- The Jaguar XE is Jag’s entry-level sedan, taking on segment leaders such as the BMW 3-Series, the Audi A4, and the Mercedes C-Class.
- My tester was the Jaguar XE P300 R-Dynamic S, with all-wheel-drive. It stickered at about $US47,000.
- The refreshed sedan has lost its supercharged V6 but gained a pair of punchy, turbocharged four-cylinder engines.
- Combining style and joyful driving, the Jaguar XE is held back by a weak infotainment system, but it’s still worth a look.
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Do sports sedans matter anymore?
It’s an important question for luxury automakers because sporty “saloons” have for decades defined an important part of the vehicle segment. BMW built it’s “ultimate driving machine” reputation on the success of its four-doors. For years, the competition has followed, minting fun-to-drive cars that pushed the market away from soft freeway cruisers.
But now the sedan is in trouble, as BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and others embrace the crossover SUV. While the four-door might be the superior driving platform, customers want fancy trucks.
In this context, Jaguar finds itself in an awkward position. The brand has always excelled at sedans, and in recent years it’s produced a singularly gorgeous SUV in the F-PACE (not to mention a snappy electric crossover in the I-PACE).
The Jaguar XE launched in 2015, throwing down a gauntlet for the BMW 3-Series. The vehicle sold reasonably well, but after a few years, deliveries have declined by about 5,000 units annually in the US, so Jag refreshed the car for the 2020 model year, sadly dropping the supercharged six-cylinder for turbocharged fours.
I borrowed the beefier trim level, with the P300 engine, and drove it around the New York/New Jersey area for a week. I’ve typically been a fan of Jag’s saloons, so I wondered earnestly how the XE would stack up.
Here’s how it went:
Behold! The Jaguar P300 R-Dynamic S, with all-wheel-drive, in a “Caldera Red” paint job. Designer Ian Callum did a fine job with this ride.
The Jag EX carries a heavy burden for India-owned Jaguar Land Rover. The XE has to take on the BMW 3-Series …
… The Alfa-Romeo Giulia …
… The Audi A4 …
… And the Mercedes C-Class.
Looks-wise, the XE’s only real competition in the segment is the Giulia. The XE starts at about $US40,000, but options raised our as-tested price to $US46,295.
From front to back, this Jag is an elegant, powerful-looking cat. Callum’s ability to hold a design in a sort of coiled balance is his signature as a designer.
It’s tough to find anything on the XE that’s awkward or out-of-proportion. My test car came with a black exterior styling package that risked pushing the XE over the top, but from the blacked-out grille to the modest front diffuser, I thought it all worked well.
In keeping with the overall trend in the industry, the Jaguar XE is a fastback sedan, but with a trunk rather than a hatch. Again, the design is perfectly executed, with the rear elements unifying and creating an illusion of rear-wheel-drive muscle for an AWD setup.
The haunches are downright shapely. Jaguars always present an image of well-tailored athleticism, and the XE is no exception.
The leaping cat of course appears in chrome on the trunk lid.
The 20-inch,10-Spoke Style “Satin Grey Diamond Turned Wheels” hide red brake callipers.
It’s easy to judge a car from the front, but the acid test of a great design is the rear. And the XE’s is a winner.
With a trunk capacity of under 15 cubic feet, the XE is a bit lean for the segment …
… but I didn’t have much trouble with standard-issue suburban cargo. This Jag would also be adequate for weekend getaways.
Now for the sad part. The old 380-horsepower, supercharged V6 has gone away, replaced by either a 247-horsepower or a 296-horsepower turbocharged four-banger. My P300 tester had the 2.0-litre, 296-pony powerplant, making 295 pound-feet of torque.
The oomph is channeled the to the AWD drive system through an eight-speed automatic with a auto-manual option.
The 0-60 mph dash passed in about six seconds — not slow, but hardly the more ferocious, asphalt-gobbling performance that the V6 turned in. Fuel economy is a satisfactory 22 mpg city/30 highway/25 combined, using premium petrol.
Let’s slip inside and see what the stylish Jaguar cabin has in store for us. The interior itself is a minimalist “Ebony” with tasteful brushed metal highlights.
The XE is of course Jag’s entry-level sedan, so no one is expecting succulent wood trim or peacock leather. That said, the cabin is arranged in a pleasing manner. (I’m not a huge fan of the multifunction steering-wheel knobs and button, though, which are confusing.)
The InControl Touch Pro infotainment system runs on a 10-inch central touchscreen that combines with a digital climate-control interface. It looks fantastic …
… But in practice it’s a laggy hodgepodge, with a steep learning curve. JLR knows this — we’ve rarely failed to complain about this system — but it’s been several years now of work-in-progress status.
The system itself gets to job done, with capable GPS navigation, relatively easy Bluetooth pairing, device integration, Apple CarPlay availability, and wireless charging.
But even the basic process of adjusting temperature, fan speed, or heated-and-cooled seats is a multistep ordeal.
For what it’s worth, however, the 825-watt Meridian Surround audio system sounds glorious.
And there’s a moonroof, filling what could be a dark cabin with natural light. The back seat is adequate for the segment — adults should be OK for short trips.
So what’s the verdict?
While I found stuff to like and dislike about the XE is equal measure – adored the design, didn’t care for the engine, liked the driving dynamics, struggled with the infotainment – I actually richly enjoyed the car.
The complete package was more than enough to overcome the assorted weaknesses. And that’s a useful reminder that while a car might come off as disappointing on paper, whether it’s a good or bad ride comes down to seat time. Behind the wheel of the Jag XE R-Dynamic, I was a happy pilot.
Overall, the R-Dynamic package adds enough tautness to the driving experience to put some serious “sport” into this sedan. Minus the V6, I’d say that the XE doesn’t really rise to the same level as the Alfa Romeo Giulia, the Audi A4, or the BMW 3-Series. But it’s competitive with the Mercedes C-Class, and that’s sort of where it belongs: just enough performance, great style, less bling than the Merc.
My Jag tester was equipped with what I’ve come to expect these days in terms of driver-assist and safety features, ranging from cameras to lane-keep assist to emergency braking. Beyond cruise control, there wasn’t anything that could be confused with semi-self-driving. All in all, the refreshed XE is predictable on this front; most premium vehicles now have all these features available.
Sometimes, a luxury car is less about objectivity and more about emotion. Jaguars make me feel cool, and that’s probably why I like them. I, for one, looked forward to driving the XE. And with a price tag under $US50,000, this dashing blend of style and performance is definitely worthy of consideration. And heck, it’s also for drivers who want to be different. It’s always been effortless to go German. Thank goodness that Jaguar is around to give us more choices.