Jaguar XE review - Engines, performance and drive
Great to drive yet very comfortable, and despite a narrow engine choice overall there should be something for everyone here
The XE ushered in a new era for Jaguar. The firm has plenty of history with aluminium construction, but the baby saloon was the first car based on Jag’s iQ[Al] platform.
This features double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear axle, which gives the XE its trademark balance and agility. With Jaguar’s Drive Control system you can tailor the throttle response, gearshift strategy and steering set-up to suit your preference, just like you can in its rivals, but Jag's Adaptive Dynamics suspension system is an option.
Behind the wheel, the overriding characteristic of the Jaguar XE is the way it feels dynamic yet comfortable at the same time. The sophisticated multilink rear suspension set-up smothers the bumps while keeping the wheels firmly in contact with the road, so there’s lots of feel. Point the XE’s nose through a series of corners, and it can’t quite match a BMW 3 Series for driver involvement, but it’s ahead of the Alfa Giulia.
The Jag’s steering is precise and there’s plenty of grip too. Dynamic mode alters the steering weighting, throttle response and the auto’s shift pattern, plus it turns the dials red. As you’d expect, the XE is a refined and comfortable cruiser, with the Sport suspension quickly losing its low-speed stiffness and soaking up bumps and undulations well.
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The rear-wheel-drive chassis always seems firmly planted but there’s a definite sense of the car being pushed from the back and steered from the front – great balance, in other words. It makes the XE feel that bit more special when you up the pace.
XE models equipped with four-wheel drive feel sure-footed, helping to build confidence in adverse conditions. For most buyers in the UK though, the reduced economy means it isn't necessary – the standard car doesn't exactly lack grip, and a good set of winter tyres will so a similar job.
Either way, the XE’s dynamic prowess becomes more significant the further up the core engine range you go, with the most powerful P300 model veering into high-performance territory. Those after ultimate performance will be intrigued by the XE SV Project 8 – a limited-run super saloon with 592bhp and a massive rear wing.
With a light 2.0-litre petrol engine mounted in the nose, the XE’s front end feels as keen to change direction as any example we’ve driven. The steering is fairly weighty, but has plenty of precision. It’s quick enough to match the rate of response from the chassis, while there’s a decent level of grip.
Although the Jaguar rolls a little in corners, this compliant side to the car’s set-up means that away from the test track and on the road, the XE offers a ride quality that rivals like the Alfa Giulia and Audi A4 can't match.
There is just one gearbox for the XE: an eight-speed automatic, but it's very good indeed, with smooth shifts in full auto mode and quick changes when you pull on the steering wheel paddles. It’s not quite as effective as a BMW gearbox, but it’s more responsive than the Alfa’s similar eight-speed transmission. The convenience enhances the XE’s relaxing properties, yet the auto is snappy enough to suit a more aggressive driving style.
All XE models ride with smoothness and refinement, whether on 17-inch standard wheels or optional 18, 19 or 20-inch items – it’s best described as 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. Throttle response is good, too, especially if you sharpen things up with the Configurable Dynamics system that allows the driver to select sharper throttle reactions and firmer suspension settings.
The Jaguar XE range was simplified in 2019 to include just three engines – one diesel and two petrols. The former, badged D180, is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 178bhp and a choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive layouts.
Both petrol options are four-cylinder units, badged P250 and P300 respectively. The P250 has 247bhp and the P300 boasts 296bhp; the former gets rear-wheel drive and the latter has four-wheel drive. All Jaguar XE models come with a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The P300 is the fastest model in the range, with a 0-62mph time of just 5.7 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph. The P250 manages the same sprint in 6.5 seconds with the same top speed, while the D180 manages an 8.4-second 0-62mph time in four-wheel drive guise or 8.1-seconds with rear-wheel drive. The four-wheel drive version has a 132mph top speed and the rear-drive car manages 140mph.
When compared directly to equivalent BMW 3 Series models, the XE trails slightly in performance terms – but not by a huge amount.
In this review
- 1Jaguar XE reviewThe Jaguar XE is a small saloon that delivers a fine balance between performance, efficiency and luxury
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingGreat to drive yet very comfortable, and despite a narrow engine choice overall there should be something for everyone here
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsOverall the XE is a very cost-effective executive saloon to buy and run
- 4Interior, design and technologyWith smart looks inside and out, and one of the best multimedia systems out there – the XE is designed for the cutting edge driver
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceGreat ride quality is tempered by a cabin that lacks space compared to rivals, and the boot has a similar issue
- 6Reliability and SafetyFive stars from Euro NCAP and plenty of standard safety features make the XE safe, though reliability is currently unproven