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New car review

Jaguar XE test drive

The Jaguar XE has been upgraded in all areas for the 2020 model year – but is it enough to compete with its German rivals?

When the Jaguar XE launched the mid-size saloon was welcomed as a well-proportioned, and generally well-built car. Problem was, the XE was up against the very best in the premium market, the ‘big three’ of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

And to be honest, when measured against such gargantuan opposition, the XE just didn’t cut it. It was competent in all areas but just couldn’t outgun its rivals in terms of dynamics and especially the interior. It just wasn’t as desirable.

So now a mid-life revamp gives Jaguar the chance to make some significant changes to the XE. And they are significant – exterior visuals that are more than just mildly massaged new bumpers, plus a completely upgraded interior and lots of lovely new tech.

The improvements wrought by Jaguar certainly seem to have impressed the major media outlets. The Car Expert’s unique new Expert Rating system is currently tracking more than a dozen different UK motoring websites and the Jaguar XE’s overall Expert Rating is comparable to the Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4, albeit still some way behind the class-leading new BMW 3 Series.

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What’s new about the Jaguar XE?

What we have here is more than the usual mid-life refresh recipe of minor mods to the exterior looks, different seat fabrics and a bit more equipment. There are several highlights, almost entirely involving the interior – an area that did attract criticism with the previous XE.

The XE can now be supplied with a suite of new technology that has debuted recently on other Jaguar Land Rover models, such as the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system with its two screens, and the 12-inch digital driver display screen, all of which we’ve seen on the Jaguar I-Pace.

More desirable tech includes ‘Smart Settings’ technology, which ‘learns’ the preferences of individual drivers and sets all the adjustable stuff, such as the seat, mirror, audio system and climate control, accordingly. And the huge ‘ClearSight’ digital rear-view mirror, first seen on the Range Rover Evoque, is also available.

How does it look?

The Jaguar XE was an easy-on-the-eye saloon, and now thanks to significant visual updates it’s a more distinctive well-proportioned saloon. According to Jaguar, the aim is to make the visuals a little more sporty, inspired by the F-Type sports car.

So there are new front and rear bumpers with bigger inlets and new LED headlamps with daytime running lights projecting Jaguar’s ‘J-blade’ signature. The complete package does give the car a wider, lower, more planted look and the effect is equally effective at the rear, which also boasts a new bumper and slim LED tail lamps.

Buyers who choose the R-Dynamic trim levels, meanwhile, get some extra visuals, such as dark mesh detailing, bespoke wheels and little winglet designs on the surfaces. It’s quite effective, not too over the top.

Jaguar XE 2020 static The Car Expert

What’s the spec like?

Three core trim levels are now available for the XE, following the brand’s typical designations with S, SE and HSE grades. Each can also be specified as an R-Dynamic model with the extra sports-pitched styling mentioned above.

XE prices start from £33,915, which gives you 18-inch wheels, electrically-adjustable leather seats, the new all-LED head and tail lamps, front and rear parking sensors with a rear-facing camera, and a lane-keeping assist driver aid.

As well as the various grades, there are some six option packs, ranging from a Technology Pack that adds such niceties as that ClearSight mirror, a head-up display and wireless phone charging, to a series of interior styling upgrades.

The facelift has not brought any significant new safety updates to the XE, which scored a five-star rating from Euro NCAP back in 2015.

What’s the Jaguar XE like inside?

Rather a lot has been done to the interior, with changes to door trims, the wood veneer and the surfaces which are soft-touch throughout. It certainly feels upmarket the moment one steps into the car.

Again the sister model parts-bin has been raided. The steering wheel comes from the I-Pace and includes rather nice graphics that only become visible when they are lit up. The redesigned centre console includes a gear lever and driving mode switch taken from the F-Type.

But as mentioned the infotainment and connectivity is the highlight. When our reviewer first experienced this system in the new Range Rover Evoque he was confused by it, but the more one uses it the more its versatility and intuitive method of use becomes obvious – it’s a very clever system.

The Clearsight rear-view mirror might not be standard equipment but we like it. Based around a camera it gives a brilliant wide-angle view of what’s behind the car, even if your actual view behind is totally obscured by say a full cabin or even heavy rain on the rear screen.

  • Jaguar XE 2020 dash The Car Expert
  • Jaguar XE 2020 info The Car Expert

What’s under the bonnet?

The Jaguar XE engine line-up is simpler to understand these days as now there are just three, all Ingenium units made in JLR’s plant in the West Midlands. There is a 2.0-litre petrol with either 250 or 300hp, and a single diesel delivering 180hp.

An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, and connects to a rear-wheel-drive powertrain as standard, while also offering all-wheel-drive as an option. The 300hp petrol variant is the fastest XE, in all-wheel-drive form cresting 60mph from rest in 5.7 seconds. For frugality, the diesel scores highest with quoted economy figures of up to 57.6mpg.

What’s the Jaguar XE like to drive?

We tried the full suite of engines during the launch event and it’s clear that Jaguar’s Ingenium range has made significant progress since it was first launched a few years ago.

The 300hp petrol unit is the highlight, giving the car the potency to go with the more sporty visuals. It accelerates impressively while never losing the refinement one expects of a premium saloon.

In fact, all three engines score in this respect, and the best option for the mainly fleet buyers the XE will appeal to will be the diesel – it’s every bit as well-behaved as the petrol units and with better fuel economy. If only we could have a diesel with a bit more go…

Not quite following the programme is the transmission. The eight speeds should make for permanently smooth, unflustered progress and sometimes they do. But at other times, they seem to get confused as to which of the eight cogs they should be selecting.

  • Jaguar XE 2020 three-quarter The Car Expert
  • Jaguar XE 2020 rear The Car Expert

No complaints about the ride quality. This is a car that glides along, keeping itself poised while also soaking up the bumps of uneven road surfaces. And the steering is a real plus point – beautifully weighted and enabling precision cornering with such ease. In this aspect, the Jaguar really does keep up with the BMW.


The Jaguar XE has undergone a mid-life revamp that ticks the boxes on all fronts. Jaguar has clearly listened to complaints, especially of the interior, and set out to answer its critics.

The car looks more distinctive than it did previously, it is a delight to sit in, the new technology is impressive and the on-the-road performance is a major improvement.

Is it as good as the German opposition? Not quite (except in the steering, which is wonderful to use). But it comes closer to them than ever before and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone choosing an upmarket saloon.

Similar cars

Alfa Romeo Giulia | Audi A4 | BMW 3 Series | Infiniti Q50 | Lexus IS | Mercedes-Benz C-Class | Peugeot 508 | Tesla Model 3 | Volkswagen Passat

Key specifications

Model: Jaguar XE S RWD
Price (on-road): £34,555
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Power: 180 hp
Torque: 430 Nm
Top speed: 140 mph
0-60mph: 7.6 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 50.7-46.0 mpg (WLTP)
CO2 emissions: 130g/km (WLTP)
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars (2015)

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.
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