Facelifted saloon chases more showroom appeal to match its dynamic prowess
Steve Cropley Autocar
26 February 2019

Jaguar is treating its smallest saloon, the XE, to a package of mid-life improvements and upgrades – and including a generous sprinkling of I-Pace fairy dust – in a move aimed at boosting disappointing sales compared with dominant German rivals. 

The new XE gets a more assertive face plus snappier rear styling to match. There’s also a plusher and significantly better-equipped interior and a package of driver-oriented instruments, controls and technology originally brought to market by Jaguar’s all-electric I-Pace. The new model goes on sale this week at prices starting from £33,915. 

“The XE is an enduring favourite with our younger design team – the kind of car they like to drive,” said design director Ian Callum. “The mechanical package was always brilliant and it has terrific proportions and stance. But a while ago, we started feeling it needed to look more assertive against its very tough competition. If you wanted to criticise, you could also say that maybe we didn’t give it the interior it deserved. But now we’ve corrected that. In a sense, we’ve reinvented the whole car.” 

For 2020, Jaguar has removed a classic entry-level variant from its XE range. Every model now gets 18in wheels (or bigger) plus LED headlights and tail-lights. There’s an elegant steering wheel first introduced on the I-Pace and every XE gets front and rear parking aids and a reversing camera. The car also gets a gearstick to work its standard automatic transmission instead of a twist-selector, a nod to its more clearly defined sporting nature. 

Our Verdict

Jaguar XE

Jaguar's first attempt at a compact exec saloon is good - very good. But can the XE hold off the BMW 3 Series and Alfa Romeo Guilia to retain its crown?

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The XE will be offered in either standard or sportier R-Dynamic body designs – clearly distinguished by rear and frontal features that look different but are similar to manufacture and fit. Each of the two is available in S, SE and HSE trim levels. Jaguar marketing people reckon this system offers a continuing comprehensive choice while reducing the potential for buyer confusion. 

On top of the model and trim selection, owners get to choose engines and option packs. “We’ve separated body and equipment spec from engine choice,” said Callum, “because we’re finding customers who want a sporty-looking car don’t necessarily want the highest-output engine. It might not suit their preference or tax situation.” 

Engine choices for the XE have been reduced and refined. Buyers still decide from a range of diesel and petrol 2.0-litre Ingenium units built in Jaguar Land Rover’s Wolverhampton factory, but little-bought choices have been eliminated. On the petrol side, buyers now decide between 247bhp and 296bhp units (the quicker of which gives the car sub-6.0sec 0-60mph acceleration). 

Not that the new XE is all about performance. Jaguar continues to make a stout case for its base 2.0-litre D180 rear-drive model, which packs 317lb ft of torque yet returns combined fuel consumption of 57.6mpg. Crucially, it becomes the first diesel car in its class to meet the EU’s ultra-stringent RDE2 NOx emissions standard due in January 2021. 

Choosing this option protects business buyers from a 4% benefit-in-kind surcharge applied to other diesels and allows a considerable first-year saving on vehicle excise duty for private buyers. Jaguar accompanies details of the D180 with the robust reminder that its latest diesels deliver 25% better fuel consumption than equivalent petrol engines, emit around the same amount of NOx and are “often the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice” for the many drivers in the UK who do more than 12,000 miles a year. 

Work on the XE refresh began around a year after the car’s launch in mid-2015. “As soon as we start seeing one of our cars in numbers, and on the open road, we start to critique it,” said Adam Hatton, head of exterior design. “We decide our objectives for a new model, do some sketching, then get the car into our design garden, start with a completely plain front and start adding the new graphical elements – grilles, vents, lights and the rest – from scratch.” 

The aim for the latest XE, said Hatton, was to enhance the frontal features, with rear mods to match, so apertures are bigger and graphical facets are bolder, using elements that allude to the F-Type sports car. New all-LED headlights now incorporate a strong but subtle J-blade daytime running light, and the headlights themselves are around 12mm narrower. 

However, the biggest changes are in the front cabin, a project led by head of interior design Alister Whelan. Trim materials have been comprehensively upgraded. Attractive upholstery stitching has been added and improved. New materials – including a luxurious quilted seat option – have been added. 

Hard plastics have been replaced in even the most discreet places and you can now get an XE with three comprehensive TFT screens across its fascia, similar to those in an I-Pace, and complete with Jaguar’s prominent twin console-mounted twist controls that light up to operate the ventilation and infotainment. You can also now get Jaguar’s camera-based ClearSight rear-view mirror as an option, in exchange for a much larger roof-mounted ‘shark fin’. 

Modernised and improved in visual impact, the XE is now nothing less than a baby luxury saloon in its higher-spec guises and a very well-equipped car even in its near-standard forms. Jaguar expects buyers to be attracted by the XE’s enhanced value: at £36,145, a D180 in R-Dynamic guise is £670 cheaper than the outgoing R-Sport equivalent – and that’s before you add about £1100 worth of extra equipment. 

“We all love the XE,” said Callum. “It’s great to see it taking Jaguar back to where it belongs.”

Read more

Jaguar XE review

Why Graz is greener: London to Austria in Jaguar's biggest selling E-Pace​

Jaguar I-Pace test: does driving style make a big difference to electric range?​

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Comments
56

26 February 2019
There is much to like about this car, and I would certainly prefer it to direct competitors from Germany.

However, irrespective of power, a 2 litre four is a 2 litre, and is just not special enough.

And I despise these electric instruments. In the world of watches the money is all in analogue dials. Why is it that car makers suddenly think it is 1981 and the future is digital? They will look hilariously dated in 5 years, and be irreparable when they fail out of warranty.

26 February 2019

Agree with all you say. I wish Jaguar would stick the new straight six under that long bonnet!

27 February 2019

I don't understand your comment. This car is supposed to compete with the (brand new) 3 series, a C class and an A4. That was the plan from day one and it hasn't sold anything like their volumes. Jaguar need to more closely emulate those cars, in order to take sales from them. Can you buy any of those competitor cars with a straight 6? Why have BMW dumped them from the brand new 3? 

27 February 2019

Is not the 340 a straight 6?

27 February 2019
That looks like the same car with the same interior. OK, maybe the interior has more screens and silver plastic. But nothing shouts increased presence and improved quality to my eyes.

27 February 2019

Perhaps a visit too specsavers jason !. Everything in its cabin is of much high quality thats plain to see even with out touching  anything . The front is a sutle rejig its rear creats a better stance so all in all a great and  its not brassy and glitzy like the Germans like to do.

27 February 2019
Antony Riley wrote:

Perhaps a visit too specsavers jason !. Everything in its cabin is of much high quality thats plain to see even with out touching  anything . The front is a sutle rejig its rear creats a better stance so all in all a great and  its not brassy and glitzy like the Germans like to do.

 

I agree. This is more than a makeover. Two regrets: (1) the XE should have been like this at the outset ....which only goes to prove that JLR bit off far too much when it went '3-series hunting' and (2) they've got to dump the 3-box saloon format... because you need massive global scale to make this formula work. And Jag simply doesn't have that. Unfortunately. 

We should have had a 5-door coupe/estate and a Reliant Scimitar-esque solution to stand out from the crowd. 'Niche-engineering' is the saviour of manufacturing 'minnows' and Jag has studiously ignored this. We can now see the results as they scramble to re-engineer their finances....

BertoniBertone

28 February 2019
BertoniBertone wrote:

Antony Riley wrote:

Perhaps a visit too specsavers jason !. Everything in its cabin is of much high quality thats plain to see even with out touching  anything . The front is a sutle rejig its rear creats a better stance so all in all a great and  its not brassy and glitzy like the Germans like to do.

 

I agree. This is more than a makeover. Two regrets: (1) the XE should have been like this at the outset ....which only goes to prove that JLR bit off far too much when it went '3-series hunting' and (2) they've got to dump the 3-box saloon format... because you need massive global scale to make this formula work. And Jag simply doesn't have that. Unfortunately. 

We should have had a 5-door coupe/estate and a Reliant Scimitar-esque solution to stand out from the crowd. 'Niche-engineering' is the saviour of manufacturing 'minnows' and Jag has studiously ignored this. We can now see the results as they scramble to re-engineer their finances....

 

'Niche-engineering', to use your phrase, usually goes on to attract niche sales, aka, if you are designing/engineering for a true niche in the market, then you are doing so for a very small minority of potential buyers, not sure that JLR want to do that in their market place just now.

 

They are not as you put it, 'minnows' by choice and need to step up true sales in short order, to avoid the fate of minnow sales, that of final closure. Not the first time a model refresh shows the car as it should have been at launch, in order to convince long time buyers of Audi, BMW, M Benz and other brands, to move their loyalties. 

27 February 2019
Antony Riley wrote:

Perhaps a visit too specsavers jason !. Everything in its cabin is of much high quality thats plain to see even with out touching  anything . The front is a sutle rejig its rear creats a better stance so all in all a great and  its not brassy and glitzy like the Germans like to do.

we were told the previous incarnation had a 'quality interior' - perhaps the missed the word 'low' off the front. Anyhoo, some of the silver trim on the steering wheel looks a bit 'far East', and the outer air vents look as ridiculous as they did before.

28 February 2019
Antony Riley wrote:

Perhaps a visit too specsavers jason !. Everything in its cabin is of much high quality thats plain to see even with out touching  anything . The front is a sutle rejig its rear creats a better stance so all in all a great and  its not brassy and glitzy like the Germans like to do.

Fair enough! Admittedly, I don't pay too much attention to the XE, and I can't recall ever seeing one on the road. Too my uneducated eyes, it looks like new bumpers, another touch screen, and more silver plastic. I hope I'm wrong as I used to really like Jags and I'd like to see them come back.

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