The Jaguar XE is a compact executive sedan that was first shown to the world at the 2014 Paris Motor Show before arriving in Australia in September 2015. It marked a turning point for the reinvigorated British marque as it now dared to enter a space more competitive than any they have recently attempted.
After sharpening their teeth with the XF and XJ, their entry-level sedan would also be their most important new model, and should Jaguar not gain ground here against the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, they sure didn’t want it to be the car’s fault. And if it was a commercial success in addition to a critical one, the Jaguar brand would be taken to new heights.
Put simply, it’s important to Jaguar that he XE sell in volume - more so than their other offerings - for them to be able to really find their feet as a profitable and mainstream premium automaker.
So, does the XE represent how far Jaguar has progressed under their new Indian benefactors? And, more importantly, can they challenge the German luxury saloon establishment with their first in-earnest contender out the gate, first time around? They’re coming up against decades of iterative refinement, after all.
The XE comes to Australia as either the luxury-focused Prestige, Portfolio, or sportier R-Sport, or range-topping S variants. Corresponding to the four grades are four engine choices which we’ll get into soon.
“The XE’s shape is so right that if Sir William Lyons was still us today he would give it a huge nod of approval.” - CarsGuide
There’s no denying that the XE looks like a smaller version its larger sibling, the XF, which is no bad thing. Jaguar clearly wanted there to be a strong sense of visual cohesion among their cars, though some argue that a more distinct character would have better.
Still, with its sculpted bonnet, strong shoulders, coupe-like profile, and sporty stance, the XE does strike a good balance, if safe, balance between looking dynamic while warding off the superfluous design touches that might have ruined a clean and purposeful basic shape, one that also happens to be very aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of just 0.28.
The XE S in particular owes a lot to this restraint. Kitted out with the body kit, large wheels, and lowered suspension, Jaguar had to do little else to make the car appear as fast and as capable as it is without succumbing to gaudy inclusions.
Up front is where the car impresses most, though. The wide grille, squinty headlamps, and large side inlets project the Jaguar corporate face and is reminiscent of the F-Type. The rear, in contrast, is a lot more conservative but it doesn’t detract from the car’s positive overall design scorecard.
The XE shares its iQ modular underpinnings with the newly updated XF saloon and F-Pace SUV. As such, there’s a lot of aluminium used in its construction to reduce weight, foster a lower centre of gravity, aid it to achieve a 50:50 weight distribution, while also being more efficient with fuel.
Engine and Drivetrain
“…the XE’s dynamic prowess becomes more significant the further up the engine range you go,” - AutoExpress
For all grades save for the red-hot S, all XEs can be had with a choice of 2.0-litre engines, kicking off with the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol that produces 147kW and 320Nm. A more powerful version of this extracts 177kW and 340Nm. Jaguar claims a combined consumption figure of 7.5-litres/100km for both.
Meanwhile, the sole diesel engine also displaces 2.0-litres over four-cylinders, but outputs 132kW while torque increases to a substantial 430Nm. It’s part of JLR’s new Ingenium range, touted for their power and impressive fuel efficiency that's stated to be up to 4.2-litres/100km. Only the base Prestige and sportier R-Sport grades get all three engine options. The mid-range luxury-minded Portfolio, though, can only be had with the 177kW petrol.
Lastly, the range-topping XE S is offered exclusively with the same raspy 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine that powers the F-Type sports car. It’s as sonorous here as it is there and produces 250kW and 450Nm.
It’s not a proper rival to the M3 or full AMG C63, to be sure, but can easily compete with the Audi S4 and V6-powered Benz C43 AMG. There’s more performance potential within that 3.0-litre unit, though, and should Jaguar choose to access it, will give other fast saloons a run for their money.
All engines are mated to an 8-speed torque converter automatic sourced from German transmission specialists ZF. It’s the same unit used in the 3 Series (among others) and renowned for its smooth operation, fast shifts, and uncanny ability to predict the right gear based on the situation.
“The XE's cabin takes a different approach to key rivals by ensconcing drivers in a cockpit that shrinks around them, bringing key controls neatly to hand.” - Drive.com.au
Arguably, this is the area that could make or break the XE when placed squarely against its main rivals. After all, fit and finish, high quality materials, intuitive ergonomics, space and packaging, and even style are all prime markers of a true prestige automobile and are often the hardest dark art to perfect at a large scale.
The XE’s cabin, naturally, has been furnished with leather and aluminium, interspersed with soft-touch plastics where necessary. It feels plush and expensive, even naturally sporty, befitting a car of this calibre, with the control surfaces angled ever so slightly and raised toward the driver.
Rear passengers will find themselves in for a bit of a squeeze. Legroom is par for the course, especially given its rear-wheel drive layout, but that lowered roofline does inhibit headroom for taller occupants. Those in the middle seat will have to also contend with a sizeable transmission tunnel hump as well.
It’s boot measures 455-litres, which is large enough for most needs but is noticeably less than the Audi A4 which leads the pack in this regard with close to 50-litres more space with the seats folded up.
Jaguar also still has some issues with multi-material finish that can’t quite match the Germans yet. This isn’t a glaring deficiency and should improve over time. However, overall it does lack the luxury wow-factor that the C-Class and the modern sophistication of an Audi. Instead, it adopts a more conservative and functional approach that’s more closely follows BMWs tested philosophy.
What they did get very right, though, is the driving position. Jaguar’s expertise as a sports car maker is evident when you’re in the hot seat with its low H point, nicely judged steering and pedal placement, and supportive seats. That thick A pillar might cause forward visibility issues for some, so be aware when trying one out.
Behind The Wheel
“…the XE showed itself to be very sure-footed and well balanced. Road and wind noise are well suppressed, steering is precise and feelsome and the brakes are progressive and strong in their action.” - Practical Motoring
Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, 50:50 weight distribution - a familiar, and proven, formula for a fun car. Once you get going, it’s evident that the XE was developed with the driving experience in mind. The car feels confident at high speed and while cornering, though some have noted the level of refinement in the lower-tier variant isn't as high as you may expect, it’s still quite good.
The small Jag’s on-road balance is very impressive, even class leading in some respects, feeling pliant and unruffled on imperfect roads while still sharp and communicative when faced with a few good bends. This blend of dualities is only matched by the 3 Series, and here it would seem that the baby Jag edges the win by consensus. Jaguar has spent a lot of money and effort developing the XE’s integral link suspension and honing the resultant dynamics. The pay off was worth it.
Safety and Technology
“The Jaguar scored well in physical testing and offers a suite of advanced safety features you would expect in a luxury vehicle including AEB as standard,” - ANCAP
The XE scores well on the safety front too, coming with six airbags and more advanced active features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) as standard. Hence, ANCAP handed it their maximum rating of 5-stars.
There’s also a reversing camera, lane departure warning system, and blind spot monitoring included too, though you’d have to shell out extra for the radar-based adaptive cruise control. This level of awareness between the car and its surroundings is extended by the All Surface Progress Control system which plugs into the car’s stability control to manage grip levels and can also provide torque vectoring by applying the brakes to the inside front and rear wheel during cornering.
Media relayed through infotainment system, either InControl Touch (8-inch) or the InControl Touch Pro (10.2-inch) on higher-spec units, are piped through an excellent Meridian speaker and amp array. Both include satellite navigation but no support for tighter smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Besides which, the touchscreen interfaces themselves - though nicely designed - are still not as intuitive or responsive as equivalents from closest rivals.
There’s certainly a lot riding on the XE, in fact saying the short term fate of the Jaguar brand hinges on how well it can deliver on this volume luxury seller. Thankfully, and quite impressively, the British marque pretty much set out what it intended to do.
What we have here is a car that - on its first outing no less - manages to sustain a fight against the dominative hold that the German competition exerts on this part of the market. It’s as good if slightly more fun to drive than the BMW 3 Series, a car they benchmarked against constantly, which is where everyone expected the Jag to excel.
On the finer points, though, the more extensive reference experience other automakers such as Mercedes-Benz or Audi have in terms of packaging, design, and raw luxury is evident and more often than not the XE struggles on those fronts.
Still, it’s comfortable, looks good, drive’s great, and offers a range of impressive engines. The XE is still the wild card, but one that buyers shouldn’t be afraid to explore seriously.
CarAdvice - 8.5/10 - “The right badge, the dynamic driving position and hugely accomplished road manners tick the boxes. For a car pitched as the dynamic benchmark, it delivers in spades. In that sense, it’s mission accomplished.”
CarsGuide - 3.5/5 - “Jaguar XE seems highly likely to steal plenty of sales from the big three German marques, as well as the Japanese Lexus.”
Drive.com.au - 7/10 - “It’s not as complete as some of its rivals - particularly on the inside - but it does represent the best Jaguar sedan in years, one worthy of consideration alongside the best executive saloons on the road.”
AutoExpress - 5/5 - “Make a list of the pros and cons of the Jaguar XE and, frankly, you don’t end up thinking it’s a five-star car. But an objective assessment can’t get across just how good Jaguar’s junior executive saloon feels: subjectively, it’s quite brilliant.”
WhatCar - 4/5 - “There are more spacious executive saloons, but none handles as sweetly as the Jaguar XE. It’s a fine choice”