- Extremely comfortable motorway cruiser
- Particularly engaging and enjoyable through the bends
- Makes for an excellent company car
- Attractive appearance but not exactly game-changing
- There’s no rear windscreen wiper
- The front screen de-mister is a bit all-or-nothing
Jaguar remained absent from the small saloon market for far too long, realistically. While BMW, Mercedes and Audi were left to fight over the market, the smallest Jaguar was the XF, which isn’t small at all, really. Now, Jaguar wants to enter this fiercely competitive segment at a time when the alternatives are at their strongest. Have they bitten off more than they can chew? No. Not at all. There’s plenty to adore about this new XE and sufficient reason to believe it can convert the most loyal of 3 Series, C Class and A4 owners.
On The Road
The diesel range begins with a 160 horsepower entry-level engine which offers acceptable performance with plenty of torque, followed by a more potent 180 horsepower diesel model which is more than most company drivers will realistically need and plenty of power for long motorway journeys. Looking at the petrol engines, they’re all pokey and will be a joy to own (although significantly more costly) but it’s the XE S that steals the headlines. This 3.0-litre petrol unit has a V6 engine which throws down a massive 375 horsepower, which is good for a 0-60 mph time of just 5 seconds.
Out of all the junior saloons that the XE competes with, only the 3 Series and C Class are comparable in terms of performance due to the fact they are rear wheel drive, and out of those 2 only the 3 Series is a real joy to take on nice twisty roads as the C Class is perhaps a bit too luxurious and dampened. Happily, we can say that the XE is as good as the BMW. It would be too brave a statement to say it is better because the 3 Series is marvellous, but the XE is just as good. The steering wheel isn’t weightless to the point where it feels disconnected, but it isn’t too heavy either. In fact, it strikes a rather good balance whereby there is enough feedback to precisely navigate turns confidently at a good pace, but at the same time, you don’t feel every cat’s eye through your fingertips when changing lanes on the motorway. The ride is also reasonably well cushioned. Potholes do tend to wake you up quite a bit but this isn’t an SUV and you’ll find that quirk with all junior saloons. Jaguar clearly had motorway drivers in mind when they set up the suspension for the XE and they did a good job of making sure long distances can be covered without much fuss.
Arguably the biggest selling point of the XE has to be the impeccable fit and finish of the interior components. Everything is just so well screwed together that there is no unwelcomed rattles, no irritating vibrations and nothing lose. Even the buttons to change the temperature are pressed with satisfying ‘click’. This is a real testament to the hard work put in by the production team at Jaguar Land Rover in Solihull, where the XE is built.
In The Car
Perched behind the wheel you are greeted by a medium-sized black leather steering wheel emblazoned with the famous big cat. Through the wheel, you’ll see two dials which are dissected by a mid-resolution screen which can offer various information, such as your economy figures, the route for your Sat-Nav and also the speed limit, which it does a good job of recognising from road signs. The whole dashboard is covered in a pleasing to touch leather while the centre console and central touchscreen are surrounded by a gloss veneer. One quirk might be that the touchscreen isn’t quite up to par with the rest of the competition, however, most functionality can be controlled via the wheel-mounted buttons anyway, but it is an issue nonetheless. Two little details I really enjoyed: the start/stop button pulses at the resting rate of a Jaguars actual heartbeat, and when you flick into ‘Sport’ mode, the dials and lighting turn red… because red means fast.
Up front, you’ll have absolutely zero complaints. Loads of legroom, loads of headroom, extremely comfortable and adjustable seats and it’s just a pleasure to drive or ride shotgun in. The back, however, can be troublesome for carrying 3 adults. The middle seat isn’t particularly wide and the transmission trouble eats into the legroom, which isn’t marvellous by any stretch. It’s not awful, but it’s not great. There are 450 litres of room in the boot which is about 30 litres less than the 3 Series and Audi A4 but it’s big enough for a pair of golf bags and the opening is of a reasonable and practical shape. Thanks to the XE being made of an aluminium shell, there is no removable parcel shelf as it is structurally integral.
The XE has been purpose-built as a company car, so they have shoehorned the engines to behave and perform in a certain way and succeeded. The entry-level diesel only emits 99 g/km of CO2, so used models under the previous tax rate are VED-free, and Jaguar claims that this 2.0 litre unit can return up to 75 mpg, which it probably can do on a motorway run, but through regular driving around town and on the highways I averaged a pretty solid 50 mpg. The more powerful 180 bhp diesel has that little bit more power, naturally at the cost of fuel efficiency, but it’s still good for up to 65 mpg. For the more excitable customers, Jaguar has introduced an XE 300 model, with 300 horsepower from a highly-strung 4 cylinder petrol engine, but in this model, your mpg will drop to a maximum of 37 mpg… Emphasis on ‘maximum’.
As mentioned earlier, the quality of the XE is superb, both inside and out. The fit and finish are right up there with the best cars on the market and the material selection is delightful. Regarding reliability, Jaguar as a brand isn’t exactly synonymous with bullet-proof vehicles but it does look like significant improvements are being made. Naturally, the XE comes with a 3 year, unlimited warranty and 3 years of roadside assistance across the whole of Europe.
You get plenty of safety kit with the XE as standard. Lane departure warnings will send a subtle vibration through the steering wheel when you’re peering over the lane divides without indicating and every car also comes with automatic emergency braking to prevent or reduce the impact of collisions. Perhaps one of the most usable safety features is the road sign recognition system which scans the road ahead and displays the speed limit on your dashboard, just to prevent any uncertainties. The XE scored a solid 5 stars on the Euro NCAP safety testing, where it outscored the Audi A4 in every single category except for child occupant safety.