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.’
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.