Has Jaguar's crucial new executive saloon got what it takes to shade a BMW 3 Series in the cut and thrust of daily use? We'll fine out over the next few months

The XE is the most important car Jaguar has made in recent times. It’s important because it takes the company into a new segment, bringing the idea of an ‘affordable’ Jaguar to a multitude of new customers, as well as introducing a new range of diesel and eventual engines.

Crucially, this new Jaguar must be every bit as engaging and fun to drive as its larger siblings, the XF and F-Type, while also delivering value for money. By any measure, it’s a tall order.

Understandably, then, we couldn’t wait to welcome an XE on to our long- term fleet. It’s a mid-range R-Sport model, sitting between the lesser SE and Prestige trims, and the high-spec Portfolio and S models. It has a lot of equipment as standard including an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, R-Sport bodykit and sports suspension, chrome exterior trim, autonomous emergency braking, automatic headlights and wipers, rear parking sensors and keyless start.

Its biggest rival, the BMW 320d M Sport auto, also has an eight-speed automatic transmission as well as metallic paint and front and rear parking sensors. At the time of publishing (October 2015) the BMW was £33,835 - around £1000 cheaper than our £34,775 XE and, with 187bhp under the bonnet, more powerful, too. That price has now risen to £34,320 - making the price difference narrower.

That’s with the Jaguar in standard trim, too. Options on our test car raise its price higher still. We might not have chosen the Cold Climate Pack (which brings heated seats and a heated steering wheel) or the wi-fi hotspot ourselves, but since we were keen to get into an XE as soon as possible, we let Jaguar decide. Along with larger 18in alloy wheels, Parking Pack (which includes a rear-facing camera), electric front seats and metallic paint, the total price of our test car is £38,210.

We’ve been impressed with the XE in range-topping 335bhp V6 form, but the core of the range lies in Jaguar Land Rover’s Ingenium petrol and diesel engines. The 2.0-litre diesel in our model offers up 178bhp and 317lb ft, enough to see the XE to 60mph in 7.4sec and on to a top speed of 140mph. Jaguar says our XE should return up to 67.3mpg on the combined cycle, while emitting 111g/km of CO2.

Although a manual gearbox is available, Jaguar’s smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission seems to be more in keeping with the executive nature of the XE, so that’s what we’ve gone for.

Like all XEs, our car comes with the JaguarDrive Control system. It allows the driver to choose between Dynamic, Normal, Eco or all-weather Winter modes. Pleasingly, opting for Dynamic mode changes the colour of the XE’s part-digital instrument cluster from blue to red. Very Jaguar.

Our first impressions of the XE are good. Its cabin is comfortable and well appointed, if lacking the kind of technology and premium finish you’ll find in the C-Class or Audi A4. As you might imagine, it’s more snug than an XF, particularly in the back, so it’ll be interesting to see how four adults cope with a long journey.

Looking at the XE brochure, I reckon the £1000 panoramic sunroof option would have been worth ticking, because as without it, the cabin feels a little dark. Also worth choosing would have been the £235 front seat lumbar support. Its absence soon becomes noticeable.

Our reviewers say that although the engine offers strong pulling power, it’s loud and obtrusive. I agree. The noise softens as the engine reaches operating temperature, but from a cold start you notice it. It’s a blight on what has otherwise been a great first encounter.

In my company, the XE will be in for a varied mix of duties: short urban commutes during the week, with longer motorway journeys and A-road drives at the weekend. It must be able to tackle all of them with ease and do so with the dynamic characteristics we’ve come to expect from Jaguar.

No doubt you’ll have seen the car maker’s recent adverts for the XE, featuring actors Tom Hiddleston and Nicholas Hoult in the latest take on the brand’s ‘good to be bad’ theme. The next few months will determine if Jag’s new saloon really can ‘go forth and rule the road’, as the advert suggests.

The car: Jaguar XE

Run by Autocar since: October 2015

Needs to be: Engaging to drive, but comfortable and economical for the weekday commute

Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0 I4 180PS

Price £34,775; Price as tested £38,210; Options 10x10 way electric front seats (£765), Bluefire metallic paint (£620), Cold Climate Pack (£535), Parking Pack (£530), InControl Secure security tracking (£510), Wi-Fi hotspot (£300), Economy 67.5mpg (official combined); Faults none; Expenses none

Read the next Jaguar XE long-term test review here

Read our thoughts on a standard Jaguar XE as we give it a thorough going over

Our Verdict

The Jaguar XE - the big cat's new compact exec
Jaguar's new four cylinder 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine comes with either 161bhp or 178bhp outputs

Expectations are high and the competition fierce. Can it deliver?

Join the debate

Comments
35

9 March 2016
That bumper's got to get in proportion with the rest of the car at the first restyle. Meanwhile, are they selling any? They don't seem that common. Is the rumour true that it's selling at about the same rate as the x-type? (which a lot of people liked, even if motoring magazines and audi-driving suits from marketing didn't get it)

9 March 2016
Sales are really good and build is at maximum output at present, as the car has only been out a short time, you cant expect to see thousands o the road in five minutes. As for the Rumour, your the only one i have heard that from and no where else.

9 March 2016
Chris576 wrote:
Is the rumour true that it's selling at about the same rate as the x-type?

No, it's actually selling less than the X-Type did at this stage of the game. It is projected to sell 27,000 units in all of Europe during its first year. Less than the X-Type managed in 2002. To put that into perspective, the old C Class was selling four times faster towards the end of its run. Never mind the new one.

Jaguar is experiencing alarmingly low sales with its other models, too. But it's early doors; the XE has not been launched in all world markets yet. It is also a vastly more appealling prospect than the dear old X-Type. Mind you, this sort of scenario is precisely why Ford sold Jag in the first place; there's clearly nothing wrong with the car itself. It's the brand that's holding it back.

9 March 2016
Do you have any links for the numbers?

9 March 2016
Suggests it may be a pre-production car with a few miles under its belt? If so, then Autocar's car may actually be better or worse than actual production cars. Assuming this car was supplied by Jaguar, it would probably have been built to the highest possible standard with selected parts. Often car manufacturers multi source parts like tyres, dampers, friction materials - and sometimes one supplier is better than another. Just think we should be told - but either way, if your model is judged to be noisy, I suspect that is the way they all are.

9 March 2016
7.4 seconds with just 178bhp for a diesel car this big and heavy sounds to good to be true. This is a long term test and, as Autocar always make an issue of the 0-60 time, then why not spend 30 minutes testing it, plus, as it's an automatic it will be a straight forward, fair comparasion against the manufacturers time.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

9 March 2016
Having recently looked at purchasing a new car in this sector an XE was a possibility. However a trip to the BMW dealer secured a 335d xdrive. Got a 10k discount on the cash price and then added the extras. It still came in 2k less than 38k. After the test drives I never made it to the Jaguar garage. My choice wont be everyone's cup of tea but I get a genuine 50mpg on the motorway and when needed it goes like the clappers. I know what I'd rather be in.

9 March 2016
I currently have a F30 3 Series and as much as I like the Jaguar XE, I wouldn't plump for one. Sure, while it's not a stunner, the XE still looks more appealing and desirable inside and out IMO but what grates me is the quality of the car, especially for that price. While I'm sure it's all very well put together and reliable, most of the materials inside just feels inferior and flimsy in comparison to the 3 Series. That a VW Polo's interior is of better quality than the Jaguar says it all. And then there's the level of engineering too which, while far better than previous Jags, the XE to me just doesn't seem to come close to the in-depth, almost obsessive, precision of the 3 Series or indeed an A4 or C Class. For similar money as the BMW, Audi or Mercedes, I'd expect a lot more than just style and class-leading dynamics. I somehow would feel slightly short-changed by the XE. And yes, I have driven one too.

9 March 2016
What utter rubbish. If you have driven a XE you'll know it's made of aluminium so how can you say it lacks in-depth engineering. The 3 Series, C Class and A4 are all primarily steel cars so it's these that lack the in-depth, almost obsessive, precision level of engineering while it also suggests that the engineering prowess of BMW, Audi and Mercedes is way behind that of Jaguar if they can't make their XE rivals from aluminium. And then we have the all-new Ingenium engines in the XE while virtually every engine in the 3 Series, C Class and A4 was carried over from their predecessors. As for the interior quality, there is no way a VW Polo's is better while the Jaguar is easily a match for its rivals, contrary to what you say or have claimed to experienced. The XE is indeed worth its price unlike the 3 Series, A4 and C Class which are overpriced, cheap and under-engineered.

9 March 2016
Lanehogger wrote:
I currently have a F30 3 Series and as much as I like the Jaguar XE, I wouldn't plump for one. Sure, while it's not a stunner, the XE still looks more appealing and desirable inside and out IMO but what grates me is the quality of the car, especially for that price. While I'm sure it's all very well put together and reliable, most of the materials inside just feels inferior and flimsy in comparison to the 3 Series. That a VW Polo's interior is of better quality than the Jaguar says it all. And then there's the level of engineering too which, while far better than previous Jags, the XE to me just doesn't seem to come close to the in-depth, almost obsessive, precision of the 3 Series or indeed an A4 or C Class. For similar money as the BMW, Audi or Mercedes, I'd expect a lot more than just style and class-leading dynamics. I somehow would feel slightly short-changed by the XE. And yes, I have driven one too.

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