Driven : Jaguar XE R-Sport 2.0 i4 (160bhp)

We’ve already driven the XE briefly, but it’s only fair to give such an important car for Jaguar Land Rover’s future a fair crack of the whip. Time to give it some decent roads to have a proper work out on.

Words and photography: Keith Adams, with additional digital work by Alex P

Jaguar XE (2)

The Jaguar XE, and its crossover brother, the F-Pace are hugely important for the future development and success of their maker. It won’t have escaped your notice that out of the JLR partnership, it’s the ‘LR’ side of it that makes up the lion’s share of sales. Recently, we reported that Land Rover sold 30,756 vehicles in February 2016, whereas Jaguar sold 6738 – given both marques reside in the same premium universe, and their products are equally good, one can only assume that it’s down to Land Rover offering cars more buyers actually want.

With the XE and the new XF ramping up to full-stream, and the F-Pace on its way, we’re all now seeing if Jaguar’s sales volumes will catch – and, perhaps, overtake – those of Land Rover’s. With the XE, there’s certainly the potential for Jaguar to start building big sales volumes in the UK – it’s targeted right at the heart of the Audi A4/BMW 3 Series/Mercedes-Benz C-Class market and, on paper at least, will stand toe-to-toe with the saloon versions of those cars. What we’ll need to see in order to get on more of those company car lists, will be a Sportbrake and Coupe version – variations Jaguar’s rivals all offer. The F-Pace will be good, but there will be more needed in order to make it a fair fight with the Germans.

It’s a tough market out there, so the XE needs to be good. We’re trying the entry-level 106g/km 160bhp version in R-Sport form. Being a press car, it’s loaded up with some tasty options (such as a heated steering wheel, an electrically deployable towbar – below – and a panoramic roof), which bumps the competitively-equipped R-Sport’s price from £34,075 to £44,341. You’ll just have to decide how many of those nice options you’re going to tick…

Our car kicks out 106g/km, which means it’ll cost £140 a year to tax, and it has a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 68.9mpg. We found that it’s easy to match that figure on gentle A-road and motorway driving, but expect around 50mpg in general driving – itself a remarkable figure considering the claimed 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds and 132mph maximum speed. That four-cylinder Ingenium power unit is clearly capable of bringing home the bacon. On paper, at least…

Parked on your drive, the XE does little to offend, much to impress, and although it’s a good-looking car with nice proportions and detailing, it’s lacking a little in terms of adventurousness. Given that’s the playbook both Audi and BMW are sticking to right now, we can completely understand Jaguar’s decision to go down the same route – and it’s a million miles away from the carriage clock-like X-Type. Inside, it’s a clean-looking affair, with nicely set-up ergonomics and well-thought-out touchscreen, but some of the touchpoints, such as the column stalks, are lacking a quality feel (if not action). We also like the fact it shares the instrument pack with the F-Type.

Jaguar XE (3)

The driving position is good, but the bulky A-pillar irritates, and all-round visibility could be better. Rear room is tight if there are tall people in the front, and the boot is average in terms of size, while our example’s uneven load bay was annoying when trying to pack it with enough luggage to last a long weekend. Firing it up via the pulsing starter button – a Jaguar signature – elicits a gentle diesel chatter, which is well insulated, if not quite as refined as we’d like. Drop the windows next to a wall while it’s idling, for instance, and you’ll get a rude awakening. But then, we could say that about all the 2.0-litre opposition – if you want refinement, buy a petrol version.

Pulling away, our entry-level model on its 17in wheels rides quietly and unobtrusively, and the damping feels impressively calm on typically broken English urban roads. Get it up to speed, and the XE’s ability to cover miles unobtrusively is very impressive indeed – clearly an important factor for the buyers it’s aimed at. Wind and road noise are both well contained, and well-considered damping tames the stiff suspension very well indeed. The ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox is simply brilliant, offering crisp, smooth changes and a nice transition from auto to manual operation when you want to use the paddle shifters.

As you’d expect, the XE is dynamically polished. The controls are fluid and beautifully weighted and the variably-assisted steering, especially, impresses for its consistency of feel and feedback. If you crack on in the bends, you’ll tell it’s come from the same team that brought you the F-Type and it fills the driver with confidence: confidence to place it with millimetric precision; confidence to dive into corners; confidence play with the throttle. But that tail can bite in the damp, if you’re injudicious with the throttle, and we did have some cause to question its overall levels of traction on some of Cumbria’s more – shall we say – challenging roads.

Performance is all there, too – which is a good reflection on the Ingenium 2.0-litre turbodiesel, and the efforts of the ZF gearbox to always be in the right gear at the right time. It’s accelerative and, thanks to being so muted, it will generally be going more quickly than you think it is – although you’d never extend it for the pleasure of the accompanying soundtrack (again, a common criticism of four-cylinder diesels), you will enjoy ample overtaking punch when you need it. Is it lacking low-down torque? Perhaps, but we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve driven a manual version. Overall, then, the new Ingenium engine performs admirably – a brilliant first effort, which will be world-class with continued development.

And that’s the overall verdict we’d apply to the Jaguar XE. It’s a car that can hold its head up high and compete in one of the most toughly-fought sectors of the market, aimed at the most discerning buyers of them all. In short, it doesn’t put a foot wrong, and you’d happily plump for one if it was on your company car purchase list (do those still exist?). As we’ve said before, it’s a huge testament to Jaguar that the XE is as good as it is, given its brand-new platform and drivetrains, built in a green-field factory. Former Rover 75/MG ZT owners can regard the XE as the all-British replacement car they’ve been waiting for…

The rest of us can be confident in choosing a car that answers all the needs of the class’s buyers – and does it well. It augurs well for the future of the company, the ability of the upcoming F-Pace and those all-important sales figures.

Jaguar XE (1)

Keith Adams


  1. So Jaguar now have a car to rival the BMW 3 series, the Merc C Class and the Audi A4. Fair enough. But what is missing is their ability to actually sell the cars or even show them off to potential buyers due to the dearth of dealers around the country. Clearly the number of dealers relates to the number of sales that can be achieved, as each dealer needs to sell a minimum number of cars in order to make a living. However, now there is a car that is intended to increase sales by large percentages, yet via the same small number of dealers.
    Here in Crewe there are both BMW and Audi dealers, yet the nearest Jaguar dealer is in Hanley, Stke-on-Trent. There is also Royles at Wimslow. OK, the nearest Merceded dealer is also in SOT, but with no dealer coverage in many towns, Jaguar are surely going to struggle to sell the XE in quantity in the UK.

  2. In Cumbria there’s Lloyds at Carlisle and that’s it. Surely it would make sense for Lloyds, who are a major player in the luxury market in north Cumbria, to build a showroom in Cockermouth for Jaguar and maybe look to expanding to somewhere like Kendal. I’m sure there are buyers who want a change from BMW, but when there’s a dealer on the doorstep( Lloyd in Cockermouth) and the Jaguar dealer’s 40 miles away, many will stick with BMW.

  3. You make a good point about the number of dealers correlating with the number of overall sales in a market territory. However, another factor must be the quality of service the dealer shows to potential customers. My family’s own experience with the local Jaguar dealer on numerous occasions when looking at a new XJ as a company car was really quite poor and as such did not result in them buying a Jaguar. On both occasions they bought either a BMW or a Mercedes Benz.

    More recently a friend of mine who owned an X-Type found the local dealer in Exeter to be aloof and unwelcoming when it came to servicing his car, while the salesman did not even give him the time of day when he was looking at upgrading to one of the last examples. A shame neither party did not recognise that my friend probably earns more than their basic salary so is therefore in a position to buy and run a Jaguar.

    The end result? Neither of the aforementioned parties will visit a Jaguar dealer again because of these poor experiences. Germany 3, England 0.

    As the XE is potentially going to appeal to a younger and more financially aware buyer who will naturally demand a high level of customer service, perhaps Jaguar should be instructing some of its dealers to be more welcoming and helpful to potential customers, not leaving them to the wraith of the sabre-toothed receptionist who clearly failed at charm school.

    In other words, get rid of the superficial pomp and snobbery! It’s a Jaguar not a Bentley. Pomp parted from Jaguar’s appeal at roughly the same time as when Coronation Street’s Mike Baldwin stopped driving them.

  4. Unfortunately , I remember going onto the Jaguar stand at the Motor Show c.1985 and standing, totally ignored , by two Jaguar representatives conducting a conversation between themselves for something like 5 minutes . We had always had Jaguars in the family, my Father going back to SS days , but my last Jaguar had been a 1977 4.2 litre XJ6 PED 242R which gave me nothing but trouble, as a result of which I went first to an SD1 35000 and then to BMW , and I wanted reassurance that the quality problems had been overcome . Needless to say, neither was interested in talking to me , and so I bought what turned out to be the best car I ever had, a 500SEC on which I did 300,000 miles . I’ve never had a Jaguar since, ( except the 2 E types which I still have ) and I regard it all as a bit sad

  5. Good write up on the XE. I also agree a bigger dealer network would help sales nationally. I’ve only seen about 4-5 XE’s for real up to now. My brother has a 2016 XF with the same Ingenium engine and is pleased with it.

  6. Damning with faint praise?

    I had a brief drive in one and I was underwhelmed by the refinement of the engine. It is quite simply not on level with the BMW 320d. It is also lacking in space, there is no estate to be seen yet and the new MB c-class has a more attractive interior. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing a wan’t more than for Jaguar to succed, but I must admit that I am a bit worried.

  7. I am responsible for a small fleet including 3 XEs, 7 A4s, 2 Lexus IS, 4 3 Series and 4 C-Class. Only gripes with XE are rear leg room and the quality of minor interior trim particularly inside door grips. Refinement on start up not great but under normal driving conditions superior to all but the Lexus. Reliability and running costs superior to all. Interestingly after average of 37000 miles, the XEs have had no faults. Same cannot be said of the C-Class and most definitely the 3-series. In fact BMW please go back to the quality of build on your pre 06 cars. All drivers have sampled all the cars and on a pole, the XE comes out on top by huge margin, followed by the C-Class. Jaguar looks like the others unless it has upgraded alloys when it really does look good.

  8. @Glen Aylet- Not sure having a dealer right on your door step is a reason to buy a particular type of car. After all one of the advantages of having a car is that you can go places in it! 40 miles is hardly a long way. I also live in Carlisle and will not buy from a local dealer until benchmarking prices in other areas. Carlisles isolation means there is only 1 BMW/Audi/Mercedes/Jaguar etc dealer for a minimum of 6o miles, until very recently that created a closed shop with a micro-market that complete;ly ignored the dynamics in the wider UK market. Fortunately the arrival of some of the larger dealer groups and the likes of Lloyds expanding into the North East and Lancashire has brought some realism to the market.

  9. £20 a year to tax? not anymore, Osbourne has fixed that.. £140 a year, the mornin VED system has been evicted

    What about the petrol options?

  10. I have had an Jaguar XE 180 automatic now for just over six months and am very pleased with it. My previous car was a 2013 BMW320d. The jaguar is much better to drive, nicer steering with a smoother ride and road holding. Only one minor fault in 5,000 miles, the SD card in the satnav needed updating. As I had direct experience with both the XE and the BMW, I would rate the Jaguar as both superior and more enjoyable to drive. Don’t see much difference in interior quality. The dealer I bought it from (Plymouth) has been excellent and helpful so far. I have heard a mixture of reports on other dealers. I am very happy with the Jaguar XE and still get a thrill when I see it and drive it.

  11. The XE looks good but the engine range is disappointing. It needs some more powerful options without having to spend £££££ on the R trim.

  12. Funny folks complaining about poor Jaguar dealers and championing the German ones. My experience, and that of many friends and colleagues has been the exact opposite.

    Jaguar dealers are generally smaller and have always come across as friendly and warm, whilst the German ones (particularly MB and BMW) have been arrogant and only offer ‘arms length’ servicing (the receptionist prevents any communication with the guy working on your car).

    Oh and with MB, you have to book services via a national call centre, they charge £50 for a courtesy car, and don’t offer the post-three year low cost servicing that Jaguar do (£199 inc. valet and courtesy car) for an XF 3.0 D annual service.

  13. I find the XE underwhelming, no matter how many times I drive or sit in one.

    They are horrendously plasticky inside, not that well built, very cramped in the back and have appalling evidence of cost cutting (only one light in vanity mirrors, boot ceiling untrimmed, plastic sill covers, thin carpet, plastic B andC pillar trims, no felt lining in door bins, no lid on cup holders, no leather stitching on dash of lower models etc, etc).

    I find them to be a nice drive with responsive handling but the Ingenium engined examples I’ve tried have been quite noisy with a grating whine from the engine bay.

    As a mid-market car in say, the Insignia/Mondeo category, it would be a very competitive, if slightly bland offering. As a “luxury sports saloon”, it is really not good enough in quality, styling and detail finish.

    As a Jaguar, it is frankly a bloody disgrace in my opinion.

    That said, I hope it sells well enough to keep Jaguar ticking over and give them an opportunity to reassess their thinking.

    But I fear it will not sell in the volumes they think it will.

  14. It seems not all MB dealers are the same as I book my services direct and have a choice of waiting with free coffee and wifi, or a taxi home and back, or a loan car.

  15. The lower level XE such as the 163 diesel prestige, are competing with the BMW 320 ED amongst others.

    I had a BMW 320 ED as my last company car from 2013 to 2105, the current design but not the facelift of last year.

    The comments of John H on the evidence of “cost cutting” apply in almost every respect to the BMW.

    – NO lights in vanity mirrors lt=et alone one.
    – Boot ceiling probably trimmed – not sure
    – Yes plastic sill covers
    – Yes thin carpet
    – Felt lining to door bins – No
    – Lid for cup holders had to be taken out manually and stored in the glove compartment – very useful design.
    – No leather dash at all but plastic and bare metal.

    The engine was unrefined when idling and whilst the handling of the car was ok the ride was pretty poor on the suspension that is lowered compared to the Se or Sport to get lower CO2 emissions.

    Furthermore if you want a current facelift model 320ED that I would suggest the XE Prestige 163 is competing with you have to have 16 inch wheels and pay an additional for automatic transmission to achieve the 99 G/Km.

    That puts the Jaguar at £30,775 and the BMW at £32,250 .

    So I would say the Jaguar is a pretty competitive proposition.

  16. Ever get the impression BMW’s reputation is fading after reading these comments? It seems their once vaunted quality reputation isn’t as great as they make out and the interiors look cheap and with plastics more suited to a Morris Marina than a 21st century prestige make. Also owners of recent cars have commented on faults and trim coming adrift.

    • I’ve heard horror stories of people who’ve bought recent BMWs, anything newer then 2006/7 seemed to be subject to Project Drive style costcutting, aluminium subframe and suspension seemed to have been replaced with steel.

      One thing I always notice in ‘premium’ saloons is the rear bootlid hinge. Used to be in a quality product had cantilever hinges. Even the Peugeot 407 had these.
      Now more small saloons are using cheap gooseneck hinges, like the Saab 9-3. XE is gooseneck, XF is cantilever.

  17. Thick A pillars are a fact of life these days, I always crank my neck to take a second look while driving my X type.
    There are a lot of XEs on the M1 these days, so they are selling well in the Midlands.
    As for the dealers, I recently visited two. Guy Salmon in Coventry tried very hard , but not in a pushy way, to sell me an XF. Little did the salesman know that my visit was to buy $6 worth of clips for the X! The parts guy was also very helpful.
    I visited the dealer in Milton Keynes at the launch of the XF Sport brake, and was pointedly ignored by the salesmen. But they have now been taken over. By Lancaster, and at the FPace launch, had the undivided attention of TWO salesmen. So things are looking up.

  18. @ Ken Strachan, Lloyd Jaguar of Carlisle were displaying the new XE at a car show last year and the salesman was very knowledgable and keen to promote the product, especially as there was a BMW stand nearby. I do hear Jaguar do very well in JD Power surveys for customer care and their reliability record is improving, so reasons for not buying one are becoming fewer these days. Also a tax free, 68 mpg Jaguar that can reach 132 mph, who’d have thought that, when the old XJ6 was lucky to do 20 mpg and would have been in the top tax band had the present tax system existed in the eighties?

  19. @ John H “I find them to be a nice drive with responsive handling ”
    “appalling evidence of cost cutting ”
    “As a Jaguar, it is frankly a bloody disgrace in my opinion.”

    The first sentence is the whole and only point of a Jaguar.
    The second sentence; 75% aluminium body shell, sophisticate suspension.
    The third one: I didn’t buy a Jaguar to get what someone imagines is a superior grade of plastic. Unless it actually snaps off, plastic is, well, plastic. I bought one to get a fantastic chassis that offered a brilliant driving experience and an engine that gave me 130 mph or > 60 mpg , depending on my mood that day. And that’s what I got. Absolutely brilliant. This car is a bargain.

  20. @ Richard, too right, the XE isn’t intended to be an XJ-L with limousine like wood and leather and is supposed to be an affordable entry model, so some plastic is inevitable. My impressions in sitting in the XE last summer is it’s a modern, upmarket saloon and is intended to make Jaguar relevant to a younger, better off market who have mostly bought German for years, and aren’t interested in walnut dashboards and Connolly leather. On this count, the car succeeds very well and in driving terms, goes very well and costs no more than a Nissan Micra to fuel and tax.

  21. I would disagree with John H comments on the quality of the XE interior trim. He is right it does in places feel plasticky but having experience of all the smaller exec cars over miles, the XE has been superior in terms of reliability and longevity. Actually my experience of the 3-Series has been poor but expected, but the C-Class which impressed in terms of build when they have arrived has been particularly disappointing. Rattles and tired leather trim after 30,000 kilometres was a surprise.

    Its great to hear others oppinions though so keep them comming.

  22. I own an X Type and driven various XEs and XFs over the past few years. My dealer has always been first rate and the people who work there seem to have a passion for the brand and are pleasant to deal with. While the X Type unfairly gets knocked by many it’s actually a very good car and I’d recommend one to anyone looking for a comfortable and engaging car on a budget.
    The XE really does feelslike a car from another generation on, very nimble and in V6 S form scorchingly fast with a glorious soundtrack via that supercharged engine. Yes it lacks a little flair we might expect from Jaguar, but really it’s a car to be proud of both owning and admiring.

  23. I agree with those who are saying that BMW interiors are also becoming more plasticky and less well built than previously. I have sat in several in the last few months and found all to be surprisingly downmarket in terms of materials used.

    All the more reason, I feel, for Jaguar to have gone one better on quality with the XE. I know people are defending it and pointing out it’s impressive chassis but I have to say, having spent a lot of time with several, it really is a very cost-reduced product. I also happen to know a number of people who work in the design and engineering departments at JLR, as well as someone who works for a first tier interior trim supplier and they have all confirmed that there has been extensive and occasionally, ruthless cost cutting on the new models.

    Examples of evidence of this on the XE:

    – Only one light one on side of the vanity mirrors instead of two
    – Extensive use of plastic on the sills and around the rear seat base to reduce the amount of carpet required
    – Thin carpets
    – No stitching on the dash of base models
    – No decoration or detailing on the door trims
    – Extensive use of hard plastic on centre console, door trims and lower dash
    – B and C pillar trims in hard plastic
    – Sun visors in hard plastic, not padded
    – Cheap feeling switchgear
    – Cheap moulded plastic speaker grilles
    – Hard plastic door pulls with no padding whatsoever
    – Plastic setbacks
    – Boot ceiling completely untrimmed with cables and seat release mechanisms clearly on display. Said mechanisms secured with gaffer tape in places
    – Grab handles cause a hollow, tinny sound when released as they hit the roof
    – Centre console not fully secured on several cars I tried
    – Dash creaks and visibly moves when pushed
    – Gauge cluster creaks when pressed

    Just a few things I’ve spotted! 🙂

    Oh, and add to that the difficulty getting in and out, the seriously compromised rear passenger compartment and the lack of refinement and it begins to become obvious that the car struggles to justify its premium price tag.

    Remember that this is a £30k + car.

    Most of these problems could be addressed if Jaguar just spent a little bit more time and money on the car and would massively increase its showroom appeal.

  24. John H : you said that all before in your earlier post of 30th March. Is there some point in saying it again ?

  25. Hi John H. Enjoyed your feedback but would disagree with you. We have 3 XE on the fleet and after an average 37,000km in 12 months can report no problems, certainly no rattles and only niggles the drivers have are rear legroom and your right they dislike the indicator/wiper stalks. Ours are the lower spec model but we are so happy I am replacing 2 14 C-Class and 4 2015 3-series with XEs.

    You dont have to spend a lot more money to make the XE look really handsome. Other manufacturers are also a little penny pinching particularly with trim. If they could marry the XE performance, style and great build quality with the A4 interior quality, it would be perfect.

  26. In my view the problem is that people think that just because Jaguar can make £60K cars, their £30K model should have the same quality with the £60K one, the only difference being on the size.
    Well, it doesn’t actually work like that.
    I hear people critisizing the plastics, the carpets, this and that, but i am not sure if they would be prepared to pay for better quality.
    All of us would enjoy a bargain, but we frown upon the possibility of being paid 3rd world wages.
    Simply, we can’t have it all.

  27. Yes, Jaguar do make £60k cars, but I don’t think anyone expects a £30k car to have the same level of quality.

    But most buyers WOULD expect nice materials and a solid build, which the XE doesn’t have to anywhere near the extent it should for the price.

  28. £30K + for one of these sounds okay, but £44K is too much with those options. I’m sure the car is nice enough without them. You can get an XF for much less than £44K too.

  29. Had one of these since August, and just approaching 11,000 miles. It’s been faultlessly reliable and I love it. MY17 models seem to have a few refinements vs the early cars, and I think mine – being a v1.0 product – needs a few software updates (what doesn’t these days). I went for the lighter interior which I think adds a lot of perceived class.

    Looked at the usual competition and I think the Jag compares well. 3 series I found very plasticky. C-Class looks nicer at first, but then you realise the seats are vinyl not leather. New A4 wasn’t out at the time.

    Jag has been quite honest about the fact they’ve spent the money on the aluminium body and more sophisticated suspension. That suits me just fine. I can live without a cover for my cup holders for example, or extra trim in the boot. Don’t have any rattles though.

    Mine is a 163 diesel auto. Has electric seats, metallic paint, full leather, sat nav, cruise, split seats, folding mirrors and the upgraded stereo. Would’ve liked Xenons but you have to stop somewhere. List price just under £35k, which compares well. You’d be mad to spend £44k, but of course the options are there if money’s no object.

    There has been a lot of nit picking on the user forums, which are mostly minor things falling into two categories:
    1. It doesn’t feel as hand crafted inside as the old XF (which I’d agree with, but the quality seems more consistent overall and this isn’t the new XF)
    2. Things it doesn’t do quite as well as a BMW/Audi/Merc (which I’d also agree with, but they are all rather minor and have nothing to do with the way it drives)
    Cruicially, there don’t seem to be any widespread serious issues out there.

    Bravo to Jag I say, for giving me a sensible option in this part of the market.

  30. Followed a Jag earlier in ‘E’ spec, 152 year Irish reg. From the side they’re elegant, from the front, gorgeous.

    However I did notice one thing that concerned me – this one had a single exhaust pipe poking out of the large double-sized bumper cutout. And a large exhaust box was visible through that hole. In a few years time, that is going to look rusty and is really going to be an eyesore on an otherwise stunning looking car.

    Could Jag not have used 2 different rear bumper treatments as Saab did for the 9-3? A ‘hidden’ tailpipe for base models (even the base model linear has twin pipes) and a bumper cutout for the chrome tips of sports models?

  31. It’s curious that you should mention this, because in today’s JEC magazine, someone who has bought an R-Sport model is complaining that there are no tailpipes to be seen , as a result of which he has added ( ugh!) two square boxes to make it ( he thinks ) look more important

  32. I really like the XE(and XF, old and new, though it took me a looooong time to get to this) It’s refreshing to see the leeper bounce back and either of these new Jag will grace my drive in a few years time when less expensive, that is.
    In the meantime, I’ve traded my 75 Connie cdti for an S-Type V6 diesel, the 5-10mpg loss is offset by the sound track and it is so much faster.
    Jags should have exhaust on both sides, rear view of the 4 cyl. XF is boring-not special- compared to the V6 versions… XE doesn’t seem better by the way…

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