2020 Jaguar XE long-term test review

Jaguar’s smallest saloon, the XE, was updated for 2020. So, should you now consider choosing it over its German rivals? We added one to our long-term test fleet to find out...

LT Jaguar XE compilation

The car Jaguar XE 2.0 D180 SE R-Dynamic AWD auto Run by Steve Huntingford, editor

Why it’s here To see if Jaguar’s recently refreshed executive car impresses or frustrates when you live with it every day

Needs to Combine fun handling with relaxing cruising manners and a prestige feel with low running costs

Miles 5764 List price £39,815 Target Price £36,745 Price as tested £47,410 Official economy 46.4mpg Test economy 36.8mpg Dealer price now £25,780 Private price now £22,915 Trade-in price now £23,562

11 July 2020 – Final report

In an ideal world, I’d have three cars: something luxurious, something sporty and something family-friendly. However, I don’t have the budget or parking for that, so instead I generally try to choose one car that can fill all three roles. And few of the cars that I’ve run over the years have performed this juggling act quite as well as the Jaguar XE.

LT Jaguar XE - family car, business car and fun car

As an executive saloon its natural habitat is obviously the corporate car park, where I reckon it looks suitably smart – especially since last year's facelift. But at least as important as the tweaks to the styling were the interior upgrades that accompanied them, with the Fisher Price-plastic dashboard buttons and gearshift paddles swapped for items that are altogether more tactile.

No, the perceived quality still isn’t going to give Audi or BMW interior designers any sleepless nights, but the XE no longer feels hopelessly off the pace in this area. And because this newfound respectability is combined with a ride that’s wonderfully settled yet supple enough to absorb bumps and potholes, it’s a great car to cover big miles in.

LT Jaguar XE dashboard

In fact, I’d say there’s just one rival that’s as cosseting: the Audi A4. But while that offers secure handling, the XE is in a different league when it comes to driving fun. Its steering is as precise as it is sharp, and the car darts into bends, staying flat and composed. Only the Alfa Romeo Giulia and BMW 3 Series are similarly entertaining, and neither of them ride as well.

Even the automatic gearbox integration – not traditionally a Jaguar strength – was impressive in my car, with it feeling like the ’box was working with the 2.0-litre diesel engine instead of doing its own thing. Quick to shift down when needed but happy to keep the revs low the rest of the time, it was pretty good at hiding the fact that the engine isn’t as smooth as its Audi, BMW and Mercedes equivalents.

LT Jaguar XE side

So, what about the third role I ask my cars to fill, that of family transport? Surely, something like an SUV would be far better here? Well, yes and no.

If you’re six-foot tall and have teenaged kids who are similarly lofty, then the XE isn’t for you; after all, it’s not even particularly big by executive saloon standards. But ask yourself this: how much space do you actually need? Certainly, for me, the XE was more than big enough, with my wife able to sit behind me (and alongside our three-year-old daughter) without her knees touching my seat.

LT Jaguar XE - child climbing into rear seat

And similarly, while strapping my daughter into the back would have been easier in an SUV, because I wouldn’t have had to bend down to do it, that has to be weighed against the fact that now she’s old enough to climb up into her child seat herself (and fiercely independent enough to insist on doing so), she actually finds it easier with a car like the XE, precisely because it’s closer to the ground.

In short, if you’re looking for something that’s comfortable, great to drive and reasonably practical, the XE is definitely worth considering. It deserves to sell in much greater numbers than it actually does. But, then again, its comparative rarity also appeals to me.

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