➤ The refreshed Jaguar XE compact executive saloon is stylish and affordable and now one of the best in its class.
When it was launched in 2015, there was much to like about the brand’s first compact executive car since the Mondeo-based X-Type. As the model marks its fourth birthday, it’s been overhauled in several crucial areas and is better equipped to take the fight to stalwart rivals such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The refreshed Jaguar XE can attract customers away from the default German options without compromises having to be made. Other rivals for the XE include the Volkswagen Arteon, Lexus IS and Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Sharpening up the slightly dowdy styling of before, the new XE manages to be familiar yet very different. It has the appearance of a shrunken Jaguar XF – but with added character.
The restyled front end gives it more assertive looks, with new, thinner LED lights and bodywork that seemed to make the XE appear wider and more stylish.
There’s still no estate version, which is understandable given the XE’s modest sales numbers and Jaguar’s increasing focus on SUVs.
As the XE aged, it became clear that Jaguar needed to up its ante to contend with newer rivals, and the result was a major interior redesign in early 2019 that incorporated its latest know-how from the Jaguar I-Pace. It is now a far more attractive and better quality place in which to spend time, putting most rivals in the shade.
The XE's wraparound dashboard cocoons the driver and front-seat passenger and the seats are mounted low to give a sportier feel, although they offer plenty of adjustability. Depending on the trim level you choose, there's a wide range of upholstery choices, too.
Slip into the driver's seat and you'll immediately notice high quality materials, with more attractive wood and plastics adorning the centre console and even a higher grade of leather for the seats. Meanwhile, the rotary gear selector has been ditched in favour of a stubby lever inspired by the one in the Jaguar F-Type sports car. This now has a wireless charging pad sat ahead of it, the steering wheel has been redesigned and decluttered, and the door cards look neater too.
In big news for potential owners, the (rightly) derided infotainment system has also been ditched in favour of the Touch Pro Duo system found in the I-Pace. This has a 10.2-inch touchscreen for sat nav, media and communications, along with a smaller display below it for functions like climate control.
Trim grades and equipment
Jaguar has revisited its trim levels for the facelifted XE, offering S, SE and HSE that are all available with an R-Dynamic pack.
The range-entry ‘S’ gets LED headlights, leather seats and 10-inch Touch Pro infotainment, along with a 125W stereo and 18-inch alloy wheels. SE adds folding door mirrors, keyless entry, a digital instrument cluster, sat nav and a 360-degree parking view.
Boosting luxury, HSE adds 19-inch wheels, along with Windsor leather seats, Touch Pro Duo and adaptive cruise control. Fitting the R-Dynamic kit to all three trims adds a different style of wheels and sports seats.
Many of the most popular options are grouped together in packs. The Parking Pack is a worthwhile extra, bundling front parking sensors with a 360-degree camera, while the Drive Pack adds blind spot assist and adaptive cruise control. Jaguar's Convenience Pack is also likely to be popular, adding a powered boot (that you can open with a wave of your foot), an electrically adjustable steering wheel, keyless entry and extra power sockets for charging mobile devices.
The Cold Climate Pack will suit many Brits, bringing a heated windscreen, warming steering wheel and headlight washers.
One new piece of tech found in the Jaguar XE is its 'ClearSight' rear-view mirror, which uses a wide-angle, roof-mounted rear camera to display a digital image. According to Jaguar, the benefit is that this view remains the same regardless of passengers in the back, poor light or bad weather, improving rearwards visibility. It feels quite odd at first and its use does not come naturally as it requires the refocusing of the eyes at each glance.
There's a range of safety and assistance systems available on the XE, including parking sensors all-round, as well as optional cameras to help you place the car in tight spots. This is handy, because visibility isn't great, while autonomous emergency braking and blind-spot detection help when you're on the move, too.
The Jaguar XE's boot measures 455 litres, which is less than the 480 litres you'll find in the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class and is quite narrow due to the boot hinges.
Fortunately, it is fairly deep and there isn't too much of a boot lip to lift luggage over. The rear seats are fixed as standard, but pay a little extra and all three seats fold individually, meaning you can carry long luggage, such as skis, while still accommodating two rear passengers.
Or you can fold the middle seat down to make an armrest. This folding centre rear seat is a first for a Jaguar.
Engines and transmissions
You can get the Jaguar XE with one diesel and two petrol engines and with either rear- or all-wheel drive – depending on which model you pick.
The most affordable engine is a 250hp four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol unit. It’s smooth, quiet and more than punchy enough to blast past slow-moving traffic. It’ll sprint from 0-60mph in 6.2 seconds and Jaguar claims it’ll return more than 40mpg – although you’ll probably see a figure in the high thirties in normal driving conditions.
If you spend much of your driving life on long motorway journeys, you’ll want to consider the 180hp diesel instead. This four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine isn’t as smooth, quiet or as quick as the 250hp petrol – the 0-60mph sprint takes a leisurely 7.6 seconds – but it’s much more economical. Jaguar claims it’ll manage as much as 57mpg, but you can expect it to return more like 50mpg in normal driving conditions.
If you fancy your Jaguar to be a bit sportier, then the 300hp petrol model is the one to choose. This will sprint from 0-60mph in a hot-hatch rivalling 5.4 seconds but is understandably thirstier than other, less rapid models – go easy on the accelerator and you can expect it to return around 35mpg.
Every Jaguar XE comes with a smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. When left to its own devices, it jerks a little when you accelerate hard, particularly in low gears. However, take charge of progress via the flappy paddles and the response is noticeably more engaging.
On the road
There is little to disappoint in the way the Jaguar XE drives, striking as it does an excellent balance between comfort and driving enjoyment.
Fair enough, it’s not quite as sharp and driver-focused as the BMW 3 Series or Alfa Romeo Giulia, but it’s still great to drive and offers a superior, more mature balance between involvement and comfort. As a result, Jaguar left the chassis largely untouched during the car’s 2019 facelift, instead streamlining the engine range.
The steering is weighty, precise and fast to react to your inputs, with a nicer feel than the BMW 3 Series. The XE feels agile too, although it's not quite as sharp as the BMW in that regard. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is particularly pleasing, allowing you to shift gears quickly and smoothly, either by selecting 'Drive' from the new F-Type inspired gear selector (replacing the rotary dial design), or by skipping up and down the gears using the larger metal paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.
Rear-wheel drive versions of the R-Dynamic cars come with a stiffer sports suspension, but it doesn’t make an appreciable difference to comfort levels. You can also have the optional adaptive suspension, which continually reconfigures itself on the fly to match the road surface.
The Jaguar XE is a refreshing alternative to the German cars that dominate the compact executive saloon market and the updates for its 2019 model year keep it very competitive. The restyled front end now looks the part and the car remains impressive to drive, with some slick new technology to keep it up to date.
If driving engagement is a priority, then the 2019 Jaguar XE should be very near the top of your shopping list.
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