First Drive: Jaguar XE
The new Jaguar XE has a renewed fleet focus with a RDE2 compliant diesel and more premium appearance, finds Jonathan Musk.
SECTOR Compact Executive PRICE £33,915-£41,005 FUEL 46.0-50.7mpg* CO2 130g/km**
Jaguar’s XE has always been underrated. Sitting in the strongly fought compact executive sector, it was always going to have a tough time. That may be about to change, however, with the model’s refresh that benefits from a premium interior, restyled exterior and refined RDE2-compliant engine options.
Fleets are expected to make-up 33% of sales, although actual numbers aren’t expected to be enormous based on the previous car’s success rate. However, waving an attention-grabbing hand in the air is the important business ingredient of the new D180 diesel engine that’s been RDE2 tested. This means a 4% BiK reduction and one band lower for first year VED – something none of the XE’s competitors can currently claim, for now at least.
This engine variant is also the expected best-seller, in rear-wheel drive form and in either S or R-Dynamic S trim, despite the D180 commanding a small premium over the cheapest P250 petrol model of around £500.
2.0-litre petrol engines include the entry-model P250 or range-topping P300 variants, with RWD and AWD respectively. All the engines, whether petrol or diesel, come with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Trim wise, there’s plenty of appeal compared to the outgoing model. Lots of I-Pace originating elements add a touch of much-needed class including metal-tipped wiper and indicator stalks, optional Touch Pro Duo infotainment and climate control system. Soft touch materials have been used throughout, and a lot of effort has gone into the acoustics to isolate the cabin from the world beyond.
New to the car is a segment first ‘Clear Sight’, which introduces a digital display onto the rear view mirror that shows an unobstructed view behind the car thanks to a roof mounted camera – particularly useful if you’ve a passenger in the middle rear seat. It’s tech that’s steadily making its way onto options lists and helps reduce blind spots and therefore increases safety. And yes, you can turn it off.
18-inch wheels, electric seats, LED lights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all bundled in as standard – well worth noting that the latter two popular options are not included as standard and are are expensive extras on BMW and Mercedes-Benz models.
Externally, the XE retains its sleek demeanour, which has been enhanced by slimmer front and rear LED lights, as well as revised bumpers and alloy wheel designs. It’s certainly handsome, but as ever beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
However, those sleek lines come at a price and if you find yourself regularly carting about giants and/or fridges look elsewhere, as the XE’s low rear headroom and boot aperture are restrictive.
Handling dynamics is where the XE shines. The chassis is playfully nimble and matched with the 180hp diesel unit offers a satisfying drive with plenty of poke. It’s refined and quiet once warmed up too (and more so than the same engine in other JLR products), with the only signature diesel rattle noticeable in first gear or from cold. The 8-speed auto-box is perfectly matched too, though occasionally a little dim-witted at junctions, for example, when it’s left deciding upon a gear.
Jaguar has always liked to play at the big boy’s table and so it should with a fine car such as the XE. However, if that’s the game it wishes to play, then inevitable comparisons with the competition ensue. Is the new XE ‘better’ than the new 3 Series or C-Class? Arguably, it’s a match for the 3 Series dynamically, yet it lacks the tech-appeal of each of the German offerings. Jaguar is in a slight predicament here, as the competition is fierce and capable in this segment, but that shouldn’t mean the XE should be overlooked.
The old car didn’t do anything wrong, but the new car does things well. The German options are rightly appealing, but the Jaguar shouldn’t be ignored. It’s good to drive, well-kitted out and has the all-important RDE2 rating.
KEY FLEET MODEL: 180D FWD manual, SE
STRENGTHS: RDE2-compliant diesel, driving dynamics, refined
WEAKNESSES: Rear headroom and boot, lack of engine options
Star rating 3.5/5
*WLTP, ** NEDC Correlated