Jaguar XE saloon performance
The diesel XE range kicks off with a 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel that provides acceptable, albeit rather lacklustre, performance. It has fairly long gearing that blunts its performance, so overtaking requires you to think well ahead. That said, it will still sit at low revs without labouring and is decently responsive beyond 2000rpm.
The 178bhp version is more like it, pulling more eagerly from low revs to feel usefully quicker, if not as quick as the BMW 320d or Audi A4 2.0 TDI 190. Still, it’s our pick of the XE engines. Four-wheel drive is available with it, but since the rear-wheel-drive car is cheaper and more efficient, we wouldn’t bother.
It’s a bit pricey, but if you need more pep, there’s an even higher-powered engine. This has the same 2.0-litre capacity but power has been boosted to 237bhp. With its mid-range welly plus four-wheel drive as standard, it whips you from 0-62mph in a brisk 6.1sec.
As for petrols, the entry-level 2.0-litre 197bhp unit performs well and is worth a look if you’re a private buyer who doesn’t do a high mileage. That engine is also available with 247bhp or 296bhp.
While we're yet to drive the 247bhp version, it's usefully quicker than the 197bhp engine on paper. At the top of the range is the 296bhp, which offers commute-slaying pace that will easily see off all the other XEs in a drag race. However, other range-topping petrol rivals, such as the BMW 340i, are quicker.
It's also worth being aware that these petrols are likely to shed value quicker than the more popular diesels.
Jaguar XE saloon ride
Avoid the R-Sport, Landmark and 300 Sport versions – which come on lower, stiffer suspension than cheaper models – and the XE is a really comfortable car. The ride is firm but supple enough to take the sting out of potholes in town and wonderfully settled on the motorway.
You can add optional adaptive shock absorbers, but the standard suspension is so good that we’d recommend you save your money. This is a bonus over the BMW 3 Series, which needs its optional adaptive suspension to deliver the best blend of ride and handling.
Jaguar XE saloon handling
Look no further if you’re after a sporty executive car. The XE handles superbly, darting into bends and staying flat and composed through all manner of twists and turns.
It also grips well, and the steering on rear-wheel-drive versions is sharp and precise. On four-wheel-drive XEs, it doesn't respond or weight up quite as consistently, but it’s still very good.
While the lowered R-Sport models have the sharpest handling, it isn’t worth the compromise this brings in ride comfort over the fluid-feeling standard XE versions, so we'd avoid this trim.
Likewise, the standard suspension is good enough that you don’t need to bother with the optional adaptive shock absorbers.
Jaguar XE saloon refinement
The 161bhp diesel engine is smooth enough, and although the 178bhp and 237bhp versions sound a bit more guttural when revved, they’re no more vocal than the equivalent engines in the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Mind you, nothing in the class is as smooth and creamy as Audi’s 2.0 TDI 190 or 3.0 TDI 218 diesel in the A4. And the XE’s stop/start system is terrible, with a pronounced twang as the engine rumbles back into life.
The higher-powered 2.0-litre petrol engines rev willingly and smoothly, and any engine noise drops to a background murmur once you’re up to cruising speed.
Avoid the biggest wheels and road noise isn’t much of an issue, while wind noise is perfectly acceptable, even at higher speeds.
The six-speed manual gearbox isn't the slickest, so, despite the purchase price and company car tax savings it brings, we’d still rather have the eight-speed automatic. True, this is a bit slow both off the line and when shifting gears, but it’s smooth in all but hard use and makes the XE more relaxing to drive for high-mileage drivers or anyone who spends lots of time in stop-start traffic.