Introduced in 2015, the Jaguar XE was the first compact executive saloon in the British marque’s line-up since the X-Type. Being based on a Ford Mondeo didn’t win the X-Type too many hearts and minds: most buyers opted for something German-built instead.
The diesel XE range kicks off with a 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel that offers acceptable, albeit rather lacklustre, performance. It has fairly long gearing that blunts its performance, so overtaking requires you to think well ahead. That said, it will still sit at low revs without labouring and is decently responsive beyond 2000rpm.
It’s a bit pricey but if you need more pep then there’s the 25d. This has the same 2.0-litre capacity but boosted to 237bhp, and with its fulsome mid-range welly plus four-wheel drive as standard, whips you from rest up to 62mph in a brisk 6.1sec.
Avoid the R-Sport versions – which come on lower, stiffer suspension than cheaper models – and the XE is a really comfortable car. The ride is firm, but it’s supple enough to take the sting out of potholes in town and is wonderfully settled on the motorway.
You can add optional adaptive shock absorbers (they’re standard on the V6 S), but the standard suspension is so good that we’d recommend you save your money. This is a bonus over a BMW 3 Series, which needs the optional adaptive suspension to deliver the best blend of ride and handling.
There’s plenty of adjustment to the steering wheel, and having an electrically adjusted backrest (electric adjustment of the entire seat is a cost option on lower-end versions and standard on high-spec ones) makes it easy to make small adjustments to the driving position.
The seat offers good side support to keep you in place through corners, but not enough lower-back support; adjustable lumbar support is an option on all versions, but requires the extra addition of fully-electric seat adjustment on SE, Prestige and R-Sport trim levels, which adds up to a four-figure cost.
The XE has almost exactly the same amount of space up front as a BMW 3 Series, which means that lanky adults should be able to get comfortable and there’s enough space between driver and passenger. A similarly priced Audi A6 or BMW 5 Series is roomier, though.
Head room isn’t great, so long-bodied passengers may have to slouch to avoid feeling uncomfortably close to the roof, and if they’re sat behind someone tall in the front then leg room is tight, too.
At least the outer rear seats get sculpted, comfortable seatbases. Anyone in the middle seat gets a hard, raised cushion, and a chunky raised tunnel to straddle. In terms of the width on offer; well, three kids will fine, but three reasonably large adults won’t like feeling the squeezing in for long.
The XE has a fairly small boot by class standards. It suffers the same problems as most saloons, with a narrow opening and a shallow loadbay, but it’s also not very wide, which will be a particular hindrance if you want to carry a big buggy or a set of golf clubs.
You have to pay extra for split-folding rear seats, but you’re still left with a narrow space to thread long items through. They also lie at an angle instead of fully flat, and leave a big step in the extended loadbay floor.
Overall, there are more specious and better-finished executive saloons but none handles as sweetly as the Jaguar XE.
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