What is it?
We know Jaguar’s XE is a sound overall package, and that the high-powered diesel makes a lot of sense but the company has been slightly surprised by the high proportion of early retail customers who’ve been choosing the petrol editions. It’s running at 30% - or about double the predicted amount.
So this is our chance to look at the four-cylinder petrol options in more detail. We’re testing the higher-powered of the two engines, which produces 237bhp and 215lb ft between 1750rpm and 4000rpm. Its more modest stablemate - the cheapest way into an XE - has 197bhp and 207lb ft. However, it isn’t actually any cleaner, because the CO2 emissions of both motors are the same, at 179g/km. You can’t have either engine with a manual gearbox, incidentally; it’s the ZF eight-speed automatic or nothing.
Of course, as with Land Rover Discovery Sports using old-school diesel engines while they wait for the shiny Ingenium units that are such stars in the XE, so the Jag’s petrol engines aren’t really brewed up in the firm’s shiny new plant in Wolverhampton. They’re Ford units, made in Valencia; Ingenium petrols are a further year away, allegedly.
Those CO2 emissions mean that only private buyers are going to be interested in the 2.0-litre petrol XEs; fleet customers, or a predicted 98% of them, will stick with diesel. However, if you are a private buyer standing in a dealership with a range of PCP finance deals in front of you, this could look like one of the more appealing options.
What's it like?
Really good fun, in a sophisticated kind of way. The turbo motor has excellent punch from below 2000rpm and pulls strongly right through to beyond 5000rpm. In this 237bhp trim at least, it feels entirely comfortable with a car of the XE’s size - which shouldn’t really surprise, given that it has also done a tour of duty in the Mondeo.
What does catch you out is the refinement. You have to work this motor extremely hard before it borders on the thrashy; in the most part, it spins up willingly and smoothly, and it drops to a background whoosh once you’re up to cruising speeds (wind noise from the side mirrors will drown it out easily). Jaguar has been careful not to mention the Ford connection at all - concerned, perhaps, about people drawing comparisons to the ill-fated X-type; it shouldn’t have been too worried, frankly.
The absence of a manual gearbox won’t appeal to everyone, but the ZF auto can rarely have felt better matched to a Jaguar engine’s torque characteristics. The ratios are nicely judged and while the software could perhaps be a little quicker to kick down, you generally find yourself in the engine’s sweet spot almost all of the time. Switching to the steering wheel-mounted paddles brings a bit more involvement, with rapid shifts that have a slightly pleasing small jolt to them.
The chassis is every bit as peachy as it is on the diesel. Our car was in the Comfort set-up, but the front end still feels fabulously direct. If anything, it can feel a teeny bit darty, as if the rear is just taking a brief moment to gather its thoughts before following the front end’s decisive lead. It’s minor, though; this is a beautifully judged set-up, helped by an electric power steering that feels rock solid around the straight ahead but weights up consistently when you apply lock. No, it’s not the last word in communication but it is precise and very easy to trust; give the XE a suitable B-road to show off its body control and ability to change direction quickly and you’re likely to just enjoy it.
The ride is firm - firm enough to feel some of the road imperfections on Jaguar’s Spanish test route, which makes us think it will feel you should avoid 19in and 20in wheels for the UK. The standard 18-inchers that you get on Portfolio and R-Sport editions should be fine, though.
Should I buy one?
Tricky one, this. Those CO2 emissions mean it's harder to recommend an XE petrol than any of its diesel stablemates. However, if your lifestyle fits - think PCP finance and relatively few miles per year - then we can see why the XE 2.0i 240 will have real appeal. It's every bit the capable, rapid, agile and refined executive saloon - and a perfectly worthy alternative to the BMW 328i.
Jaguar XE 2.0i 240PS Portfolio
Price £33,740; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1999cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 237bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 251lb ft at 1750-4000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1535kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-60mph 6.4sec; Economy 37.7mpg; CO2 rating/tax band 179g/km, 30 per cent