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Jaguar XE R-Sport review

The XE R-Sport adds racier looks to Jaguar's compact executive saloon

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

The Jaguar XE is a front-runner in the compact executive saloon class. The balance of agility and comfort, even in this stiffer R-Sport model, is brilliant, while the Ingenium engine is a decent performer with excellent stats whether you go for a petrol or a diesel version. As R-Sport is at a mid-point in the XE range, it offers decent value when compared to sporty variants of its arch-rivals, too.

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Jaguar hit the ground running with the XE compact executive saloon, and the XE R-Sport has been a key factor in its success. As you would expect, the R-Sport adds a sporty edge to Jaguar's smallest saloon, but uses the same engines as the other trims in the line-up.

Jaguar isn't the only company to offer this combination of sporty looks and a variety of engines, as BMW offers the same with its 3 Series M Sport range, Audi's A4 S line trim and Mercedes and its C-Class AMG Line spec.

While these German firms promote their sporty trims as the top spec of the range, just below the full-fat performance models, Jaguar's R-Sport slots between Prestige and the luxury Portfolio trim. Hoever, as all versions of the XE are pretty well equipped, that's no slight on R-Sport's spec.

• Jaguar XE S review

Standard kit includes xenon lights with Jaguar's distinctive J-blade LED running lights, an 8-inch touchscreen sat-nav, heated door mirrors and two-zone climate control. However, the big differences between R-Sport and the rest of the range appear outside. The first obvious difference is the addition of 18-inch diamond turned five-spoke alloy wheels, although Jag offers a variety of 18 and 19-inch wheel options at extra cost.

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Also included is subtle bodykit to help differentiate the R-Sport from other models in the range. You'd have to be a hardcore XE fan to spot it, but there are restyled bumpers, chrome trim added to the front air intakes, extended side sills and an R-Sport badge on the tailgate. There's also lowered suspension, which adds a firm edge to the ride, but the XE is still relatively comfortable when compared to its sport-themed rivals.

Engines come from the range of 2.0-litre Ingenium powerplants that were launched with the XE. There are three petrol motors in 200PS, 250PS and 300PS guises which have 197, 246 and 296bhp respectively. All three come with Jaguar's excellent and smooth shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, while the 250PS car can be upgraded to AWD, which is standard with the 300PS engine.

There are three Ingenium diesels, the 163PS, 180PS and 240PS, which have 161, 177 and 237bhp respectively. The two lower powered diesels are the only XEs that can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the eight-speed auto found on the petrol cars and the most powerful diesel is available as an option. AWD four-wheel drive is optional on the mid-range diesel, while it's standard with the 240PS motor. Prices for the XE R-Sport range start from just over £31,000, while the most expensive model is the 240PS diesel, which breaks the £40,000 price barrier, so qualifies for £450 road tax for the first five years after purchase. It's worth noting that the least powerful diesel features fuel-saving kit to help bring its emissions down for company car purposes, so gets different wheels to standard with low-rolling resistance tyres.

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On the road, the XE's sporty nature is well suited to R-Sport trim, especially if you sharpen things by selecting dynamic mode on the Jaguar Drive Control system. The XE uses the same double wishbone front suspension set-up as the F-Type, while a clever integral link rear suspension was chosen over a multi-link system, which Jaguar said would have compromised ride quality – a good call, we’d say.

The lightweight bodyshell, using aluminium for 75 per cent of its parts, is 20 per cent stiffer than the XF’s, and it shows in the car’s agility. The electric power-steering is just a tiny bit vague off the straight-ahead as it works out how much assistance to give, but then reacts quickly with plenty of feel. The XE isn't quite as sharp as a 3 Series M Sport, but it’s not far off with a far greater degree of comfort.

Jaguar XE Long term test - wheel detail

The ride is good. R-Sport's marginally stiffer set-up feels pleasantly firm without ever jolting you. Adaptive Dynamics dampers are optional on this car, and we hope more comfort-orientated models don’t slacken the superb body control too much – this is a car that corners flatly with strong grip, giving you plenty of confidence; a nice balance between comfort and sportiness. In fact, very much how you’d expect a small, sporting Jaguar saloon to feel.

The driving position is pretty spot-on, too, with plenty of adjustment. The centre console does feel wider than on rivals (more on that in a bit), and hefty A-pillars create a bit of a blind spot, especially if you sit low in the car. Front and rear doors open wide for easy access, while in the back there’s easily enough space for a six foot tall passenger to sit behind a similar-sized driver – as there is in a 3 Series.

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