This is the updated 2020 Jaguar XE and it might just be one of the most important vehicles the brand has ever produced. No, really.
Let me explain. While Jaguar has started making SUVs and dabbled in electric vehicles, the brand is best known for sporting saloons like this XE. And, sure sales of sporting saloons is shrinking faster than the polar ice caps, for a brand like Jaguar nailing a car like the XE is vital.
And, don’t get me wrong, when the XE arrived onto the market back in 2015 it wowed everyone with the way it drove and handled. In fact, it made everything else you might compare it with feel very, very ordinary.
But the sales chart didn’t reflect the praise heaped on the thing by the world’s motoring writers. See, away from the way it rode and handled, the XE was lacking for equipment and sophistication and, as for the design, some even complained it looked too much like an XF. Not anymore.
What is the Jaguar XE?
Well, it has the same feel as before but now much more sophisticated…think of it as one of those Queer Eye makeovers. There are new front and rear bumpers, bootlid spoiler, and thinner LED headlights. It looks stunning now whereas before it looked a little flabby.
And the interior’s been similarly zhooshed up with soft-touch materials everywhere and quality fit and finish. Then there’s the technology which is excellent. There are twin screens on the centre console, controlling everything from infotainment to climate control. And there’s even a screen in the rear vision mirror. Flip it one way and you get a wide-angle camera view of what’s going on behind you and flip it back and you get a conventional mirror. Oh, and the rising rotary gear selector has been binned in favour of a conventional gear shift.
There’s a lot more to the interior than just this but we’ll get to that shortly. Beyond the much-needed styling tweaks, the Jaguar XE remains an incredibly competent, agile and exciting sedan to drive whether you’re just schlepping around town or letting it loose on a twisting back road. Indeed, it remains one of the best driving cars in its segment, if not the best.
What’s the Jaguar XE like to drive?
Excellent. Our test car was the XE P300 HSE R-Dynamic which sits at the top of the tree. It runs a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making 221kW and 400Nm of torque and that’s more than enough to get this thing to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds. But on the road, it feels much faster than that.
And part of that is down to the eight-speed automatic and its tightly-packed ratios and super smooth shifts. Get jiggy with the XE and the shifts are rifle-bolt precise and the larger steering mounted paddles are now easier to use with sharp response. That means you’ll actually want to use manual mode knowing the flappy paddles will give you the response you want.
The Jaguar XE has always been the dynamic benchmark in this segment. Nope, the 3 Series nor the C-Class or A4 feels as well balanced. And the black magic weaved by Jaguars engineers has endowed this thing with a suspension setup that’s able to be both comfortable and sporting…a Jaguar hallmark for many, many years.
Even on large 20-inch alloys ($1950 – 19-inch are standard) wrapped in finger-thick Pirelli P-Zero rubber this thing shrugs off bumps and broken sections of road in a way that has to be experienced to be believed. That sort of praise is almost unheard of…don’t believe me? Look up reviews on cars like this XE and you’ll read how the journalist has complained about the ride, suggesting a smaller wheel with taller tyre would improve things no end.
Sure, the fact our tester was fitted with the cost-optional Dynamic Handling Pack which includes adaptive dampers helping with that supple ride with the ability via driving modes to harden it up. But that still doesn’t mean the standard car will be a duffer. Nope, no matter whether you get the handling pack or not the ride and handling is still a stand out in the segment.
Okay, so the ride is excellent but what about the engine? It’s got gobs of power and torque and the transmission is quick-witted enough to get the best from it. And while 5.9 seconds to 100km/h doesn’t sound overly quick in this day and age a flex of your big toe is enough to take you from here to the horizon in no time at all. And the in-gear urgency when you’re fighting through corners is impressive indeed.
If there’s one thing missing it’s probably the noise. At around town speeds the engine is whisper quiet but get up the thing and it starts to develop some clatter and sound a bit like a diesel. Sure, it’s smooth and all but it’s just not overly aurally pleasant. Can’t have everything, I guess.
Speaking of diesel…the engine is pretty miserly when it comes to fuel consumption. Across the week we tested the XE we drove it around town (country town), highways, and back roads and returned 8L/100km which I reckon is pretty darn good. The claimed combined fuel consumption figure is 6.7L/100km.
What’s the interior like?
Way better than before. I’ve touched on the big step up in quality already but this refreshed XE feels properly special now. There are soft touch materials everywhere and the dual-screen infotainment system has created a real clutter-free feel for the dashboard.
Indeed, the infotainment system is excellent with a depth of capability that few owners will ever fully realise. Most will simply plug in their phones and make use of their native connectivity which is seamless. And the sound system, a cost-optional 17-speaker 825W Meridian system ($800) is unbelievable and not just the power but the clarity. Pump the volume and your ears will bleed before you get distortion in the sound.
The rotary gear shifter has been binned and replaced with a conventional gear shifter. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. I liked the rotary shifter but it could be a bit annoying to use. And given it’s rolled out across multiple vehicles in the JLR stable it’s probably lost whatever ‘coolness’ it may have had. Moving on.
Our test car was fitted with the cost optional Clear Sight rear vision mirror ($405) which takes some getting used…see, it’s showing a camera’s eye view of what’s behind you so your brain needs to be trained to realise it’s not looking at a real mirror image. You can flip it back to be a ‘mirror’ but you soon get used to the projected image which allows you to see much more of what’s behind you than the letterbox view out the rear window.
The front seats are comfortable and they offer plenty of adjustment making it easy for drivers of all shapes and sizes to get in, get comfortable and get out again without drama. The back seats are a different story. There’s not a heap of room in the back, although I managed to sit comfortably behind the driver’s seat set to suit my driving position with about an inch of knee room and plenty of foot wiggle room. Head and shoulder room was fine too. You’ll only get two adults across the back as the middle seat is nothing more than a perch.
The boot is big enough with 410 litres of storage space and the boot opening is nice and wide for loading and unloading.
The stuff buyers need to know
The Jaguar XE is now only available in two trim levels, SE and HSE with just the one engine available. Pricing for our top-spec tester kicks off at $71,940 plus on-road costs. But the cost-options list is as long as your arm and choosing things you’ll probably want, like the 20-inch alloys on our test car, or the Dynamic Handling Pack, or the Clear Sight rear vision mirror, can see the price shoot up.
The warranty is only three-years or 100,000km although an extended warranty (12-24 months and up to 200,000km) is available. A five-years service plan (102,000km) is available for the XE which will cost you $1950.
In terms of safety, the XE is well equipped with a raft of active safety features including airbags for the front and back, blind spot monitoring and both high and low-speed collision warning and mitigation, rear cross traffic alert, road sign display and more.
2020 Jaguar XE P300 HSE R-Dynamic Specifications
Price From $71,940+ORC Warranty three-years or 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP (from 2015) Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 221kW at 5500rpm Torque 400Nm at 1500-4500rpm Transmission Eight-speed automatic Dimensions 4678mm long; 1967mm wide; 1416mm high; 2835mm wheelbase Boot Space 410 litres Fuel Tank 63 litres Spare Wheel Temporary Thirst 6.7L/100km combined