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When the first gen model of the Jaguar XE compact sedan appeared back in 2015, it instantly won praise as the best handling car in its class, beating established rivals like the BMW 3 Series for driver satisfaction.
The trouble was that its German rivals did other things that bit better, most notably when it came to the interior and infotainment tech, which many buyers prioritised more than what Jag’s engineers had done to get the handling on point.
Jaguar’s taken this on board with the new XE for 2020 and while the silhouette may look the same, there’s been sweeping changes inside and out.
Let’s start with the design. Jaguar possibly played it a touch to safe with the original XE (and let’s not talk about the dowdy X-Type the proceed it), but the 2020 XE looks much sharper. Interestingly, the overall design hasn’t altered that much, but there’s an array of little tweaks to the design that all go to make it the best looking compact sedan going. These refinements include thinner LED lights front and back that really sharpen up the look, while there’s also a sportier front bumper design.
On the road
Jaguar XE review: On the road
- Choice of only two petrol engines in the US
- Both fun to drive and comfortable
- Incredibly smooth and settled on the highway
The US gets the choice of two 2.0-liter petrol engines - the 247bhp P250 and the 296bhp P300, with the P250 available as rear or all-wheel drive (AWD) variants, while the P300 is all-wheel drive only. Outside of the US as well as the two petrol engines, there's also the option of a more frugal 177bhp D180 diesel if fuel economy is your many concern.
It’s a pretty limiting set of engines and it's a shame not to see a smoother six-cylinder option in the mix as well, but the P250 rear wheel drive model we tested was punchy enough, with a 0-60mph time of 6.2 seconds.
If you can get past the restrictive engine choice you’ll be rewarded with a car that’s both fun to drive and comfortable. We tested an R-Dynamic spec XE on 19-inch alloys and the steering was sharp and precise, while there’s plenty of grip as well. All XEs now come with an automatic gearbox, but the sharp responsiveness of the aluminum paddles behind the steering wheel will see you regularly select the XE's manual mode. This is an executive sedan that will encourage you to find that windy route home. That’s not to say that it’s not suited to covering plenty of miles, being incredibly smooth and settled on the highway, with engine noise hardly noticeable.
Overall, Jaguar’s engineers have done a really impressive job to get the balance just right with the XE - something rivals from Germany can’t quite match.
Interior quality and features
Jaguar XE review: Interior quality and features
- Quality impresses
- Arrival of Touch Pro Duo adds some slick tech
- Nicely designed cabin
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power output: 247bhp
Max speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
Fuel economy: 36.2mpg
As we touched on, one area that the first-gen XE came up a little short against its rivals was the interior. That’s changed with the 2020 XE, with a much smarter and more tech-focused cabin.
As far as quality goes it’s not quite up to Audi’s brilliant standards, but it’s nonetheless very good. Not only looking fresh and modern (even entry-level trims get slick ambient lighting), the quality impresses, with plenty of soft touch materials used throughout the cabin.
The driving position is excellent (12-way electric front seats are standard, with our HSE R-Dynamic spec XE coming with 16-way electric driver memory front seats as an option) and should you wish, it’s possible to get the seat nice and low. This, along with the gear lever borrowed from Jaguar’s F-Type sports car all adds to the overall sense of sportiness from the XE’s driving seat.
The other big change is the arrival of Jaguar’s Touch Pro Duo infotainment system that we’ve already seen on the likes of the Range Rover Evoque. A vast improvement on the old dash design, it looks very slick and has meant that Jaguar’s designers have been able to keep physical buttons down to a bare minimum.
This sees a razor-sharp 10-inch touchscreen display in the centre of the dash that’s your portal to the XE’s sat nav, stereo and phone connectivity (both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on versions of the XE), which is complemented by a smaller display below for the XE’s climate controls, seat settings, driving modes and more. Unlike some rivals that require some relatively fiddly touchscreen inputs to change the temperature, the XE’s display has two floating controls that makes it easy to tweak the climate on the move.
To supplement the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system is a 12.3-inch interactive driver display available as an option. This sees the XE do away with physical dials on the dash and instead offer a digital display with four configurable modes. There's also the option to have a head-up display should you wish as well.
Along with front and rear parking sensors, the XE also gets a rear parking camera. Opt for the Park Pack and there's also a handy 360-degree camera to make maneuvering that bit easier in tight spaces. If that's still not enough, there's also some clever piece of optional tech called ClearSight. This sees a live video feed of what’s going on behind the car broadcast onto the rearview mirror and is activated at the flick of a switch.
Passenger and trunk space
Jaguar XE review: Passenger and trunk space
- Good space up front
- Rear lacks head and legroom
- Trunk space behind rivals
Upfront and there's a decent amount of space in the XE. Thanks to the low driving position, you'll feel nicely cocooned and even for tall people there should be ample space to get comfortable.
It isn't quite as good news in the back though. The elegant sloping roofline means that rear headroom is compromised, and with pretty restricted legroom, especially if you're sat behind a tall driver, it's going to be pretty cramped for adults. Kids will fair much better though, while there's the usual ISOFIX child seat fittings as well.
Trunk space is good, though not class-leading at 14.5 cubic feet, while key rivals like the BMW enjoy almost 17 cubic feet. Folding seats aren't standard either, with 40:20:40 folding rear seats an optional extra.
Jaguar XE review: Safety features
- 5 star Euro NCAP rating
- Plenty of safety tech as standard
- Blindspot monitoring a useful option
Prices start at $39,900 / £33,915 for the entry-level 'S' trim, with the R-Dynamic model starting at $46,295 / £35,505.
The Jaguar XE is yet to be tested by the US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but it has been tested by the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) that sees it score a full five stars. The XE comes with six airbags, traction control and stability control as standard.
Also as standard across the range is automatic emergency braking (AEB), pedestrian contact sensing, cruise control with a speed limiter and lane-keep assist (which helps gently steer the car to keep it within the confines of the white lines on the highway). There's also a driver condition monitor to make sure you're still alert on those long drives.
There's also blind spot monitoring that can be selected from the options list, which as the name suggests, will warn you of approach traffic from behind. A useful feature to have if you do a lot of driving on the highway.
Jaguar XE review: Verdict
Slick styling, great handling, comfy ride and a much improved interior make the XE a highly desirable mid-size sedan. It's by no means perfect, but if you're looking for something to stand out from the crowd, then look no further than the Jaguar XE.
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