Jaguar XE review

Category: Executive car

Great to drive and well equipped, but rivals have it licked for interior quality and practicality

Jaguar XE 2021 front cornering
  • Jaguar XE 2021 front cornering
  • Jaguar XE 2021 rear cornering
  • Jaguar XE 2021 interior dashboard
  • Jaguar XE 2019 RHD rear seats
  • Jaguar XE 2019 RHD infotainment
  • Jaguar XE 2021 rear tracking
  • Jaguar XE 2021 rear right tracking
  • Jaguar XE 2021 front left tracking
  • Jaguar XE 2021 rear light detail
  • Jaguar XE 2021 alloy wheel
  • Jaguar XE 2019 RHD front seats
  • Jaguar XE 2021 interior front seat
  • Jaguar XE 2021 interior detail
  • Jaguar XE 2019 RHD boot open
  • Jaguar XE 2021 front cornering
  • Jaguar XE 2021 rear cornering
  • Jaguar XE 2021 interior dashboard
  • Jaguar XE 2019 RHD rear seats
  • Jaguar XE 2019 RHD infotainment
  • Jaguar XE 2021 rear tracking
  • Jaguar XE 2021 rear right tracking
  • Jaguar XE 2021 front left tracking
  • Jaguar XE 2021 rear light detail
  • Jaguar XE 2021 alloy wheel
  • Jaguar XE 2019 RHD front seats
  • Jaguar XE 2021 interior front seat
  • Jaguar XE 2021 interior detail
  • Jaguar XE 2019 RHD boot open
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Introduction

What Car? says...

Certain countries have a well-known association with a product. There’s tea from China, tulips from The Netherlands – and executive cars from Germany. So where does that leave the (Great British) Jaguar XE?

It's the brand’s answer to the dominant Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class trio, and was designed from the ground up to beat those highly competent executive saloons at their own game.

On the surface, it looks suitably crisp and modern, banishing memories of the rather undistinguished Jaguar X-Type that preceded it. The news is similarly encouraging under the skin, where you find a lightweight aluminium chassis designed to improve its handling while minimising CO2 emissions.

As with its German rivals, the XE is available with petrol or diesel power, and four-wheel drive is available in case you’re more concerned about treacherous roads than cutting your company car tax bill.

In earlier versions, the interior quality and infotainment system failed to impress, but Jaguar used a mid-life facelift to focus on improving those areas, as well as adding value elsewhere.

The question is, then: does the Jaguar XE cut the executive car mustard cleanly enough to stop you splashing your hard-earned cash on an Audi, BMW or Mercedes? Over the next few pages of this review, we'll tell you everything you need to know – from what it’s like to drive and how practical it is, to how much it will cost you to buy and run.

If you do decide it's the car for you, remember we can help you find a great saving off the list price with no need for any awkward haggling. Just use our free What Car? New Car Deals service, which has discounts on nearly every new make and model of vehicle, including lots of new executive car deals.

Overview

The XE has a lot of strengths. It is great fun to drive, comfortable, really well equipped and should hold onto its value well. On top of that, it’s very cheap next to its premium rivals, so whether you’re a private buyer looking to save cash or a company driver looking for reasonable tax payments, that also makes it well worth a look. The Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series have it licked for interior quality and practicality, though, but if you go for the D200 diesel in entry-level S trim you'll bag yourself a relative bargain.

  • Agile, enjoyable handling
  • Well priced and well equipped
  • Comfortable ride
  • Tight for rear-seat and boot space
  • Interior could be classier
  • So-so reliability record
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

There isn't currently a company car tax-beating plug-in hybrid Jaguar XE to rival versions of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class. As a result, company car drivers are best off going for the 201bhp, 2.0-litre mild hybrid D200 diesel – and that's no hardship, because it's good. It picks up well from 1500rpm and, flat out, serves up 0-62mph in a respectable 7.3sec, making it quicker than the Audi A4 35 TDI but about half a second shy of the BMW 320d.

Your other options for the XE are a pair of turbocharged 2.0-litre petrols. Both need to be revved harder than the diesel because their power is generated higher up the rev range, but the 247bhp P250 is punchy enough with 0-62mph in 6.7sec. That makes the extra verve of the 296bhp P300 nice but not essential – unless you want four-wheel drive, which comes as standard, or must have the quickest XE currently on sale. 

Jaguar XE image
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All the engines are fitted with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that’s reasonably responsive but not as sharp on kickdown as the Audi A4's auto 'boxes.

Suspension and ride comfort

The XE is a really comfortable car with the standard suspension settings you get with S trim. The ride is well-controlled but supple enough to take the sting out of potholes in town and wonderfully settled on motorways. You can add adaptive suspension (called Adaptive Dynamics) but the standard set-up is so good that we'd save the money.

The adaptive set-up is worth considering if you opt for R-Dynamic trim. That's because R-Dynamic comes with stiffer suspension that is a bit more jarring, although not to the same extent as the BMW 3 Series in M Sport spec. As with most cars, adding bigger alloy wheels will make the ride lumpier.

Jaguar XE 2021 rear cornering

Handling

If you're looking for a sporty executive car, the XE is right up at the top of the tree with the 3 Series. It handles superbly, darting into bends satisfyingly and staying flat and composed through all manner of twists and turns.

It also grips well, and the steering on versions with rear-wheel drive is sharp and precise. The four-wheel drive P300's steering doesn't weight up quite as consistently but it's still sharper than the A4's, and the extra traction is a big plus on slippery surfaces.

The lower and stiffer suspension on R-Dynamic models provides the best agility, but we still favour the well-struck ride and handling balance that comes with the standard set-up.

Noise and vibration

The XE's D200 diesel has a mild hybrid system for boosting efficiency, and a welcome by-product of that is its very gentle stop-start system. The D200 is quiet at a steady 70mph and smooth under hard acceleration (it’s certainly no rougher or noisier than the equivalent BMW 320d or Mercedes C220d). If you want a diesel, only the Audi A4 35 and 40 TDI are less vocal.

The petrol P250 and P300 don't have the mild hybrid tech so they're a bit lumpier as they stop and start in traffic. Otherwise, they’re quiet but don't sound as sweet as the six-cylinder BMW M340i does. The eight-speed automatic gearbox, fitted to all XEs, is generally smooth but there are occasions when you can feel the gear changes more than you would in, say, a 3 Series fitted with an auto 'box. Also, it doesn't always shift into drive or reverse when you've moved the gear lever, which is annoying.  

You hear more road and wind noise in the XE than you would in the best versions of the A4 but that doesn’t mean it’s irksome at cruising speeds. The brake pedal feel is a greater, but still relatively mild, irritation – it's grabby, making it hard to draw to a smooth stop consistently.

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

The Jaguar XE's steering wheel has plenty of adjustment options, and the fact that the driver's seat is electrically adjustable in 12 directions, which includes the lumbar support, makes it easy to tweak your driving position. R-Dynamic HSE trim has 16-way adjustment and lets you save your preferred seat settings and recall them at the touch of a button.

The standard analogue dials fitted to S trim are easy to read, but the digital dials that are standard from R-Dynamic SE add more functionality. You can, for example, display the sat-nav map across the entire screen if you want. A head-up display is an optional extra.

Finally, the dashboard layout is easy to get the hang of, with clearly labelled buttons that are not too much of a stretch to reach. R-Dynamic HSE trim replaces some of the climate control buttons with a touchscreen, but it still retains physical knobs to adjust the interior temperature easily while you’re driving.  

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

The XE’s windscreen pillars are no more obstructive than those of most other rivals so visibility is reasonably good (the Audi A4 is one of the best cars in the class for front visibility). The door mirrors are a decent size too, but seeing out of the back isn’t so easy because of the fairly shallow rear window and large rear pillars. Jaguar has addressed that by including front and rear parking sensors and a 360-degree parking camera as standard.

The optional ClearSight gadget can display a live video image on the driver's rear-view mirror so you can see what's going on behind you, even with three tall rear passengers blocking your sight-line.

All XEs come with powerful LED headlights as standard for great visibility at night. They have an automatic high beam function so you don't need to worry about dazzling other drivers. Options include matrix adaptive LED headlights and a heated windscreen, which clears condensation and ice quickly.

Jaguar XE 2021 interior dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

Every XE is fitted with Jaguar’s 10.0in touchscreen Privi Pro infotainment system. It's not as good as BMW's iDrive set-up – mainly because there’s no physical interface and touchscreens can be distracting to operate while driving – but the software is responsive and the icons are a reasonable size. The menus can seem complicated at first, but you get used to them quite quickly.

As standard, the system comes with sat-nav, a DAB radio and, of course, Bluetooth. You also get Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring on all trims, plus a wi-fi hotspot.

There's a pretty decent six-speaker, 140-watt sound system on all trims except the R-Dynamic HSE trim. That comes with a 400-watt Meridian system that has 11 speakers and a subwoofer, and sounds great. An even more powerful 650-watt surround-sound version is available if you're prepared to pay more.

Quality

The current XE's interior has a nicer finish than the earlier versions. The dashboard and doors are finished mainly in soft-touch materials, with some smart gloss black surfaces and metal trim highlights added here and there to jazz it up. It's pretty solidly constructed, too.

That said, while it's good when judged against cheaper executive cars including the Skoda Superb, and even some of the premium opposition, such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia, it's not up with the best. The Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series are even plusher and feel more substantial.

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

You feel cocooned in the Jaguar XE because you're sitting low in relation to the window line, but outright space in the front is almost on a par with the BMW 3 Series. That means tall adults should be able to get comfortable and there’s enough space between the driver and a front passenger that they’re not getting in each other’s way.

The two cupholders between the front seats will handle all but the largest takeaway mugs. There’s an open storage area next to the gear selector, which is the ideal size and shape for a phone, and there’s a cubby big enough to stow bulkier items under the front armrest. The door pockets are a bit narrow, but you’ll still fit a 500ml bottle in each.

Rear space

Head room isn’t in abundance in the rear, so tall passengers may have to slouch to avoid having their heads rubbing the roof lining. If they have to sit behind someone tall in the front, leg room is quite tight too. The Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series are far roomier in the back, as are the really big cars in the class, including the VW Arteon.

To make matters worse, the rear seat squabs aren't that comfortable and anyone in the middle seat has a chunky hump in the floor to straddle. Also, the lack of width on offer means that three reasonably large adults will feel squeezed at the shoulders.

Two seatback map pockets are standard, as are two cupholders in the central armrest. The door pockets are fairly small, though.

Jaguar XE 2019 RHD rear seats

Seat folding and flexibility

The XE and most rivals, including the A4, 3 Series and C-Class, offer a 40/20/40, split-folding rear bench. That's more useful than a 60/40 spit and means you can carry passengers and a long load more easily. You fold the rear seats down using handles in the boot compartment.

The front passenger seat comes with 12-way full electric adjustment as standard, which includes lumbar adjustment.

Boot space

The XE’s boot suffers from the same problems that hinder most saloons: a narrow opening and a shallow load bay. It's not very wide, either, which will be a particular hindrance if you want to carry a big buggy or a set of golf clubs. The Arteon’s hatchback is much more practical if you need to carry bulkier items, but even rival saloons, such as the A4, 3 Series and C-Class, have more luggage space.

If you want to have a space-saver spare wheel, be prepared to sacrifice a bit more boot space. Fitting one requires the boot floor to be raised to clear the spare wheel beneath it, which robs you of valuable luggage space.

When you drop the rear seatbacks, you're still left with a narrow space to thread long items through and a big step in the floor of the extended load bay.

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The Jaguar XE smashes its premium rivals on list price. Even though the D200 is much more powerful than the entry-level Audi A4 30 TDI, it's thousands of pounds cheaper. You can have the top-spec R-Dynamic HSE and still have change left over compared with a higher-spec A4, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class. What's more, the C-Class has really poor resale values, while the XE is predicted to have some of the best in the class, as is the 3 Series. 

That's fine if you're a private buyer, but what about company car users? Well, only the RDE2-compliant D200 engine avoids the top benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax band that the petrol versions sit in. It's competitive on CO2 emissions with other diesel models, but you really should be looking at a plug-in hybrid such as the BMW 330e or Mercedes C300e if you want to massively reduce your company car tax bill. As we said earlier, you can't get a plug-in XE.

Equipment, options and extras

Even the entry-level S trim is pretty well kitted out, especially when you consider that it undercuts massively the premium competition on price. It has 18in alloy wheels, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, ambient interior lighting, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and cruise control – enough to make it our pick of the range. And don't forget, that’s on top of the infotainment package, LED headlights, powered front seats and parking aids we discussed in previous sections. 

If you do fancy a few more luxuries, R-Dynamic SE adds keyless entry and power-folding door mirrors, and it's still cheap enough that you could add the adaptive suspension (so counter its firmer sports suspension) and it'll undercut its less well-equipped premium rivals. 

The range-topping R-Dynamic HSE trim has 19in wheels, higher-quality Windsor leather seats and an adaptive cruise control system among its key attractions.

Jaguar XE 2019 RHD infotainment

Reliability

Jaguar provides a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty and three years’ European roadside assistance as standard, with the option to extend both for an extra charge.

You might indeed wish to extend them because the British brand's reliability record is not the best. It came in at 21st out of 31 manufacturers in the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey. Interestingly, that was way behind some cheaper brands, such as Skoda in fifth place, and below BMW in ninth. Audi finished in 22nd, while Mercedes was even farther down in 26th.

In the executive car category of the survey, the Jaguar XE had fewer recorded faults than the BMW 3 Series, and also beat the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class.

Safety and security

All XEs come with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning and driver drowsiness monitoring, while mid-range R-Dynamic SE trim adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic monitoring and avoidance.

The experts at Euro NCAP gave the XE a five-star overall test rating, with a better adult occupancy protection score than the A4. However, it's worth noting that was back in 2015 and the testing protocol has become a lot more stringent since then. That makes it tricky to compare with more recently tested rivals, like the 3 Series. That scored very highly in the tougher 2019 tests, so on balance, we'd rate that more highly.

As you’d expect, every XE comes with an alarm and an engine immobiliser to help fend off thieves, and you can add a vehicle tracker for an extra fee.

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At a glance
New car deals
Target Price from £33,230
or from £403pm
Swipe to see used car deals
Nearly new deals
From £29,650
RRP price range £33,230 - £43,500
Number of trims (see all)4
Number of engines (see all)3
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)diesel, petrol
MPG range across all versions 31.6 - 58.1
Available doors options 4
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £1,912 / £3,099
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £3,824 / £6,198
Available colours