- Brilliant chassis
- Very appealing styling outside and in
- Great engines
- Space could be a bit too tight for some
- It’s an unknown quantity in the marketplace
- Boot is a bit shallow
Jaguar has been waiting a generation to launch this car: finally, the firm’s BMW 3 Series rival is here. There’s long been a desire for a baby Jag but the firm’s previous effort, the X-Type, failed to hit the spot and scared the firm away from this sector in the late noughties. Now, after spending billions to design a new architecture, a new engine and a new factory in which to build it all, Jaguar is back in the compact executive class: enter the XE.
It’s a good-looking car, that’s for sure. Don’t be fooled by the very ‘Jaguar’ feel at first glance, for this is a uniquely proportioned machine that’s much less three-box saloon and much more four-door coupe than its rivals. It’s certainly going to stand out amongst the Audi A4s, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class on the road. It’ll stand out even more if it’s better than them to drive – so, is it?
On The Road
Jaguar launches the lightweight, aluminium-intensive XE with a focused range of engines; two 2.0-litre turbo petrols, two types of 2.0-litre turbodiesel and a 3.0-litre supercharged V6. The volume seller will be the diesel, offered in 163hp and 180hp guise; called Ingenium, it’s a brand new design that will be used in most Jaguars and Land Rovers in coming years.
It’s a great engine, with front-running smoothness and refinement that’s a real achievement. JLR had developed this engine from scratch and it’s right up there in terms of performance and power delivery; other than a little grumbling at tickover, it revs with sweetness and linearity.
The 2.0-litre turbo petrol impresses too, though. We were surprised at how pleasing the 240hp unit was to drive, with lots of low-down pull and a really broad spread of power. It’s ultra-smooth, refined and delivers real driver-pleasing surge; it’s a result, given how this engine offered in entry-level 200hp guise for £26,990…
The star of the range is the 3.0-litre supercharged V6. Producing 340hp, this engine is taken straight from the F-Type sportscar and sounds almost as delightful – again, it’s totally smooth and beautifully harmonious, with a real treat of a warble at high revs. It’s quick against the clock, dispatching 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, and feels just as rapid on the move thanks to the instant supercharger response. It’s an absolute blast to drive.
Jaguar offers two gearboxes, either a mechanical-feeling six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic. The latter is, predictably, brilliant, particularly if you use the F-Type steering wheel paddles. The pop-up rotary shift knob is cool, too.
The Jaguar XE is a class act here. Being a Jaguar, ride quality was a priority for the engineers, and they’ve truly delivered. The car is supple and absorbent on all surfaces, with exemplary body control and barely a trace of harshness, joggle or bumpiness. It’s a quiet ride too and, in contrast with its BMW 3 Series arch rival, the more easygoing spring rates make it feel pliant and settled on undulating roads.
Don’t think Jaguar has traded handling ability for this, though. The XE is just as tenacious as the BMW, with eye-opening agility, response, steering feedback and balance. It’s a real treat to drive quickly, with the rear-drive chassis working with the driver rather like the 3 Series’ does, serving up a great deal of grin-inducing pleasure.
Grip is strong, you can get on the power early to balance the car beautifully in corners (the powerful V6 is particularly satisfying here) and it seems the more you put in, the more the XE delivers. To cap it all, the steering is fantastic; this is Jaguar’s first-ever electric EPAS setup but, from the on-centre positivity and natural, confident weighting, you’d never believe it.
The XE is a refined car, with its engines playing a big part in this. The diesel in particular is impressive, fading into the background at speed and revving nicely as you’re gathering speed – there are some noisy and rather clattery engines in this sector, but the XE diesel isn’t one of them.
The turbo petrol is, as mentioned, very hushed and distant indeed. The V6 is a little more vocal, but it’s absolutely the right kind of noise – all harmony, crisp bark and a high-tech hum that feels modern and very sophisticated.
The rest of the XE is quiet too, particularly the rolling refinement from the ride – it ‘sound’ premium and luxurious when in motion. There’s a trace of wind noise at speed, but this may be because the rest of it is so quiet. Option up the brilliant Meridian premium stereo and you’ll overcome that easily enough…
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
You sit low in the XE, on firm and shapely seats, which makes it clear this is a focused car from the off. The dashboard wraps around you and a high centre console further enhances the cocooned feel. With a steering wheel and dial pack taken straight from the F-Type, it feels very purposeful.
Quality is high, with impressive fit and finish. It’s a match for the 3 Series here, and we love features such as the metal-look trim on the centre console, the beautifully crafted metal air vent surrounds and the fantastic mood lighting at night. Double-stitched dash trim is another premium touch.
It’s all capped off by a thoroughly modern infotainment system that’s a huge step on from older Jaguar units. With up-to-date graphics, a fast-acting processor and loads of functionality, Jaguar need no longer be embarrassed about its previous-era navigation. Even better, the touchscreen system is standard on most model grades.
Space & Practicality
The XE has a coupe-like roofline that makes you wonder just how roomy it is in the back. Don’t worry: adults can get in without scrunching up their legs and folding their necks in two. It’s not swimming in space, but there’s enough room there for four business execs to travel between meetings, and to take the businessman’s family out at weekends.
The boot is long but a bit shallow; there are others in this class that offer more space. It’s wide though, so you’ll be able to work around it, and the seatbacks fold down to further extend it. Elsewhere, the cabin could do with a bit more stowage space to fully serve modern multi-device owners: there’s a central cubby and stowage areas, but the door bins are a bit thin and the glovebox is small.
Jaguar promises some of the lowest running costs in the sector. Fuel economy is excellent, with the diesel averaging up to 72mpg (even the volume 180hp unit can do 69mpg) and CO2 levels are correspondingly low too. It’s also competitive on insurance with entry-level models coming in at just 22E.
Service intervals are lengthy – two years or over 20,000 miles – and early indications are that retained values will top the class. All of which adds up to low whole life costs and, we’re sure, very competitive leasing and PCP costs.
Quality & Reliability
It’s too early to make a call on reliability, other than say Jaguar’s been working on this car for five years and won’t have cut any corners during development that could affect potential reliability. The architecture – it’s 75 per cent aluminium – is all-new and will be used on other Jaguars too, so there’s been an extra layer of development here too.
Fit and finish of the launch cars was very good indeed. The interior surfaces are high quality, paint finish lustrous and there’s a really strong feeling of solidity to the XE. The integrity of the chassis helps here: fire it down a rough, gritty road and the car feels and sounds tough and solid. It feels like a quality product.
Safety & Security
All Jaguar XE have autonomous emergency braking as standard, which slams on the anchors if the driver misses an obstacle in front at slower speeds. There’s radar-assisted cruise control available too, plus a suite of other safety gadgets that should help it get a good score in Euro NCAP crash testing. Jaguar, we’re sure, is hoping for a full five-star result.
Simply through being such a new and thoroughly developed car, security should be good and the keyless-go system is backed up by InControl Remote apps that warn owners if the car’s been disturbed via smartphone. They can even check if it’s locked and, if it’s not, use the smartphone app to secure it. Clever stuff.