Car reviews - Jaguar - XE - P300 AWD
We like: Sensible design, easy to drive, sweet handling, responsive engine, worthy price tag
Room for improvement
Room for improvement: Cabin lacks much space, needs a tech upgrade, styling is bland, where’s the history?
Rare sighting of an appealing British cat: The XE is lost in a sea of 3 Series and C-Class models locally.
15 Dec 2021
By NEIL DOWLING
I had a cat once. So, I can speak from experience. Anyone who was employed by a cat will know that they are demanding and self-centred to the point where reliable schedules are lost in a fog. But, overwhelmingly, their lovable attributes, sense of poise and choreographed mannerisms are addictive. Much like the Jaguar.
Jaguars don’t drive like other cars. There’s an unhurried confidence in how they drive, a softness to its relationship with the bitumen, a comforting quietness of the cabin which juxtaposes with the subtle rush of performance. Lovable, in fact.
But they have an erratic history that swings from good to bad, through reliability issues to build quality and back, to some engineering design headaches of earlier cars that sent many mechanics to drink.
Believe me, I’ve heard it all before. Jags are unreliable and cost the earth to repair, apparently, lose value quicker than rivals and don’t make the grade in new cabin technology.
Sure, I have seen a Jaguar at the side of the road more than once but it’s always an old one. Today, that rarely happens.
Take the latest Jaguar XE on its merits and it comes up very strong against other Euros including the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo S60, and Audi A4, not to mention the Lexus IS and Genesis G70.
It oozes history as a carriage of kings and an exceptionally accomplished endurance racer and if that matters, then the shame of it is that in the 3 Series-sized XE, there’s no hint of its glorified past and conversely, little hint of the brand’s less glorious moments.
The XE’s styling is neat and well-proportioned but anonymous and, in the wrong colour – the test car was a pale grey – it gets mistaken by most onlookers as an early Hyundai.
Yet inside it’s clean and fresh and free from baubles and chrome that is used by some makers to dazzle prospective buyers into submission.
It’s small-ish – if you want more room then opt for the XF – but equates to the BMW 3 Series, yet is attractive from the driver’s seat and certainly has sufficient features to impress its passengers.
It is the on-road experience that gives the XE some extra weight over its peers. It’s crisp to drive, responds very well to input, and does everything comfortably, without fuss and with much ease.
Much of that is to do with the all-wheel drive system but that shouldn’t take all the credit. Notably, it steers remarkably accurately and clearly is one of the best around, finding the sweet spot between lightness and weight.
Even its feeling to your fingers through the bends is so assuring it gets close to matching the levels of a classy hydraulic system of years ago.
Then there’s the suspension which, on paper, isn’t particularly inspiring and yet it gives the XE all the brand’s renowned ride comfort and quietness accolades.
The P300 AWD R-Dynamic tested here gets the same 2.0-litre Jaguar Land Rover-made four-cylinder petrol engine that’s part of the Ingenium family, the one that marked JLR’s breakaway from buying engines from its previous owner, Ford.
Everyone loved Ford’s EcoBoost 2.0-litre except the JLR accountants who were paying the license fee. JLR decided to make its own engines and end its contract with Ford and, not surprisingly, the same thing happened at ex-Ford-owned Volvo.
In different outputs, the Ingenium 2.0-litre was slipped into the XE from 2017, two years after the XE started production. The P300 here is a 300PS (221kW) version that replaced the EcoBoost 177kW/340Nm unit.
With heaps of sting from the engine and a healthy 221kW at a relatively low 5500rpm, aided by a meaty 400Nm of torque from 1500rpm through to 4000rpm, it’s a responsive unit that is helped by the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic.
Jaguar claims a 100km/h sprint of a neat 5.9 seconds which is up there with the good ones.
It’s quiet until annoyed, when the animal picks up a deep growl, and even the fuel economy is reasonable with a claimed 6.8 litres per 100km, but in actual testing in suburbs, freeways, and country, came in at 8.5 L/100km.
The XE has an aluminium body and components including most of the suspension parts, allowing it to get down to 1690kg. Though no lightweight, it’s good enough to maintain the spark in the engine while inheriting the extra road holding of the all-wheel drive system.
The car is designed for people who want a classy car, but as a family car it falls a tad short in cabin space. Mainly, its rear seat is smallish and best left for the kids. The boot, however, is quite generous.
Cabin features are highlighted by the 10.0-inch centre touch screen and dedicated lower screen for the climate control which is regulated by rotary dials.
There’s excellent clarity and simplicity in the dashboard, highlighted by the simple tacho and digital speedo in the instrument panel.
Jaguar’s larger XF model moved away from its original rotary-dial gear shifter – coincidentally a design picked up by some of Kia’s latest models – as did the XE, replacing it with a joystick lever.
In the XE, it’s a hockey-stick shape that is much easier to use than the twist knob.
The XE also has high-end cabin equipment – such as the Meridian audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity – yet the design treatment and selection of materials is pleasantly restrained, so adding to the brand’s heritage of recognising good taste over unbridled frippery.
Safety equipment includes eight airbags, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitor and assist, 3D surround cameras, lane departure warning, park assist and on to LED headlights and heated mirrors.
Warranty and service: The XE is covered by Jaguar's five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty that comes with five years of roadside assistance.
There is no capped-price service program, but Jaguar does have service plans for its models. The XE will cost $1950 for five years or 102,000km and, clearly, is worth picking up.
Verdict: What a surprise. The XE was upgraded last year and it’s a better driving car, with better tech inside the cabin that matches its rivals. The cost of ownership is also great. I really liked this car because it made the ride so much more comfortable than most of its firmer-sprung rivals.
I also liked the fact I was also driving something different. But be aware it’s not a big car inside and that paint colour can be critical – a darker colour, for example.
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