Jaguar XE saloon (2019 - ) review
The XE is a mid-sized executive saloon and a rival for cars like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Alfa Romeo Giulia and Audi A4.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
The XE is a refreshing alternative to the German cars that dominate this part of the market, and the updates for this model keep it very competitive. It looks the part and is impressive to drive, with some slick new technology to keep it up to date. If your priority is engagement behind the wheel, then this a premium saloon that should be very near the top of your shopping list.
- Very impressive handling
- Much improved interior
- Strong engines
- No hybrid option
- Space inside is limited
- Reliability concerns
Interested in buying a Jaguar XE?
How good does it look?
This version of the XE is an update to the car launched in 2015, and the changes to the suave looks have been relatively subtle, but still effective. The bumpers and rear lights have all been tweaked for a sharper look, and the front lights are now full LEDs across the range. Like the Alfa Romeo Giulia, it offers something different from the big three in this section of the market, namely the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4.
There are three trim levels. S models come with 18-inch wheels and parking sensors front and rear, while, SE cars get a different wheel design and folding door mirrors and HSE cars get 19-inch wheels. You can choose between a regular XE or an R-Dynamic model, which comes with a sportier-looking bodykit, but in the same choice of trims.
What's the interior like?
The interior of the XE is considerably updated, and uses a range of really good quality materials to create a suitably prestigious ambience. It’s not perfect – there are still a few brittle plastics to be found, which stops it matching the benchmark set by the best-in-class – but it’s definitely a premium place in which to sit. All cars get a 10.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while HSE cars get a second 5.5-inch touchscreen below it, used to control things like the air-con. These touchscreen-dependent systems tend to attract fingerprints and can be a bit tricky to use on the move compared with buttons, but the lower screen does at least keep physical dials to change the temperature. SE and HSE cars also get a digital instrument panel, in place of traditional instrument dials.
The seats are very comfortable, although headroom isn’t great for taller adults. If you can avoid leaving hair product on the roof-lining though, you should be able to find a good driving position as there’s plenty of adjustment in both seat and steering wheel.
How practical is it?
Cars of this type often have to multitask, acting as executive transport one moment and family bus the next. Compared with some rivals, the XE is somewhat limited in space, as there’s not a huge amount of room in the back seats. Kids should be fine, but adults will again find headroom at a premium, and while legroom is acceptable, it’s not brilliant, and virtually non-existent in the middle seat.
The boot, at 410 litres, is small for this type of vehicle, but you do get reasonable-sized door pockets and cupholders under a sliding door in the centre console, ahead of a storage area beneath the centre armrest, and there’s a cubby ahead of the gearstick.
What's it like to drive?
As well as luxury, Jaguars come with an expectation of performance and driver enjoyment, so it’s just as well that the XE combines excellent comfort with superb balance and handling. Bumpy road surfaces are ironed out before they reach the cabin, and there’s a solid composure and agility to the way the XE corners that’s complimented by direct, accurate steering. This is one of the best-handling cars of its type.
Rear-wheel drive versions of the R-Dynamic cars come with a stiffer sports suspension, but it doesn’t make an appreciable difference to comfort levels. You can also have adaptive suspension – which continually reconfigures itself on the fly to match the road surface – as an option.
How powerful is it?
You’ve got a choice of three engines in the XE, which doesn’t seem many compared with the myriad options that the big three German rivals can offer. There are no hybrid versions, and no big six-cylinder engines for those that want lots of power.
Still, all three Jaguar units are pretty good. The diesel option is the D180, a 2.0-litre engine with – as the name suggests – 180 horsepower, and there's a good swell of power from low down in the rev range. It’s nice and quiet, too.
The petrol choices begin with the P250, a 250-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-litre engine. It’s also impressively smooth, and while it lacks a bit of punch at lower speeds it feels strong once you get it going. Better still is the P300, a 300-horsepower version of the same engine, which fills out that lower-end grunt gap nicely and makes for a very brisk drive if you want it. All models come with an excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox.
How much will it cost me?
When it comes to overall running costs, the XE is competitive with its rivals, with a similar purchase price to the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Alfa Romeo Giulia. The BMW is likely to hold onto its value better than the others, and the diesel Jaguar isn't as strong in the area of fuel economy as its rivals, but when you factor in other things like servicing, maintenance and repair, we don’t expect there to be a huge gulf between them.
How reliable is it?
Unfortunately, Jaguar’s recent performance when it comes to reliability hasn’t been great, although in fairness that’s true of most of its rivals, too. Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index has Jaguar in the bottom half of its table of manufacturer rankings, although that focuses mainly on older cars that are out of warranty. JD Power’s 2019 Vehicle Dependability Study, which looks at more recent performance, puts Jaguar fourth from bottom, with a score far below the industry average, but that’s still above both Audi and BMW. It’s not great news then, but for this type of car, it could be worse. Should anything go wrong with your XE, Jaguar offers a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty on new cars.
How safe is it?
The XE scored the maximum five stars when it was crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP back in 2015, and scored better in those tests than most of its rivals. Each car comes as standard with automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and a driver condition monitor, which notices if you’re about to fall asleep behind the wheel. However, a high-speed emergency braking feature and blind-spot monitoring system is only standard on the HSE models, and optional on the rest. There are two Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats, and front, side and curtain airbags.
How much equipment do I get?
Equipment levels on all versions of the XE are pretty generous. The entry-level S comes as standard with keyless start, two-zone climate-control air-conditioning, leather upholstery and electrically adjustable front seats. The SE adds keyless entry, sat-nav and an online pack that gives you a wifi hotspot in the car. In addition, you get a 360-degree parking camera. The HSE, meanwhile, has nicer leather, more adjustable front seats and the twin touchscreen set up, along with an upgraded Meridian sound system, as well as adaptive cruise control.
Options are plentiful and include a range of paint colours and wheel designs, interior veneers and features from higher-spec models, which gives you plenty of scope to customise the XE to your personal tastes.
You’ll be tempted by the XE because you want one of the best premium saloons to drive. The updates to the XE have made it sharper to look at and nicer to sit it, but Jaguar has retained that behind-the-wheel appeal that could well be enough to tempt plenty of people away from the established German rivals. If you value enjoyment in your driving, then you should definitely check the XE out.