First Drive: Jaguar’s revised XE arrives to take the fight to the competition

What is it?

Jaguar XE
The XE feels beautifully composed in the bends

Jaguar’s XE has always had a tough time. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class has always kept it on its toes, while newcomers such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia hasn’t made its life any easier. Despite a great driving experience, the plucky Jag has usually fallen ever-so-slightly short of those it goes up against.

But Jaguar isn’t accepting defeat, oh no. It has revised the XE, addressing some key issues in the process while implementing some cleaner, more refined engines. The question is, are the changes enough to push the XE up and above its rivals? We’ve been finding out.

What’s new?

Jaguar XE
Even larger wheels don’t impact XE’s ride quality

On the face of it, this update appears to be particularly mild. Jaguar’s styling of the XE has always been one of the car’s positives, so you can understand why it’s largely been left alone. Sure, the lights have been sharpened at both the front and rear, but this is still instantly recognisable as Jag’s smallest saloon.

No, the bulk of the changes have been made underneath and inside. The old V6 available on the older XE has gone and instead, there are just 2.0-litre petrol and diesel options with mild-hybrid assistance – we’re testing one of the latter here. But the most comprehensive changes come when you step into the cabin, where you’ll find more screens than before alongside an abundance of high-end materials. It’s looking promising, that’s for sure.

What’s under the bonnet?

Jaguar XE
The XE has a huge amount of balance to its chassis

Our D200-badged car made use of a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine kicking out 201bhp and 430Nm of torque, sending drive to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox – there’s no manual option here. It’ll power the XE from 0-60mph in a whisker under seven seconds before marching onwards to 146mph flat out. More than respectable for a car of this type, then.

A new mild-hybrid system helps to drive down emissions, recuperating energy usually lost when slowing down or braking to aid with acceleration and clean up the engine further. You could see up to 58.5mpg, in fact, while CO2 emissions stand between 127-142g/km, depending on wheel size. They’re on-par figures for the segment and should help the XE to stand in good stead when it comes to company car drivers, too.

What’s it like to drive?

The XE always had a sparkling approach to driving dynamics so it’s pleasing to find this retained. There are few in the segment which drive with such verve and sharpness, so we really didn’t need a lot of convincing for this new version.

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The steering is brilliantly weighted while the general balance of the car is excellent. This is then backed by real refinement, ensuring that the XE is just as comfortable at a cruise as it is charging down country lanes. The ride is good too, despite our car’s optional 19-inch wheels.

The eight-speed automatic is quick-witted and changes right when you want it and, though our test car wasn’t fitted with gearshift paddles, the ‘box is so good that you needn’t worry about a lack of ability to swap cogs yourself. The engine, though a little gravelly under hard acceleration, is punchy and smooth. In short, the XE is a car you can enjoy driving.

How does it look?

Jaguar XE
The rear-end styling of the XE has also been sharpened


Even a short spell with the XE allows you to drink in its variety of styling touches. Sure, the older car was no ugly duckling, but this latest car has evolved to become even prettier than before – to our eyes at least. Though it’s a shame about a lack of estate variant, this saloon does a good job of standing out from the crowd with its sharp headlights and intricate rear lights.

Plus, because the XE rides perfectly well on larger wheels, you’re free to specify the bigger alloys – which do help to give the car a load more presence – without fear of turning into some four-wheeled spine-shatterer.

What’s it like inside?

Jaguar XE
The interior of the XE has taken a real turn upmarket


For starters, the seating position that you get in the XE is excellent. You can sit low in the car while the steering wheel offers plenty of adjustment, so from the off you’ve got a way of getting comfy.

The major controls are logically laid out and there’s good visibility both forwards and back, too – the latter of which is helped no end by the inclusion of JLR’s ‘clearsight’ rear-view mirror on our test car. We first saw it in the Evoque; relayed via a screen mounted in the rear-view mirror it displays a crystal clear view thanks to a camera placed on the roof. It can take a little getting used to but it’s handy – and you’re able to switch to a conventional mirror should you want to.

What’s the spec like?

Jaguar XE
The large central touchscreen is great to look at and easy to use too


Our test car came in ‘S’ specification and, being priced from £30,205, offers decent value for money. The most impressive inclusion is Jaguar’s new Pivi Pro system, which completely transforms the way you interact with the media functions that the car has to offer. It’s night-and-day better than the one on the older XE and ensures that this latest car is on track with rivals.

You also get a 3D surround parking camera, two-zone climate control and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You’re not going to be left wanting for buttons to press.

Verdict

Jaguar’s previous XE felt like it was mere inches away from greatness. It had the driving style, the looks and the value on its side, but lacked that little bit of sparkle from helping it rise to the top. This latest model has firmly addressed these shortcomings, with an interior which is better than even and on-road mannerisms which would never fail to impress.

So while its predecessor might’ve fallen foul of its German rivals, this new XE is definitely one to consider – it’s very good indeed.

  • Model: Jaguar XE

  • Base price: £30,205

  • Model as tested: XE D200 S RWD

  • Price: £36,215

  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel with mild-hybrid assistance

  • Power: 201bhp

  • Torque: 430Nm

  • Max speed: 146mph

  • 0-60mph: 6.9 seconds

  • MPG: 58.5-52.3

  • Emissions: 127-142g/km CO2