Plus & Minus
Cabin now looks the part; stellar dynamics unmolested; sharp exterior design
Nothing brawnier than a 221kW turbo four-pot in new simplified range
The Wheels Verdict: It might not be the popular kid on the block, but Britain’s premium mid-size sedan is one of the best value propositions in the segment, despite some minor flaws.
WHAT IS THE JAGUAR XE?
A British antidote to the German midsize sedan status quo, the XE follows the segment formula of a longitudinally-arranged engine up front, a five-seat cabin in the middle, and driven wheels at the rear.
Read next: 2016 Jaguar XE long-term car review, part 5
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
The XE has received its first major facelift, with a sharper and more aggressive exterior treatment on the outside and an extensive cabin re-fit on the inside. Mechanicals don't see many alterations at all, but there's more tech to play with and a nicer environment to sit in.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
There was never really anything wrong with the way the Jaguar XE drove – in fact, praise for its handling was almost universal. Good thing, then, that Jaguar has done precisely nothing to the mechanical package and suspension of its facelifted midsize sedan.
But while compliments for its on-road nous were plentiful, there was less love for what was on the inside – namely a cabin that lagged behind the competition for design and ergonomics. A crowded model lineup didn't help its cause either, what with five grades spread across five powertrains making for a complex shopping experience.
That'll all be in the past come August, though, when the reworked XE arrives in Australia in a super-simple two-model lineup, bringing with it a cosmetically-enhanced snout and bum and a modernised cabin fit-out. Only one powertrain will be on offer too, the 221kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo four formerly known as the '30t' engine, now rechristened the 'P300'. Yep, the lower-output petrols, diesels and, sadly, the yowling supercharged 3.0-litre V6 have all been shelved for our market.
Sad news for six-pot lovers, but the value offering should make up for it. The sporty-looking R-Dynamic trim is standard-issue now, and just two spec grades simplify the decision making process: choose either from the entry-level XE P300 R-Dynamic SE at $65,670, or the top-shelf XE P300 R-Dynamic HSE at $71,940. Australia opted not to take the boggo-spec S model that'll open the range in Europe.
Is the step-up to HSE grade worth it? For your extra spend you get greater choice of upholstery and seating, plus niceties like an electrically-adjustable steering column, 16-way adjustable heated front seats (versus 12-way in the SE), and 19-inch alloys as standard in lieu of the SE’s 18s. An 11-speaker sound system is also standard on HSE, and comes coupled to Jaguar’s snazzy Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, which stacks two 10-inch screens on the centre console. The SE gets the same software, but just a single 10-inch screen.
The HSE also brings a safety advantage, with blind spot assist, adaptive cruise control and high-speed AEB becoming standard.
But does the facelift move the XE along far enough to keep pace with new arrivals, namely BMW’s impressive new 3 Series?
Dynamically and mechanically there’s little to report – the updated XE drives just as well as the pre-update did, with sharp and incisive steering and an authoritative front-end that makes it one of the better corner-carvers in the segment. Ride quality, even on the 20-inch wheels of the cars we tested in France, is also surprisingly good, though predictably brittle on urban speed bumps and the like.
It’s definitely easier to live with, however. Those troublesome double-decker door cards have been binned in favour of a more conventional arrangement of grab handles and switch blocks, the pistol-grip gear selector replaces the nonsensical rotary dial, and the infotainment upgrade definitely modernises the XE’s interior by a great deal – though not by the amount necessary to put it on even pegging with BMW or Audi rivals.
Rather, the freshened-up XE’s most compelling attribute is value for money. For the money paid, the power, drive and equipment delivered by the P300 XE range is hard to equal.
JAGUAR XE PRICE AND SPECS AUSTRALIA
Model: Jaguar XE P300 R-Dynamic SE
Engine: 1997cc four-cyl dohc turbo petrol
Max power: 221kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 400Nm @ 1500-4500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 5.9 seconds (claimed)
Economy: 6.7L/100km (claimed)
On sale: TBA