims.
Driving the range-topping XE P300 AWD
Delivering 296bhp from the turbocharged 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol, and channelling the power down through all four wheels, the XE P300 R-Dynamic will scamper from standstill to 62mph in 5.7secs. That’s competitive when set against the likes of the 249bhp Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Quattro, but slower than a 254bhp BMW 330d.
The seating position and cabin certainly feel more sporty than the previous-gen XE. The chunky steering wheel, lifted straight from the I-Pace electric SUV, immediately instils a feeling of quality, sportiness and agility. The steering is nicely precise, with a weighty, fluid feel.
Across the range, the cabin also benefits from the upgraded 13.2-inch Touch Pro media system, further supplemented by a Range Rover Velar-style lower control screen in the upper models. That, of course, is in addition to the fully digital instrumentation, which is also available.
You sink into huggy sports seats, and you won’t fail to spot the colour-coded stitching which abounds in the cabin.
Externally, the P300 gets 20in alloys, which complement the wider front bumper, complete with vast intakes. To be honest, the intakes wouldn’t look out of place on the F-Type sports car. The headlights are also slimmer and more piercing thanks to some new LED components.
The 2.0-litre engine has a broad spread of power, is more than capable of coping with everyday demands and is super-refined when cruising. It also delivers an invigorating sharp sound when flicked in to Dynamic mode.
The chassis and suspension combination ensures the sporty P300 feels well hunkered down and well planted around corners, yet it manages to deliver a very smooth ride. Hustling across the countryside roads which meander their way across and through the Cotswolds, the XE soaked up the bumps surprisingly well.
Jaguar XE HSE R-Dynamic D180 AWD
Whisper it – the 178bhp diesel engine promises to be one of the most attractive powerplants in the new XE range. For many drivers — far, far more than are turning their backs on oilburners — diesel remains the ‘go to’ engine of choice. Not everyone lives in London.
For those drivers who cover big annual mileages, as well as those who are conscious of their car’s running costs, the good news is the newly-improved Jaguar diesel is refined throughout the rev range. Mated to the eight-speed transmission and delivering its power through all four wheels, it’s good for 0-62mph in 7.8secs and returns around 46mpg (WLTP).
Performance is strong, and with its AWD — like the P300 AWD — the HSE R-Dynamic D180, which starts at £42,835, feels well planted, with a smooth ride and precise handling. And with the standard 19in alloys fitted, the ride is more pliant and forgiving than in the P300 with its 20in wheels.
So, what’s the verdict on the new Jaguar XE?
There’s no denying Jaguar has improved the wide appeal of the XE with the improvements across the range. The combination of better interior quality and sharper external looks will, without doubt, attract new buyers.
However, there is a head versus heart dilemma – one which might well annoy anyone of an environmental persuasion.
Buyers led by the heart will steer towards the dynamics, sportiness and performance of the P300. The 296hp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol suits the XE very well and is an exhilarating drive.
But the best all-rounder, and the car which will appeal to most drivers in the UK as well as the rest of Europe, is the diesel. I know, I know – it’s enough to incense followers of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. But as long as the bureaucrats and legislators allow carmakers to sell it, the modern diesel — with its package of performance and frugality — is the best in the XE range.