Opinion : Jaguar XE – success or failure?

It was interesting to see that, in response to our recent Car of the Decade article, there was some quite lively debate about the Jaguar XE. And that did get me thinking – as much as I like the car myself for its fluid steering, excellent dynamics and tidy styling, is it really a big, fat disappointment? At the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, I sat in on an interview with one of JLR’s head marketing honchos, who was of the opinion that it hadn’t been a failure at all and that the future of the saloon was assured in Jaguar’s future.

And after driving the 2020 facelifted model at its launch last summer, I came away feeling positive about the XE as a package. Again, based mainly on its dynamics, steering and styling, and suitably aided by its improved interior. But there’s no escaping the fact that, as a sales machine, it’s been outpaced (seriously, sorry) by the Jaguar E-Pace. While it’s easy to blame that on changing market trends and the move towards SUVs in general, there’s no escaping that the BMW 3 Series still outsells the X3 – and more people buy Audi A4s than Q5s…

Your case against the Jaguar XE

One vociferous commentator was John Hackett, who didn’t pull his punches. He said: ‘The Jaguar XE is made of aluminium, ostensibly for its weight saving properties yet is heavier than the competition’s models. It has a bland, badly designed interior made of substandard materials that are poorly assembled. Its Ingenium diesel engines are rough and unrefined. It has appalling rear space. Exterior panel fit is often poor, particularly on early models. Early reliability has been poor, with electrical faults and build issues being key issues. The Ingenium engine is also suffering from problems with DPF regeneration and running issues.

‘The XE was meant to sell 100,000 units per year, but has only achieved an average of around 30% of that figure. An appalling failure. All this from a car lauded as the second coming by JLR in the lead up to its launch, a car that was meant to banish the memory of the X-Type, a car that was supposed to be an outstanding sports saloon with engineering, luxury and performance to beat the German rivals. It is none of those things.

‘It’s true that it handles nicely and has responsive steering, but that’s really all it has when compared to the rest of the market. As a Jaguar, with all the history that entails, it’s a cynical, under-engineered, cost cut, ill-conceived heap of junk.’

Ouch…

And in defence

Adam Ursula came back strongly in its defence: ‘My wife’s XE R-Sport 2.0D is now three years old. It has covered 43,000 completely faultless miles at an average of 53mpg (largely driven ‘enthusiastically’ by my wife!) and both handles better and is quieter on the motorway than her previous BMW 320d M-Sport. Yes, the rear is a little ‘snug’ and yes the boot isn’t huge, but neither was the Beemer’s. The dashboard is very nice – logically laid out and not over-reliant on the touchscreen.

‘It feels very well screwed together, there’s nothing wrong with the panel gaps and the Jaguar dealer seems able to service and update it as required without completely wiping the software and losing every single setting (even the radio presets!), unlike the BMW dealer, who managed this twice on the 320d. In fact, the biggest complaint we have with it is that the sound quality of the stereo is pretty poor, but I blame Meridian for this, not Jaguar.’

What do you think? It’s true that the early reliability has been disappointing, and you’ll struggle to see many on the roads outside of the UK. Interestingly, the Chinese market XE L model has corrected its main failing – a lack of interior space – by running a longer wheelbase, and it looks none the worse for it. Speaking to Ian Callum last year, it was interesting to note that he wanted the XE to be a fastback, rather like the current Peugeot 508, but he was overruled and pressed into making it a conventional saloon. Would it have sold more as a hatch?

I think it’s more a victim of fashion, and is losing out on the back of strong SUV sales. However, I suspect had it been astoundingly good, and been offered in coupe and Sportbrake versions, perhaps it might have chalked up more sales than it has done? It has helped Jaguar expand its brand downwards without too much pain, so on that score it’s been a success. But commercial success eludes it sadly – and that’s a major shout against it. And when it comes to writing history, the numbers tell an interesting story – the Jaguar X-Type was the car whose memory the XE was supposed to banish, and yet the older car comfortably outsold it…

And I guess that will be the story here.  And maybe also, we should all stop being quite so tough on the X-Type.

Keith Adams

40 Comments

  1. Two years ago I needed a new car and the XE was on my shortlist because of its looks (the alternatives were Audi A4 and Alfa Giulia).
    I liked its gimmick-free design without unnecessary bulges or creases and without gaping holes in its front bumper.
    In the end I didn’t buy an XE because it would have been eye wateringly expensive, it had too many build quality glitches and used sub standard materials in far too many places.

    • And which of the A4 or Giulia did you choose?
      I chose the Giulia. Like the XE, the boot is tiny, back seats space is counted. Add to that an appaling navigation and infotainment system. But it’s the only one of the 3 cars that has an interior design with a soul. Plus its driving qualities are exceptionnal…

      • I bought the Audi.
        The Alfa was too expensive for what it is, it had no manual gear box and it would have come with intolerably bad dealer service.

  2. Must admit I rarely see XE’s on the roads. I actually liked the old X Type and thought the XE would be a similar size rather than it being almost identical to the XF (my brother is on his second XF). I hope the facelift XE sells better – the pics shown here look ionviting

  3. Is it not time the question “why does anyone need a new car?” was asked? I see UK new car sales were down again last year. All the post-war cars anyone in my family bought – from the round booted Standard Vanguard in the 1950s to my own 2007 VW Fox in 2008 – were bought with only one thing in mind: practicality.

    Why does practicality not come first in any design these days?

  4. I’ve always been attracted to the Jag but not being in a position to buy a new one, have been confounded by the diesel or V8 choice. Spent one day with a nearly new BMW 5 series and the following day with a Jag. a couple of years ago. My lasting memory is the horrible BMW interior with a disgusting brown bubbly plastic everywhere – and the Jag’s beautiful interior smelling of leather and much better trimmed.
    The BMW was harsher and noisier. That’s it – nothing else sticks in my memory.

  5. For decades I wanted to own a Jaguar and then along came one I could afford and I was totally underwhelmed. It looked anonymous and the interior was so uninviting. It may drive well (although the engines have come in for flak) but I just didn’t want one. I couldn’t see why it was better than a 3-series, an A4 or a C-class. It was trying to be all of them while not being sufficiently “Jaguar”. An estate model might have been tempting. Quite simply, if I wanted to buy a BMW, I’d buy a BMW, not an imitation.

    Me? I jumped on the Volvo bandwagon and have never looked back. I find all of the established more upmarket brands just dull.

    Really sorry to say this

    • Pretty much my story Michael – I had an XF at the time and could have been and wanted to be an XE buyer. I remember attending a launch event in Nottingham and a JLR representative making comments about not wanting “old men” to buy the XE as they wanted “young professionals”. When I suggested to him that “young professionals” like me remembered their Dad’s and Uncle’s XJ-S’s and series 3 XJ’s in a fond light and might prefer a car with real Jaguar panache and luxury in a modern context, not a Tesco Value BMW, he became rather irate.

      My harshness on the car is partly the result of being a lover of Jaguar cars since childhood and desperately wanting them to get it right. Sadly, they didn’t. I wish the opposite were true and we were discussing how it had taken the market by storm and Jaguar were I the ascendancy.

      • I wanted to be an XE buyer too. I really liked the car – was going to go for the Portfolio spec with the 2 litre petrol engine. I had a price agreed for a PCH plan that fitted my budget as I get a car allowance from work. However, when I went to place the order, the dealer reneged on the price and said he could not do it on a factory order, only stocked vehicles. This was not part of our discussion so was misled. There were only 8 XE’s ‘in stock’ but none had the options or colour combination I wanted so I walked away. Drove a couple of miles to a Volvo dealer and they could not have been more accommodating. I wonder how many other potential customers have been driven away by poor dealer service?

  6. A failure I’m afraid. Interesting that production started at Solihull – the first Solihull built “saloon” since the SD1! – but quickly moved to Castle Bromwich, and no way would that latter factory have had space if it sold in the numbers expected. Indeed Castle Bromwich is full of slow sellers, the XE, XF, XJ and F type…

    It has to be said that the similar Alfa Giulia has also rather flopped in the market, a combination of a shrinking market and the competence, good residuals and wider range of the 3 series/A4/C Class rivals. The Alfa 156 20 years ago was far more successful, switching to “pure” RWD chassis hasn’t rewarded either Jaguar or Alfa in the marketplace…

    • I argue that the real problem with the Jaguar XE is that it is not built in Germany.
      The market wants German cars, regardless of how good they are. Rivals from other countries just have to fight over the crumbs left on the table.

  7. I am probably exactly the kind of person who is the intended customer for the XE. I like that kind of car (compact executive saloon) and would prefer to avoid the obvious German suspects. Sadly, the XE is just too compronised and not special enough. The Alfa Giulia and Volvo S60 just do it so much better

  8. I wish they’d put a Rover 75 interior into the XE. It looks great from the outside, but so bland inside. And let’s not start bigging-up the X-Type, which was an awful pastiche of what a Jaguar should be like.

  9. Similarly some of the views expressed above, I was in the market for a 3 series class car, tried to like the XE but it just wasn’t special enough.

    The exterior styling is very 90s bland, almost slab sided, no form. There is nothing British about the interior. But the fastback proposal sounds interesting (Holden TT36 concept?).

    What’s the point in buying a 3 series with JLR build quality?

  10. I think it has not sold as people want SUVs and the price difference to the XF is so small also they don’t offer fleet discounts to the same level as the Germans

    In my view the recent face-lift has transformed it and removed a lot of the blandness especially inside. I nearly bought one but the XF was worth the tiny amount extra. Quality is as good and probably better than Mercedes which I also drive a lot as rentals.

    The platform has been a success as it is shared with the XF, F Pace and Velar.

  11. I’m looking at changing my old Volvo S60 as it’s now getting long in the tooth and things are going wrong with a regular basis. I like the look of the Xe outside but inside is bland, though not as tacky as the Mercedes c class. It also has a tiny boot and the rear is a squeeze for passengers. And with issues with the igneneum diesel (I tow so it has to be diesel) I have looked elsewhere. What could have been a success has ended up being a failure which is such a shame as the original XF really did move Jag on.

  12. I really should like the XE but somehow I just struggle to. I like the XF and many other Jags of the past……….. except the X Type and the S type that is, but the XE is just lacking something I just can’t seem to put my finger on. It doesn’t contain enough “Jaguarness” even though I’m not sure exactly what that is. Lack of design detail in the design of the interior and exterior is all I can come up with. It’s too bland for a Jag and has a real lack of appeal. It won’t even make the short list for my replacement car, and I hate saying that.

  13. The build quality of Jaguars seems to be inconsistant to say the least! I’ve seen 68 plate E paces which were perfect and just today was behind a 69 plate F pace on which the rear tail gate seemed to have been installed by the chuckle brothers 10 secconds before the whistle blew on a friday! They took far too long to introduce a decent infotainment interface and there are still too many visibly iffy plastics in the cabin. The XF was a decent car with a (just about) clear target market, the XE was only ever up against the 3 series, personally I think 30,000 sales in total never mind per year against the Bavarian beast is no mean feat

  14. I looked at the XE, but what a disappointment – really poor packaging – long bonnet, short boot and little cabin space in between. I felt claustrophobic and that’s largely because of the wide console fitment between the front seats (why do they do that) – we have more room in the front of our Smart for two cabriolet.

    In the end I found the 1.6 petrol turbo, Astra K, SRI Sports Tourer was far better vehicle – better looking, lightweight, cab forward design, spacious interior, more luggage capacity than a Volvo VX60, really good handling, 0-60 in 7 secs and 45 mpg – and also about 7K cheaper and reliable.

    Sorry JLR – you must really up your game – a petrol ingenium in the I-pace would have made sense to me, at the right price – but why is it so wide and heavy?

  15. It’s interesting to see the harsh criticism levelled at the XE / XF; genuinely innovative cars, only hampered by the need to meet the standards of people that actually think the 3 Series is a nice car, yet so many on this site will praise any amount of Chinese sub Kia/Hyundai tat, as long as it’s got an MG badge on it!

    Why does JLR not attract the sort of optimism and positivity that means that people are so interested to come here and read about cars like Allegros and Itals, cars which need to be viewed with boundless forgiveness?!

    PS: I do still wish the current XE/XF were as stylish and nicely kitted out inside as the 2012-5 XF. That style, but with the aluminium unibody of the later cars would have been ideal!

    • To be fair, the Jaguar saloon range (XE/XF/XJ) IS struggling in the marketplace, and even in the boom years never was that successful.

      Personally I find the F-Pace a much more attractive and distinctive model, and it easily outsells the XE and XF.

    • Sadly, optimism and positivity in the face of a harsher reality won’t help JLR, in the same way it wasn’t enough to make MG Rover successful post BMW takeover.

      The Jaguar XE is an empirically poor product when contrasted with its objectives, its competition and its market positioning. It is also demonstrating issues in service which wouldn’t be the case if it was an outstanding product.

      Yes, some people like them and that’s great. It has some positive attributes. But it does have significant faults and it doesn’t sell. Look at the responses to this article as a quick litmus test and you’ll see that as much as it would be great to be optimistic and say lots of nice things about the XE, the reality is it’s a failure.

      JLR are failing and blowing smoke up their collective arses might be the nice thing to do but it isn’t the rational or healthy thing to do. This was true in 2000 when Alchemy’s scheme for MGR was lambasted for being cut-throat etc and the Phoenix bid was hailed as the opportunity for Rover to be free of the shackles of oppression and reach its true potential. Many naysayers were roundly criticised but sadly, reality had its way as it always does.

      • I can see, John H, that you are clearly the man to run JLR . It is clear that you know so much more about the industry than anyone involved in JLR does. We look forward to an astounding ( according to you ) turnaround in its fortunes under your tutelage . Perhaps you could also offer your services to GM, Geely, Nissan/Renault, Peugeot , VW /Audi ( who are awaiting news of the penalties that face them ) etc , together with any other failing entities you can identify

  16. This sector of the market is shrinking and crowded. It can just about sustain the A4/3 Series/C Class, but simply doesn’t have the headroom to allow new entrants like the XE and Alfa Giulia to thrive. The XE has essentially cannibalised sales from the XF. Rather than waste engineering and marketing effort on any further compact exec development JLR would do better to throw everything at the next generation XF and make that as good a car as the original was in 2007.

  17. Perfectly happy with my 2017 2 litre XE, run about 2500 miles a month in it, all trouble free. Considering replacing it with a new one later this year.

  18. A fastback would have been a better bet, Jaguar are too small to take on the Germans head-on, they need a genuinely distinct character to stand out and tempt folk away from the obvious choice.

    The XE is lovely to drive but entirely lacking in the “surprise and delight” department.
    The interior design is awful and exterior styling neat at best, dreary when specced without chrome and as for the 1970s alloy options… also, JLR’s colour palette is dull in the extreme.

    Jaguar have gone from one extreme to the other, design wise, from retro to nondescript, they need to find a compelling identity quick – romantic associations to 1950s racing cars have no relevance to modern motorists.

    • To be fair, their saloons (and estates) went from “retro” to “nondescript” via the very modern, distinctive and good looking first generation XF. So it’s not impossible to get it right.

  19. I’ve been in the motor trade for over fifty years. In that time I’ve seen “must have” machinery come and I’ve seen it go. I’ve heard all about “driver’s cars”, well balanced and responsive cars and cars with “character”. In 2016 i bought a new XE diesel and guess what? It’s no different to anything that comes out of Germany. No better and certainly no worse. It’s just a moderately expensive car aimed at the same market segment

    I will admit to searching for the alleged low quality materials used on the interior, but perhaps my car is the only one they didn’t use them on.

    Such a shame Jaguar isn’t located somewhere in the Federal Republic. Then, perhaps, this article with its uninformed responses wouldn’t have appeared.

    • By uninformed responses you mean views that may not be the same as yours? – Its a bit like saying use some common sense when one persons common sense maybe barking mad to others!

  20. Sad to say this sector is dominated by the Germans, with Jaguar, Lexus and Volvo being bit players, and the XE fighting a losing battle. Alfa Romeo have tried to muscle into the compact executive market and failed. It does seem now this sector, faced with the onslaught of crossover and MPVs, that only the Germans and Volvo have any future. Also the death of SAAB robbed this sector of a unique and well liked brand, particularly in the days before GM, and we all know what happened to Rover, who had the potential to do well in this sector, but lack of money to develop new models and the head gasket issue killed them.

    • I agree, the Saab 9-3 would have been a greater car had GM not interfered in product development and the Jason Castriota designed Phoenix 9-3 would have brought an innovative car to the segment, even some of the underpinnings of that stillborn car are living in the iPace I believe. I drive a NG9-5, compromised by a lot of GM stuff (even though by then Saab were owned by Spyker) but I love it and there is nothing in the market with the same positive attributes, so I live with a 9-year old Saab. The S90 Volvo is cramped in comparison.

      For me, Jaguar saloons powered only by turbo 4 2 litres aren’t appealing. 4-pot turbos are so 1976. Don’t want diesel at all, and prefer long sleek saloons… So Jaguar aren’t knocking on my door.

      Mercs have horrible switchgear and interiors, BMWs are ok but overreliant on tech, Audi switchgear can be found across VAG group cars. I liked the Lexus GS but the replacement is so bland and bloated.

      So as long as Vauxhall and Orio AB keep my 9-5 going I will keep it, sorry Jag,.

      • Go back 40 years and a person who wanted an alternative upmarket car bought a SAAB, as it had all the safety features a Volvo had, was as well made as a German car, but was also fun to drive and looked radical. The 900 Turbo was probably the moment people really started to take notice of SAAB and sales took off, as even the non turbo cars were excellent. Sadly due to GM lowering the quality in the nineties, SAAB went into decline and sadly went bust in the recession.

  21. Well contrary to opinions, my Brother bought an XE at the weekend and loves it. Time will only tell – ps he was previously a SAAB man

  22. Difficult one this. After my father and grandfather had worked at Jaguar, when I was in the market for this kind of car aged 35 I had to have a Jaguar, and ordered an XE 2.0 Prestige diesel automatic (163hp economy version) on a 15-plate, which I had for 3yrs and 35k miles. It was totally reliable during that time and easily capable of 60mpg on a long run. There were a few niggles (alloy wheel corrosion, minor software glitches, it’s far too wide, and I didn’t find the seats that comfortable), but it was a very nice car. I went for the black and tan interior (a no-cost option) and it was way more inviting in that spec. It replaced an Audi TT and didn’t feel like a step down in quality versus the Germans. Mine was a company lease, and based on the sticker price when I found it on Autotrader, the depreciation would have been pretty steep.

    As we have since started a family, when it came to replace it we chose a VW Tiguan. Interior quality and handling aren’t comparable, but it’s far more comfortable, practical and I find the combination of VAG’s 2.0 diesel and 7 speed DSG to be much smoother than the Jaguar’s Ingenium. The VW also came with digital instruments and far better infotainment than the XE, as standard. I expected to miss the XE, and I did for the first few weeks, but now I don’t. Having been a sceptic, I see why SUVs work for those with small kids and my wife loves the Tiguan.

    Given that Jaguar developed one platform which underpins the XE, XF, F-Pace and Velar, I’m not sure if the XE has been a financial failure or not. I see at lot of XEs on the road around here, but very few facelift models so far. Having sat in the facelift, I’m not entirely sure that I prefer it.

    In conclusion then, I found my XE to be a good car, but perhaps not good enough to tempt Audi/BMW drivers (especially if in car tech is important). The main issue though has probably been the shift to SUVs.

  23. From reading many of these comments it sounds as if the Jaguar XE is being viewed as the Rover 45 of the Jaguar range. In other words, a great chassis with more than competent ride and handling, but not so great in the body’s styling or the interior’s sense of occasion.

    And like the Rover 45, the XE is playing a came of catch-up with itself – the revised version for the 2020 Model Year being the car it should have been at launch. A shame really, as I actually quite like the updated 2020 Model year car and the subtle enhancements carried out.

    Trouble is, the interior still doesn’t look distinctive or rewarding enough. Even back in the dark days of an entry level XJ40 2.9 XJ6 with cloth seats, it still felt a very nice place to sit. The embellishments were still there, albeit in smaller portions, while the the quality of materials used throughout always made you feel as if you were in special place. The same can’t be said of the XE. Its rather like the ambience of a Rover 45 with its forgettable Honda Civic dashboard.

    A Jaguar should always be a recognisable place to be and offer a sense of wellbeing and character, regardless of the model or trim level. The current XE and XF models sadly don’t.

    Mind you, the exterior colour range offering both bold and classics hues is definitely an improvement over Jaguars of old – that amazing shade of blue called Caessium, for instance, is definitely head and shoulders above the hues offered by some of its rivals!

    Fingers crossed sales do improve for the XE as it is the nearest modern day alternative we have for the much missed Rover 75.

    • I can remember a magazine produced by the Daily Express in 1982 for the Earls Court motor show, or possibly the NEC, which told its readers that the joys of driving a Jaguar could be possible for £ 13,000. Obviously this would have been the entry level XJ6 3.4, and £ 13.000 was beyond most car buyers in 1982,,but for all the basic XJ6 was slightly underpowered and not as well equipped as the bigger engined Jags, it still had the quality fittings and rode as well. Now the XE’s interior is like a mass produced family car and offers nothing special.

    • I’m not so sure about it being a ‘Rover 45’ as it was a clean sheet design on a new platform. Perhaps it’s more like the HHR Rover 400? The 3-Series, A4 and C-Class aren’t really that special in terms of interior quality either (although the C-Class has a certain style to it), all are mass produced cars these days. I think it’s more that the Jaguar’s USP of a good chassis (as with Rover 400/45) didn’t matter as much to buyers as much as it did to the motoring press, and the compromises to lower the price of entry upset some of the traditional jaguar buyers as it didn’t feel ‘special’ enough for a Jaguar. The W205 C-Class has sold ridiculously well, despite not being the best in class to drive and having a questionable reliability record (lots of Renault electrics) and relatively old diesel engines at launch. Perhaps Jaguar should have focussed on giving the XE its own niche, similar to how the Lexus IS300 is mostly sold as a hybrid, long before BMW etc offered this. It’s a shame that a plug-in XE never materialised as I have lots of colleagues who drive 330e hybrids purely for tax reasons.

  24. I recently got rid of a C class estate having previously owned a 9-5 3.0V6 TiD and a Honda FRV. I’ve always wanted a Jag. But on doing the rounds, I came to the following conclusions: BMW 3 Series too small and no spare wheel, new C class too long and has issues plus my unfavourable experience with local Merc dealers, the Jaguar, a neat design (I need an estate) but disappointed with the interior and the grumbly Ingenium engine. I’ve also heard several horror stories regarding the Ingenium lump. I found the infotainment system clunky and the lack of rear space disappointing. I need to carry 4x 6 foot tall people and alternatively 2 people plus equipment of 2′ x 3′ x 4′ dimensions.
    After going through various options I came down to the choice of another C Class or a Volvo V60. I then looked at various SUV options including T-Roc and eventually finished up with a Volvo XC40. Among the things that swung the deal was the sheer practicality of the XC40 and the extremely pleasant and helpful Volvo dealers.
    3 months in, I have no regrets, and I know that the Jaguar I want was probably built in the late 1960s….

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