From £26,0659
Beautiful poise and supple handling earns this smallest Jag a class-leading recommendation. It's not perfect, mind, but it's very good.

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?

  • First Drive

    Jaguar XE 2.0d 240 2017 review

    The all-wheel-drive version of the Jaguar XE gets a new range-topping 236bhp Ingenium diesel engine in a bid to take on the powerful oil-burners from the likes
  • First Drive

    Jaguar XE S 2017 review

    Updated range-topping Jaguar XE gets more power to enhance the appeal of one of the best sub-£55k performance saloons around

What is it?

One of two all-important four-cylinder diesel versions of the new Jaguar XE. You’ll have seen the cringe-worthy, overcooked TV advertising campaign and you may even have seen one on the road - or perhaps on the back of a vehicle transporter. But will you be driving one?

The numbers in the brochure give the XE every chance. With the entry-level diesel version priced at under £30,000, emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 and getting an 8.0in touchscreen multimedia system, sat-nav, DAB radio and cruise control as standard, it’s got the makings of a popular fleet saloon.

But it’s the higher-output 2.0-litre ‘Ingenium’ turbodiesel that’s under scrutiny here, and it has some equally competitive power, torque, performance, economy and emissions figures. We’re testing the eight-speed automatic version, in higher-end Portfolio trim.

What's it like?

Many of the same observations we made of the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol XE road-tested earlier this month also apply to the oil-burner. It’s a handsome design and recognisably a Jaguar, but it’s not as stylish or daring as its bigger four-door siblings.

Gaydon has played it a bit safe with this car, and understandably so given that it has ambitious volume targets for it. The sharply drawn front-end and fuselage profile are stand-out visual features, although the car is less distinctive from the rear, where it borrows more styling cues from the German opposition.

Inside the cabin, the XE adopts a similar position to those of the XF and XJ relative to their market rivals. It’s not quite as plush or as accommodating as some at the price, but it makes a virtue out of its simplicity and compactness.

Occupant space for the driver is adequate, but snug rather than generous. A slightly high-mounted seat combines with a typically graceful swooping Jaguar roofline to limit headroom for taller drivers. The closeness of the extremities of the footwell, meanwhile, and the raised centre console, support your knees and elbows rather than restrict your movement.

Second-row cabin space is broadly competitive although short of the standard of the most practical compact executive saloons, so full-sized adults may struggle a wee bit for knee and head room. The boot is a fair size but the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series offer a little more cargo space.

Jaguar isn’t known for outstanding material cabin quality and won’t be changing its reputation by out-dazzling the likes of Audi and Mercedes with the XE. The car’s interior is nonetheless very pleasant, fairly luxurious and consistently well-finished.

The black plastics and leathers of our test car were a bit plain, but lighter and more visually appealing two-tone upholsteries are offered. The car’s switchgear is all either grained or rubberised, and its instruments are pleasingly conventional and clear.

For a brand new engine, Jaguar’s ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre turbodiesel doesn’t make the greatest of first impressions. Starting with some notable shake and shudder, its audible signature is a little more coarse than the most refined four-cylinders, and it remains so under load and at high revs.

It offers strong low and mid-range pulling power, though, and while you’d bet that its outright performance isn’t quite segment-leading, it’s well metered out by ZF’s excellent eight-speed automatic ’box.

The transmission’s natural bias is to upshift early and keep the engine spinning at fairly low revs, where it’s at its quietest and most economical. Throttle response at those crankspeeds is good, however, and power delivery is pleasingly muscular and elastic.

Cycle through Dynamic, S and manual paddleshift modes and you can make the gearbox hold a ratio for as long as you like, but the reward for doing so isn’t as compelling as it might be. While the engine revs more freely than some, it doesn’t do so all that willingly beyond 4000rpm.

Better, really, to settle for a more typical, torque-propelled turbodiesel driving style. The XE 2.0d 180 can certainly be spirited along quite quickly that way, and has grip and handling composure to spare on the road.

The car’s most laudable qualities are its fluent, consistent and uncorrupted steering, its balance and precision when cornering and its expertly judged blend of body control compromised against a supple and quiet ride. On all of those fronts, it’s king of the compact executive class.

Our test car had standard passive suspension, although firmer sports springs and adaptive dampers are available as an option. But the XE needs neither to feel athletic and involving, and to conjure an effortless and instant sense of poise that a BMW 3-series will only approach in perfect specification and dynamic setting.

The XE’s steering is quite quick just off-centre but is predictable and feelsome thereafter. Moreover, the suspension doesn’t seem to need to resort to overly firm springing or uncompromising anti-roll control in order to maintain good grip, body control or directional response.

Ultimately it handles cross-country roads with a dexterity unknown to most small saloons, and manages to feel at once stable, compliant and well-damped at motorway speeds.

Should I buy one?

Do you care more about the dynamic performance of your business saloon than anything else? Since you’re reading this, we’ll assume that you do, and if you do, the XE makes a strong case for itself. Narrowly – and perhaps only for the likes of us – a winning one.

The XE doesn’t dominate its rivals like the current BMW 3 Series did at launch, leaving at least a bit to be desired on practicality, material quality and mechanical refinement. But it’s a competitive prospect even where’s it's relatively weak: something you’d never have said of the old X-type.

Moreover, Jaguar has evidently concentrated its budget and effort where it knows it can create a real selling point for the XE: on driver appeal. And, as ever, we’re a sucker for it.

Jaguar XE 2.0d 180 Portfolio

Location Surrey; On Sale Now; Price £35,425; Engine 4 cyls, 1999cc, turbodiesel; Power 178bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 317lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic  Kerb weight 1565kg; 0-62mph: 7.8sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 67.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 111g/km, 20% 

Join the debate

Comments
27

13 July 2015
Anyone else think it reads like a 4 star rather than 4.5 star review?

13 July 2015
Accommodation - lacking, engine refinement - lacking, interior quality - inferior to key competitors. Ride/handling excellent but does that on its own make it a 4* product, let alone a 4.5* one.

In the executive market accommodation, refinement and quality are all key battle grounds and its hard to see a car leading the pack when it is clearly worse than the key competitors at all of them, even if it does drive very well. The majority of miles in these cars are spent on the motorway. not on swoopy B roads, and driver's preferences reflect that, else the Audi A4 wouldn't sell like it does.

13 July 2015
So the Ingenium isn't as great as promised. This car with chrome rather than black window surround does make the side profile look more distinctive, especially where the chrome strip widens towards the rear quarter window. The interior is as dreary as ever. And according to the tester, the interior space doesn't seem to have much improved from the poor packaging of the X-type.

13 July 2015
It's hard to escape the impression that, handling apart, the XE is pretty underwhelming and undistinguished. I accept that Autocar places a premium on handling, but I would expect this to be complemented by strong and smooth power delivery to justify the star rating, and this is plainly not the case here. This is particularly disappointing for a brand new engine, of which much was promised. The interior is a bit drab and I'm not sure about the quality of the leather seats, which are already looking a bit rucked and creased. The exterior design is inoffensive, almost to the point of invisibility (and my usual strong preference is for understatement in this regard). The comparitives used in the text of the review are telling: "less distinctive", "broadly competitive", "similar" and "adequate" do not make it sound like a 4 1/2 star car. Sorry, but I can't help thinking that Autocar's hopes for this car, as opposed to the reality, has added a star to the overall rating.

13 July 2015
An estate version would be very welcome as would some decent turbo petrol engines.

13 July 2015
Remember the hate campaign against Vauxhall for calling a car an 'Adam', in my eyes 'Portfolio' means conceited tos**r

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

13 July 2015
Why do Autocar seem to avoid stating test mpg figures these days? Even with their heavy right feet it would at least put the nonsense 'official' figures into some perspective.

In the absence of any figures i guess i'll have to assume a usual 30% reduction of the combined figure.

Come on Autocar, help us out a bit here.

 

 

You're not stuck in traffic - you are traffic!!

13 July 2015
Yes, shame there is no word on economy. But personally I am not bothered about perceived quality once I have committed to a purchase - ergonomics and ease of use are much more important.

13 July 2015
Lacking mechanical refinement?
If anything, the XE has the 3 Series licked in terms of road noise and wind noise suppression.
Its ride comfort is better and its finely tuned steering is a delight: spontaneous and lively.
Not my words, but the words of various non-British car sites.
Conclusion: Jaguar has ( or is it "have" ? ) a world beater here.
I raise my hat at the Jaguar engineers and scoff at the criticasters.

13 July 2015
The XE has been confirmed as the class leader, and with apparent ease too, yet there are still many people who wish to accept this. The current 3 Series was touted as class best, purely based on its handling. Everything else about the BMW is either average or poor - ride, refinement, accommodation and its shocking interior quality. Yet none of these downsides seem to matter. The XE not only trumps the 3 Series on handling, but it has a better ride, refinement while its interior quality is better too. Only rear accommodation seems worse but as an overall package the BMW is well and truly beaten. The A4 and C Class may seem to have better interior quality, but that's it. In virtually every other area both too are beaten by the XE. Jaguar has rewritten the class rulebook with the XE as it did with the XF and latest XJ. And while not as good looking as the XF and XJ, on looks alone inside and out the XE is already a winner, looking desirable, expensive and sophisticated.

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