Jaguar XE review
Even as a prototype, the new Jaguar XE has the style, price, spec and driver appeal to be a real rival to the 3 Series and C-Class
The long-awaited Jaguar XE has a tough job on its hands, competing against some of the most efficient, hi-tech and driver-focussed compact executive cars in the world. And it delivers. It might not be quite as sharp as a BMW 3 Series to drive, but it’s pretty close and we prefer the slightly more relaxed, comfortable GT-like approach Jaguar has taken.
The Jaguar XE looks much better in the flesh than in pictures, too, while the important price and efficiency stats for company car drivers and private buyers will tempt you into the dealers – who incidentally out-rank their rivals in our annual Driver Power survey.
Jaguar XE first drive video
Petrol and diesel models are offered in the Jaguar XE range with the 2.0-litre diesel models destined to be the most popular. Jaguar’s 2.0D 163 Ingenium diesel engine kicks off the line-up with a 161bhp power output while 2.0d 180 delivers 178bhp. On the petrol side, there’s a 2.0i turbo unit packing either 198bhp or 237bhp while the range-topper is a 3.0i supercharged V6 with 335bhp. Jaguar offers six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox options.
Trim levels for the Jaguar XE kick off with the entry-level SE, then there’s Prestige, R-Sport and Portfolio to consider. The more powerful of the 2.0i petrol engines is only offered in R-Sport or Portfolio trim and the range-topping XE V6 gets its own S trim level befitting its sporting pedigree.
New InControl Touch infotainment systems feature with Apple and Android smartphone connectivity. All Jaguar XE models get sat-nav, cruise control, 17" alloy wheels and DAB digital radio as standard.
Our choice: Jaguar XE 2.0 D 180PS R-Sport
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The Jaguar XE may look conservative, but when you see it on the road it has real presence. Jaguar is developing a look that will extend through the range, from the XJ through XF and on to the F-Pace SUV, with wide, slim headlights, an upright grille and a low, sleek bonnet.
The J-Blade LEDS on the XE accentuate the width at the front, as do the F-Type-style rear lights. The low roof-line at the back gives the car a coupe-like stance adding to the drama, with big wheels pushed out to the far corners. The inside is simple yet stylish, with a wraparound fascia similar to that on the XJ, which makes the car feel welcoming inside.
Range topping S variants add beefier front and rear bumpers as well as larger alloy wheels. It's by far the most handsome XE in the lineup with the more aggressive styling amplifying its coupe like proportions.
Of the two diesels, the lower powered unit has impressive emissions of 99g/km, making it the company car user’s pick. The more powerful 178bhp engine, meanwhile, is smooth and punchy, yet still efficient.
Throttle response is good and refinement is excellent thanks to the new Ingenium diesel engines. It begins to make itself known above 4,000rpm but because most of the power is available before then you rarely have to extend the diesel engine beyond that.
Even our R-Sport model with its sportier settings and bigger wheels rode well – it’s firm, but forgiving and feels exactly how you’d want a small sporting Jaguar saloon to feel. The electric power steering is quick to react and offers plenty of feel when away from the slightly numb straight ahead position. The eight-speed auto gearbox shifts swiftly too.
The supercharged V6 3.0 XE S uses the same engine as the Jaguar F-Type and that makes for a swift saloon, but it never feels massively rapid. Torque Vectoring by the braking system makes for a sharp turn-in and reduces understeer, while there’s plenty of grip on the exit.
Jaguar has a fine reputation for reliability these days, coming an excellent second (and top of all premium makes) in the manufacturer rankings of our annual Driver Power survey. It even beat Lexus (fourth), while Mercedes was ninth, BMW 10th and Audi 12th.
In the unlikely event that anything should go wrong, Jaguar dealers out punch all their rivals, with the exception of Lexus. Jaguar dealers finished way ahead of Mercedes, BMW and Audi dealers in Driver Power 2014. Safety-wise, Jaguar is predicting a five-star rating for the XE, which gets all the expected safety kit as standard, with plenty of advanced safety options, too.
Sitting a six-foot tall passenger behind a six-foot tall driver won’t be a problem in the Jaguar XE – there’ll be an inch or so of legroom to spare, while the roof lining has been designed to offer decent headroom, too.
The doors open nice and wide at the front and back, making getting in and out easy. However, a wide transmission tunnel means the centre console in the front is quite wide, while anyone sitting in the middle seat in the back will have their knees apart and feet fighting for space with those of passengers sitting in the outer chairs.
The boot is marginally smaller than the 3 Series’, concentrating more on depth than width – it appears slightly narrow, but still offers okay space. You get 450 litres of capacity as standard and 455 litres in models without a spare wheel.
The Jaguar XE diesels match the BMW 3 Series for performance, but currently beat the BMW on CO2 and mpg – until a facelifted 3 Series arrives later in 2015, that is.
The lower-powered diesel gets below the 100g/km threshold that’s so important to company car drivers and should return mpg figures in the 60s, making for long periods between fill-ups. On the official combined cycle, the entry-level diesel acheives 75mpg with the manual gearbox or 72mpg with the auto. At the other end of the scale, it's 34.9mpg and 194g/km for the supercharged XE S model.
The XE doesn’t have the price advantage over rivals that some Jaguars have had, but all models tend to be slightly better equipped than rivals like-for-like. In such a hugely competitive sector, we’d expect maintenance costs for the Jaguar to be on par with rivals, too.