From £27,0658
3 Series chaser now has greatly improved looks and equipment, and is better in other ways too

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?

Steve Cropley Autocar
26 June 2019

What is it?

This is an extremely important car for Jaguar: the carefully crafted mid-life revision of a compact executive saloon they launched in mid-2015, full of hope, to challenge the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

Despite its sleek shape, excellent dynamics and some class-leading engineering content (an aluminium body shell, an ultra-sophisticated rear suspension), the car failed to set the market alight. Reviews were positive, but buyers have continued to prefer German products.

Though the car’s poor sales coincided with a general decline for saloon models, it still mystified the company and dealers alike. Everyone who drove it agreed this is fundamentally a good car. But the company – doubtless with helpful reactions from early users – eventually put the difficulty down to the exterior’s similarity to the larger XF, and to a lack of style appeal. And against rivals it has seemed drab inside.

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What's it like?

First, the exterior visual impact has been abruptly improved. Sportier bumper designs and new LED lights front and rear have made the car look sportier, more planted and above all more modern. The latest XE also introduces a new 'chicane' tail light style which will flow through the range.

Inside, the XE adopts JLR’s Touch Pro Duo infotainment system which introduces a 10.2in screen to mid-dash, and supports it with a smaller touch-screen below. This treatment simplifies and modernises things markedly. The 'twist' gear selector gives way to Jaguar’s sportier and more intuitive central lever. There are upgrades for both the interior and seat materials (owners felt that in the outgoing XE version the need to cut costs was made too obvious) and there’s a new richness about the trim that improves its apparent value. One drawback remains: very confined rear seat space. Kids and very small adults are the best it can comfortably do.

Under the skin little has changed – or needed to change – though EXs are now offered with only three 2.0-litre turbo Ingenium engines (one 178bhp diesel; petrol units producing 247bhp and 296bhp) and all models get ZF’s efficient, market-leading eight-speed automatic. The highest output engine comes as standard with Jaguar’s unobtrusive intelligent all-wheel-drive system that usually biases torque towards the rear wheels (for handling balance) but directs it forward when rear-wheel grip is limited. According to the maker’s spec, the system adds only 85kg to a full-house XE’s kerb weight (1650kg vs 1565kg) so there’s little change in the car’s feeling of all-conditions agility.

Our 2019 test car was a P300 AWD, a 296bhp edition with the standard all-wheel-drive transmission, capable of a 0-60mph sprint of just 5.4sec, and a governed top speed of 155mph. The XE’s sleekness and low driving position give it the 'cheap F-type' character we’ve spoken of before, especially since the precise, perfectly weighted steering is as good as Jaguar’s best. The car felt instantly familiar alongside our outgoing edition (2wd, 198bhp) except for two key matters: engine response and ride quality.

For a 296bhp engine packing 295lb ft of torque (between 1500rpm and 4500rpm) our sub-1000-mile powertrain felt inert, a serious concern until we remembered previous advice from JLR engineers that this car’s major components – engine, gearbox and AWD system – need a few thousand miles or so to give of their best. That was certainly the case for our outgoing 198bhp version, which felt quick and free-revving when it left us with 10,000 miles on the clock.

Though Jaguar says it has made very few changes to the suspension, the new XE feels more refined and quiet, offering improvements to rolling comfort, to the level of road noise and to the absorption of big bitumen bumps, so common on UK B-roads. Even on 20in wheels and performance-oriented Pirelli P Zero tyres, the car now feels much more premium, and considerably more comfortable over long mileages.

Should I buy one?

There has always been a good case for owning a Jaguar XE, and now there’s a better one. The revised car’s exterior now has far more presence, while the interior conveys value (and has the benefit of the more advanced infotainment system), The steering and handling that contribute so much to its driving enjoyment are unaltered, but there’s a new level of ride refinement.

In short, Jaguar has not harmed any of the XE’s previous points of appeal, while adding important new ones.

Jaguar XE HSE R-Dynamic P300​ specification

Where Middlesex, UK Price £45,835 On sale now Engine 4 cyls, 1997cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 297bhp at 5500rpm Torque 295lb ft at 1500-4500rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1650kg Top speed 155mph (governed) 0-62mph 5.4sec Fuel economy 30.5mpg CO2 no WLTP figure available Rivals BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-class

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Comments
26

26 June 2019
The original version was a bland, poorly made heap of junk unfit to wear the Jaguar badge. It's only redeeming feature was a competent chassis, although having driven five of them, I never understood why journalists creamed their jeans over it. It wasn't THAT good to drive.

This look marginally nicer on the outside but the fundamentally bland shape limits what they can do.

Interior appears much improved but you still have the same bland facia and the new centre console looks cheap. I'd also worry about reliability of those electronics.

Big question, is the build any better? The original version was dreadful.

typos1 - Just can't invert the ionic phase in the thrust margin of the containment field.

26 June 2019
We have an XE in our family. It hasn't been unreliable. The only fault was rusty brake discs which were promptly replaced under warranty. It is early days as only on 40k but no issues so far.The interior is nice and we preferred it over its rivals. I am 6ft and am comfortable with enough room in the back. It drives very well and looks great. We have a heated front screen blind spot warning & rear camera. The viability when reversing isn't great but with the camera it isn't a problem.

26 June 2019

Arguably the car they should have launched. Exterior could have been a bit bolder however.

26 June 2019

Shame it wasn't like this in the first place.  Anyhow one update that might have proved worthwhile was moving the sat nav above the air vents, it's a pet hate of mine.

Still have one in a heart beat over a C class, 3 series or A4 for the looks and positive reviews of the driving experience

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

26 June 2019
xxxx wrote:

Shame it wasn't like this in the first place.  Anyhow one update that might have proved worthwhile was moving the sat nav above the air vents, it's a pet hate of mine.

Still have one in a heart beat over a C class, 3 series or A4 for the looks and positive reviews of the driving experience

Which is fine if you only have need for a two seater.

26 June 2019

There would be no difficulty choosing between this and its German rivals. Jags downfall has always been its outdated technology and interior design, which most narrow minded buyers were more worried about than superior exterior styling and class-leading dynamics.

In much the same style as the Evoque, they have had a huge revolution on the interior and it can now rest comfortably at the top of the class.

Jameson

26 June 2019

I had the old XE as a hire car and loved the way it drove.  When I changed me car, I bought a... BMW 320D M Sport.  Why?  Mainly because it is not as boring inside, and the drivetrain is more sporty (the XE felt underpowered).But the biggest reason.. Jaguar dealers are like a 80s time warp.  I absolutely hate the cream/brown/green showrooms, and the salespeople are gah!!My wife has an Evoque.  The car is great for us, but the dealers.. not great.

26 June 2019

Jeez, not ANOTHER Jaguar review. For a manufacturer with so few models, they get some exposure on here.

Though the car’s poor sales coincided with a general decline for saloon models, it still mystified the company and dealers alike.

So another glowing review then. And yet again no mention of Jaguar's poor reliability. According to the reliability study that Autocar's sister magazine carried out in late 2018, Jaguar finished 28th out of 31 manufacturers (with their partners in crime LandRover finishing 30th). In the reliability study of specific models, the XE finished 13th out of 14 cars in the Executive class. Perhaps the company along with their dealers have their heads stuck in the sand?

On Sunday I needed to hire a car for a few weeks - I simply asked for a compact to get me from A to B and was given a Seat Leon. When signing the paperwork they asked if I'd like to upgrade and pointed me in the direction of an XE sitting outside - I didn't even bother asking how much, that's how exciting an XE is. To these eyes it still looks like the Honda Accord I bought in 1995, albeit I bet that Honda probably had more space inside.

A whole row of rental fleet cars with an XE in the middle and it didn't stand out. Enough said.

26 June 2019
scotty5 wrote:

Jeez, not ANOTHER Jaguar review. For a manufacturer with so few models, they get some

So another glowing review then. And yet again no mention of Jaguar's poor reliability. ....

A whole row of rental fleet cars with an XE in the middle and it didn't stand out. Enough said.

Another review, and like if the 3 series had a major face lift with updated engines Autocar would have ignored it.

Could be worse, the C-Class was worse than the XE in WhatCars reliability 2018 survey.

And like a A4 and 3 series would have stood out.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

26 June 2019

Cramped back seats and a small boot. Just occasionally people who buy 4 door saloons do need space for more than the driver. Current A4, 3 series and C Class can be family cars, the XE can't.

"Pressurised container: May burst if heated"

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