It’s possible that you might find the XE underwhelming to look at. Clearly, Jaguar has not used the same magic markers with which it penned the Project 7 or even regular F-Type.

What it has done instead is build on the groundwork laid by the XF and XJ to produce a sleek, compact saloon that is very recognisably a Jaguar.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Chief tester
Aluminium, JLR's go-to material, accounts for 75% of the body weight in the Jaguar XE

Underneath, though, it has been far more intrepid. The XE is the first Jaguar to use the iQ platform, an all-new piece of modular architecture that underpins cars as diverse as the XF and Range Rover Evoque.

Aluminium, JLR’s go-to material, accounts for 75 percent of the body weight in the XE, with most of the rest being the high-strength steel found in the doors, boot and rear underbody (for better weight distribution) and in the B-pillars as a reinforcing element.

Use of the alloy makes the platform slightly lighter than that of its rivals, but overall the car is not – a fact partly attributable to Jaguar’s insistence that it uses not only front double wishbones in the XE but also its 'integral link' rear suspension in place of a conventional multi-link setup.

The engineers were willing to absorb the weight penalty because it does a better job of isolating the driven rear wheels from unwanted directional forces, helping to deliver the superior mix of suppleness and agility that typically distinguishes a Jaguar from its rivals. Similarly, the state of tune sought in the electrically assisted steering is intended to be redolent of the immediacy of the F-Type’s.

Only one engine carries over from the F-Type, too: the supercharged 3.0-litre V6. Other engines are a mix of petrol and diesel units from the Ingenium engine family. These four-cylinders are the biggest news, as they are a genuine clean-sheet design. Both petrol and diesel versions are based around a common block, sharing the same bore and stoke, 500cc cylinder capacity and spacing. Like the platform, there is an inherent modular flexibility to the engine’s anatomy, so both down and upsizing are already anticipated.

In lower-powered 2.0-litre diesel guise, with a new six-speed manual gearbox, it develops 161bhp and 280lb ft of torque while returning 75mpg combined and emitting just 99g/km of CO2. Even the 178bhp version, with 318lb ft on tap, manages 67.3mpg and 109g/km. The optional eight-speed automatic tempers the figures a little, but the XE is safely among the class leaders. New for 2017, is the addition of a twin-turbocharged diesel engine good for 237bhp and 368lb ft of torque and claims a combined cycle of 54.4mpg and emissions of 137g/km.

Also joining the range for 2017 is a duo of 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol Ingenium units producing 198bhp and 247bhp respectively, with both mated exclusively to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, while topping the range is a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 found under the bonnet of the XE S. It produces 375bhp and 332lb ft of peak twist and can hammer the XE to 60mph in 4.8sec before hitting the limiter at 155mph.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Compact saloons

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Audi RS4 Avant
    First Drive
    12 December 2017
    The Audi RS4 Avant covers ground like few, if any, other estate cars, but it doesn’t involve you all that much in the process
  • Subaru XV
    First Drive
    11 December 2017
    Second-generation XV sits on a new platform and is safer and more refined than before, but it suffers from the same problems that plagued its predecessor
  • Mini Cooper S Works 210
    Car review
    8 December 2017
    Mini splits the difference between Cooper S and John Cooper Works, and what a revelation it is
  • Seat Ibiza
    First Drive
    8 December 2017
    Does the Seat Ibiza deserve class honours ahead of the Ford Fiesta? We spend six months with one to discover just that
  • Alpine A110
    First Drive
    7 December 2017
    The Alpine A110 is back. We witness the rebirth of the French sports car maker and drive the wonderful A110, one of the best driver's cars in years