Review : Jaguar XE P300 R-Dynamic AWD

Mike Humble has recently spent a week behind the wheel of the newly-facelifted Jaguar XE. Here’s what the big fella found, and it’s fair to say he liked it…

The Jaguar XE is a victim of the car buying public’s current love affair with the SUV. Its sales have been disappointing in comparison with Jaguar’s pre-launch expectations, and its lack of visibility can’t be blamed on the car’s overall ability or design. The XE looks mouth-watering in the right colour/wheel spec, and as a driving experience is a lovely thing. With a well-balanced suspension set-up, ample grip and communicative steering, it’s a class leader on the emotional front.

The latest MY20 XE has been seriously upgraded, improving many of its weaker areas, but retaining all of its original character. You’ll now find a new updated infotainment system with clearer, crisper graphics and faster working sat-nav. Not only that, but it’s now compatible with Apple and Android systems with a high level of sound quality you’d expect with a Meridian made audio system. There’s been a notable improvement with interior fit and finish. Some of the actual materials still seem a little lacking for a premium marque, but the way it’s all bonded, screwed and stitched together has moved it up the pecking order.

What’s it like to drive?

The 2.0-litre turbo Ingenium unit is smooth and sounds great when you press on. Mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission, it offers great performance and lovely motorway refinement. The slightly updated styling makes a handsome beast even sleeker, but by far the most impressive factor about the XE is the sheer enjoyment you get behind the wheel. It’s tuned to offer 296bhp, which means you get a lot of bangs per buck out on the road. The XE has very soft engine mountings as well as balancer shafts in the engine which have a direct effect when it comes to refinement. It doesn’t sound nor feel like a four cylinder 2.0-litre – more like a well-installed V6, especially when you crack on.

The pub-bragging 0-60mph dash is dispatched well under six seconds and, where allowed, it will power on to an electronically-limited 155mph. Motorway cruising is sheer bliss with only a mildly notable level of tyre roar entering the cabin. Wind noise from the doors and the large door mirrors is virtually non-existent and, when traversing a smooth road, the overall refinement is marvellous. But it’s not all about dual carriageways and motorways, turn onto a decent A-road and the Jaguar takes on a different dimension when it comes to fun.

Not in a long time have I experienced such poise and grip in a family-sized saloon. A Jaguar has always been about good road manners and it’s here the R-Dynamic really shines. It clings onto the bends with weighed-up steering, and not once was there a peep of complaint in terms of tyre squeal. Moreover, there was not so much as a degree of body roll either and, if you spool from one lock to another, it’ll dart from left to right with kart-like agility. You would think the payoff for that would be a spine crushing ride – not so. Yes, it’s firm and controlled, but still retains the right amount of compliance.

What’s it like inside?

The trim is still below par compared with the class-leading Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and a bit short of the wow factor, but the attention to detail and build quality is much improved. Good-looking new climate dials and the revised infotainment have improved matters considerably.

Efficiency wise, it would be fair to say the P300 with four-wheel drive isn’t top of the heap when it comes to fuel economy. Over a week of mixed driving I returned a not-too-shabby 29mpg – had my shoes been made of a lighter material (ahem), I reckon that returning a figure in the low-30s would be reasonable to expect. With such a great driveline, it’s hard not to press on that little bit harder than usual.

Verdict – it’s a splendid machine

Overall, I walked away deeply impressed with the refinement, the power delivery and incredible level of composure and grip the AWD XE has. The notable improvements in terms of equipment and build quality are really there to be seen. However, the normal XE shortcomings of poor rear passenger space and a miserly boot still prevail. Also, we need to see an improvement in terms of reliability – I’ve heard some rather worrying stories from owners who weirdly still adore their cars despite the problems.

There are plenty of important negatives. It’s cramped in the rear, still isn’t as tough feeling as a BMW, has questionable resale values and is way off the mark in terms of competitive finance PCP deals. The key thing is we need to see an improved level of reliability regardless of how good current Jaguar dealers seem to be when it comes to customer care. But, to me at least, the dynamics, the feeling and the styling of the car make the aforementioned points pale into insignificance.

The updated XE is one of the very best driving sensations available right now. The moment you clip the seatbelt in you almost feel like you are connecting your soul into the chassis.

Model Tested

  • Jaguar XE P300 R-Dynamic AWD
  • 1997cc, 16v turbo petrol with four-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic gearbox
  • From £45,995

What We Like

  • Incredible grip and handling
  • Improved interior
  • Comfortable and quiet
  • Dashing good looks
  • Strong and linear performance
  • Well equipped

What We Don’t Like

  • Still lacks the solidity of an Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series
  • Poor rear and boot space
  • PCP deals off the mark in terms of affordability
  • Needs to perform better in the reliability tables

10 Comments

  1. I have to say that I disagree about the quality of the trim materials. I recently bought a 3 year old 3 series, my brother a 3 year old xe. I have to say that the plastics in both are of a similar quality. However I think they are both poor compared to my now departed 13 year old Volvo s60 which felt it was hewn from solid rock, and seemed to be a lot better dampened than both the Jag or BMW.

  2. If Jag wants to take on BMW and Mercedes it has to beat them at what appeals to customers and that includes interior/showroom appeal. It’s worrying that senior management approved the XE when it clearly wasn’t competitive in key areas – this is reminiscent of Rover complacency/ignorance of what competitors were producing.

    • I don’t see the XE was deficient in any genuine way compared with the German big 3, but as Alfa have also found, that despite building a car that is the equal and in many ways better than the big 3 offerings, you cannot get past those decades of perceived quality and there brands perceived lack of it in just a single model, particularly when it is a shrinking market sector where the customers new to the markey sector are thin on the ground.

  3. When my Mini Cooper S came to the end of its PCP I was amazed to see that a nearly new, well optioned Mini Cooper S was the same price as a nearly as new XE. After the test drive at my local Jag dealer, I thought : no choice – I’ll get the Jag. The cars I was looking at, MINI and Jag – both through the official, dealer, used schemes – were the same sticker price. But as Mike mentions, when it came to the PCP deal the Jag was far, far more per month and the Mini dealer far keener to do a deal.

    So I’m in a Mini for another three years, if still looking enviously at XEs.

    I guess the moral of the story is to avoid PCPs and buy outright.

  4. I recently took delivery of a new shape XE P250 SE, I didn’t want AWD and the P300 you tested isn’t available without it. I have to say, I absolutely love it and agree with everything you say except the wind noise from the mirrors, I found it quite noticeable but that might be that the rest of the car is so quiet.

    • I think part of the problem is “Jaguarish” interior. The market these days is “new money” and not elder statesmen. Burr walnut, bake-o-lite and chrome isn’t the game anymore. Its about tech and modernism with lashings of brushed alloy. If we agree or not is not the case – plain old market forces dictate.

  5. Mike, you’ve maybe identified precisely why the XE – at least up until now – hasn’t achieved Jaguar’s expected sales potential. Half of your review points up – or at least suggests – deficiences: infotainment, trim quality, fit’n’finish, build quality, reliability, rear passenger space, boot space and depreciation.

    My seven-year-old Mercedes excels in all of those areas. But as much as I love my Merc, I want to get back into a Jag next time… if only I could see how one would beat – or at least be on a par with – a Merc.

    As for traditional assets such as good old burr walnut and cream leather upholstery – being a young fogey, I’d take those any day over tacky “brushed aluminium” and a dark, gloomy interior!

    • Totally agree, though my brothers xe has ream leather with light grey dash, not the dark grey, and it is pleasent and light. Though the rear is tight for headroom if you are over 6 foot in the Jag (I’m only 5ft9), and it is smaller than my 3 series, it is not squashed as many car mags say, in fact its a rather comfy place to be. I have to say the infotainment system is rubbish compared to the 3 but build quality is not noticeable. The only difference is the doors seem more solid on the 3, but that’s because the Jags are aluminium and considerably lighter. Also the igneuem diesel engine is impressive, slightly rougher at idle than the bmw but economy is much better. My brother is matching the manufacturers mpg getting nearly 70, while I am hovering between 50 and 52.

  6. I had a MB C300 followed by an XF sportbrake. There was little difference in perceived quality. Then MB had the most uncomfortable seats I have ever had and MB customer service was terrible; dismissive and rude. MB reliability was poor, gearbox needed re-programming 4 times, Sat Nav was unreliable and the hybrid battery had a short life.
    The XF was reliable and comfortable.

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