Long-term test review: Jaguar XE
Final report: It's a fair cop! Our man comes quietly and hands back keys to Jag that lives up to the classics
The XE has delivered everything you'd want from a small Jaguar saloon. It's great to drive, looks stunning, rides nicely and has served up decent efficiency. A few niggles with quality are the only real criticism after nearly a year of hard motoring.
To say I have enjoyed living with 'my' Jaguar XE would be an understatement. When the lady from Jaguar called to say she wanted it back, I faked a French accent and put the phone down. I ignored E-mails and even feigned illness; a serious bout of summer flu has taken hold and no, the car can't go back, I said. So Jaguar dispatched the police to seize the keys from me.
Okay, so most of that isn't true - but I seriously considered doing it. The truth behind the main picture is that I wanted to replicate how Jaguar launched the XE three years ago, and thought it would be a fitting send-off as it left the Auto Express fleet.
Back in 2014, the British brand stylishly launched its new compact exec at Earls Court, and used London as a fitting backdrop. On the XE's journey from a landing craft that sailed down the Thames to the famous but now-demolished London landmark, the XE was chased by two Jaguar MkII police cars.
Car group tests
It's those two cars (in fact later '340' versions) that I've brought together here with 'my' car - and doesn't the trio look great? And there's an important reason why the MkII was used; the XE is a modern version of the famous sports saloon.
While the X-Type was derided for being a Ford Mondeo in a Coventry sports jacket, the XE is viewed as a modern successor to the MkI and MkII models - a car with a bespoke Jaguar platform, with Jaguar engines and typically Jaguar styling.
It's worked, too. The XE hs been crowned Best Compact Executive Car at our New Car Awards for two years running, thanks to its blend of seductive styling, efficient engines, and excellent ride and handling.
But behind the pomp and pride, what's the XE actually been like to live with? Well, happily, the car has lived up to the patriotic and nostalgic fervour seen in that XE launch nearly three years ago. I've covered more than 22,000 miles in 11 months and the 'baby Jag' has been prettymuch faultless. With time and mileage, the 178bhp 2.0-litre Wolverhampton-built diesel engine's fuel economy has improved; by the end I was averaging just shy of 50mpg.
While motorway journeys were quiet and refined, the XE's handling delighted on country roads, too. I live deep in the Hampshire countryside and the Jag's nimble chassis and precise power-steering have regularly put a smile on my face.
Not only have I come to the conclusion that the XE is the best handling car in its class, I also think it can shame cars costing twice as much. And then there's the ride; despite this stiffened R-Sport version having a tendency to crash over London speed humps and potholes, on undulating roads at average speeds the XE rides just like a Jag should, offering plenty of comfort.
There have been some niggles, though. Early on, the fuel tank would never read full, even when the tank was brimmed, while the build quality disappointed a little. There's nothing inherently wrong with the way the XE is screwed together; it's just that at times it's felt a little flimsy when compared with talented rivals such as the Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4.
But the thing I like most about the XE is that I've never tired of looking at it. It's a great piece of design, and in 11 months, not once was I fed-up of the looks. It's a proper Jaguar and has the wow factor in spades.
Jaguar XE: Third report
Compact exec is perfectly suited to life in the country or the city
Mileage: 17,440Fuel economy: 49.8mpg
I like to look smart and dress properly as much as anyone, and the Jaguar XE is proving a perfect addition to my wardrobe. Yet while I have to change clothes to suit the situation, the car fits in wherever it goes – and its smart looks mean extra effort for me.
I rack up more commuting miles than anyone in Auto Express’s central London office as I live near the South Downs in Hampshire. That means leaving at 5am to beat the rush into the capital. With any other model on the drive, it’s a dash from bed to car. But as the Jag is a fashion statement, you can’t just get in wearing your scruffy trousers and holey shirt; you have to look the part, which takes time.
I firmly believe the car’s trump card is how it’s shifting Jag’s brand perception. The XE is swish and cool in the city and appeals to new, younger customers, yet still reaches out to Jag buyers of old. On my journey into London, I’m used to it turning heads – and it’s mostly from suited business types who probably have the keys to a BMW 3 Series. Meanwhile, back at home in the charming Hampshire countryside, the XE is equally popular with members of the village parish council who invariably run rusty old Jags.
Our XE excels in both environments, too. In town it’s agile and, thanks to the parking camera, plenty of lock in the steering and front and rear sensors, it’s simple to park.
Out of the city and back on fast, twisting country roads, the Jag shines. The steering weights up, and is pinpoint sharp; in my opinion, this car is slightly more fun to drive than the 3 Series. And while the ride is a little firm around town, once up to speed the suspension floats serenely over bumps.
Seven months of living with an XE have revealed some drawbacks, though. I’ve already mentioned the fuel gauge that never reads full in a previous report, and more issues are coming to light. While the 178bhp 2.0-litre engine has plenty of power and my average economy is up from 46mpg to about 48mpg, the noise it makes is getting on my nerves.
Under acceleration it’s a high-pitched rattle and even on a motorway cruise there’s a dull hum. It’s been made worse since I drove the new F-Pace SUV, where the same engine is better insulated. I’ve also noticed some cost-cutting measures. Under the steering column you can see exposed wiring loom – not what I’d expect from a £34,000-plus car.
Yet there are plenty of things on the XE that raise a smile. The starter button that pulses red like a heartbeat, for instance, or the LED graphic in the tail-light clusters that harks back to the E-Type, or even the Jaguar leaper in the headlamps. Little things like that mark out the car from less smartly turned-out rivals.
Jaguar XE: second report
Jaguar has moved on from the Arthur Daley image, but XE is proving why it could be so good for you
Mileage: 12,550Fuel economy: 45.3mpg
It’s fair to say that Jaguar is one of the most emotive car names around. This is a brand that speaks to the heart, and that’s probably why it’s often chosen to appear on the silver screen, as driving a Jag means something. It’s no coincidence that the bad guy in James Bond’s Spectre drove a C-X75, or that an XKR featured in Die Another Day.
Jaguar is no stranger to TV, either. For people of a certain age, a beaten-up Jag only meant one thing – it was going to be chased by The Sweeney in a Ford Consul. The sight of Inspector Morse behind the wheel of a maroon MK2 driving through the streets of Oxford is known worldwide, too.
Speak to other people about a Jag TV star, though, and they’d say Minder. Loveable rogue Arthur Daley often smoked around in an XJ6 (he sometimes used a posher Daimler, too), and the pairing made for small screen gold. It’s an association that just worked.
Fast-forward 30 years, and the case couldn’t be any more different. But ignore my valiant attempt at trying to emulate the classic TV character; the images just don’t really work. And the reason? While the cliched camel coat-wearing picture of a second-hand car dealer has remained, Jaguar’s brand image has changed.
The XE is designed for the company car park, and the new small exec has a veneer of cool that a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 can only dream of. With its gearlever that rises from the centre console and vodka bar-like ambient lighting, Jaguars are no longer leather and walnut-lined motors for Arthur Daley or James Bond villains.
Sadly, I’m neither of these extreme characters, but I am thoroughly enjoying my time with the XE. It’s proving to be very comfortable for my 140-mile commute to the office and back, and not too costly – I’m regularly averaging around 45mpg. That’s quite some way off the claimed 67.3mpg, but the car’s biggest rivals all return around the same, so I’m not too dissatisfied.
A few niggles are rearing their heads, though. The Jag is a very popular member of the Auto Express fleet, so I’m constantly adjusting the driving position back to my style. However, the knob that moves the steering column feels incredibly cheap – so much so that I fear it’s going to break soon.
The 2.0-litre diesel can sound strained when accelerating hard, too, but it’s the fuel gauge that’s my main gripe. After filling the tank, you’d expect the digital display to read full – but it doesn’t. It does this all the time, so it’s a trait rather than a fault; my OCD brain just really wants the tank to tell me it’s full!
Jaguar XE: First report
Mileage: 3,020Fuel economy: 47.0mpg
Forget Porsche turbocharging its new 911s, or even Range Rover lopping the roof off the Evoque for the Convertible version; it’s the Jaguar XE that’s caused the biggest stir this year. Not only has Jag finally built a car that can kick BMW, Mercedes and Audi into touch in the company car stakes, it’s produced a package we’d all buy on merit rather than for its British roots.
Earlier this year, we gave the XE five stars on its road test debut, plus it waltzed out of the Auto Express New Car Awards with the Compact Executive Car of the Year crown. More recently, we’ve been happily surprised that the XE has held on to its class title in the face of challenges from the excellent, revised BMW 3 Series, plus the new Audi A4, which moves the game on for interior quality. The Jag takes key ingredients from its rivals and adds a dollop of style, sex appeal and a real wow factor. It’s only narrowly ahead, but it’s ahead nonetheless.
In fact, Jaguar dealers claim it’s the car’s ‘must-have’ element that’s drawing buyers in, as I discovered when I picked up the newest addition to the Auto Express fleet from Guy Salmon Jaguar in Thames Ditton, London. Sales executive Claudio De Freitas told me the new Jag is attracting a lot of customers, with a fair number of X-Type owners trading up to the newcomer. Yet it’s also tempting younger people who’ve never considered a Jaguar before.
The brand is offering a large number of personalisation options for the XE in an attempt to capture as many buyers as it can – from business users to private buyers after a distinctive saloon. And while I was ogling an F-Type, Claudio was readying the brochure and upholstery charts so I could choose my perfect XE.
There’s a vast number of exterior, leather and wheel choices on offer, but I selected what I consider the best combination: the racy R Sport with Bluefire metallic paint (£620), smart 18-inch five-spoke Star alloys and a black and blue leather interior.
We’ve kept things simple on the options list, too, specifying the Cold Climate Pack (heated screen, steering wheel and washer jets for £525), Parking Pack (front and rear sensors and rear camera for £530) 10x10- way Electric Front Seats (£765) and Wi-Fi hotspot (£300). Also included on our car is Jag’s InControl Secure tracker (£510), as you can never be sure what’ll happen.
Under the bonnet is the Wolverhampton-built 178bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel with a slick eight-speed auto. Jag claims 67.3mpg economy, yet I’ve struggled to better 47mpg. It’s still early days, though, and as I swung out of the dealer into the world of Jag ownership, I couldn’t wait to start piling on the miles.
Insurance quote (below) provided by AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.