The diesel XF range kicks off with a 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel that offers acceptable, albeit rather lacklustre, performance. It has fairly long gearing, which blunts its performance, and 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 177bhp version is much more like it, however, pulling eagerly from low revs – it's usefully quicker at all revs, and is our pick of the XE engines. A four-wheel-drive version of this diesel is also available, but since the front-wheel-drive car is cheaper and more efficient we wouldn’t bother.
Likewise, there's no need to upgrade to the pricey 237bhp diesel that has four-wheel drive as standard.
As for petrols, the entry-level 2.0-litre 197bhp unit performs well and is worth a look if you’re a private buyer and don’t do a high mileage. Just be aware this version is likely to shed value quicker than the more popular diesels, as will the rapid 247bhp 2.0-litre petrol.
However, if you're after maximum performance, then the XE S will be of interest. This gains a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine that is also supercharged. With 375bhp it's certainly fast but will be costly to run.
Jaguar XE ride comfort
Avoid the R-Sport versions – which come on lower, stiffer suspension than cheaper models – and the XE is a really comfortable car. The ride is firm, but it’s supple enough to take the sting out of potholes in town and is wonderfully settled on the motorway.
You can add optional adaptive shock absorbers (they’re standard on the V6 S), but the standard suspension is so good that we’d recommend you save your money. This is a bonus over a BMW 3 Series, which needs the optional adaptive suspension to deliver the best blend of ride and handling.
Jaguar XE handling
Look no further if you’re after a sporty executive car. The Jaguar XE handles superbly, darting in to 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. However, on four-wheel-drive XEs it doesn't respond or weight up as consistently.
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 models, so avoid this trim if you can.
Likewise, the standard suspension is good enough that you don’t need to bother with the optional adaptive shock absorbers.
Jaguar XE refinement
The 161bhp diesel engine is smooth enough, and although the 177bhp version sounds a bit more guttural when revved, it’s no more vocal than the engines in most rivals – including the BMW 3 Series.
The higher-powered 2.0-litre petrol revs willingly and smoothly, and any engine noise drops to a background murmur once you’re up to cruising speed. Meanwhile the V6 petrol is similarly free-revving, and the gentle burble that it emits when you put your foot down is likely to entertain rather than annoy.
Avoid the biggest wheels and road noise isn’t much of an issue, either, 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 to shift gear, but it’s smooth in all but hard use and makes the XE a more relaxing car to drive for any high-mileage driver or anyone who spends lots of time in stop-start traffic.
Our pick of the engines for company car drivers. It doesn’t make the XE particularly quick, but it doesn’t labour at very low revs, so you can comfortably leave it in a high gear around town as long as you don’t want lively acceleration. It has decent mid-range oomph, though, and is fairly refined. Crucially, it has excellent CO2 emissions and economy figures, so will help keep your monthly bills low. Like both 2.0-litre diesel engines, it can be combined with a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox.
2.0 i4 Diesel 180
The best option for private buyers, because it feels usefully quicker than the lower-powered version, yet is almost as economical and efficient. Go for the automatic gearbox if you can – it's more relaxing and just as enjoyable to drive. This XE engine comes with the option of four-wheel drive, but we'd suggest that you think very carefully about whether you really need this, because a normal XE has sweeter steering and lower running costs.
2.0 Diesel 240
This twin-turbo diesel comes with all wheel drive as standard, to help transfer its impressive power to the road. Very smooth and refined, made even better by the slick eight-speed automatic gearbox. More expensive to run than the other diesels, but still delivers respectable running costs.
2.0 Petrol 200
This 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine comes with an automatic gearbox as standard; a manual ’box is not available. We’re yet to try this entry-level petrol XE, but it promises decently strong performance with acceptable running costs for low-mileage drivers. It should also be good value on PCP finance deals, so is worth considering if you’re one of the few XE buyers that a diesel engine doesn’t make financial sense for.
2.0 Petrol 250
The higher-powered of the two 2.0-litre petrol engines is a punchy performer. It’s a smooth and quiet engine, too. There’s no major economy or CO2 emissions penalty for choosing it over the lower-powered unit, either, so it’s worth a look if you find that version a little too slow. An eight-speed automatic is the only gearbox this engine is available with.
3.0 Petrol 380
This auto-only supercharged V6 petrol XE is seriously rapid. The engine revs smoothly and quickly, and is a delight to wring out towards the redline or leave to hum quietly along at low revs. The sports car performance comes with sports car costs, though; you need to factor in its comparatively high fuel, insurance and tyre costs, and the fact that it’ll lose its value more quickly than other XEs.