5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Driver-focused dynamics remain unchanged; subtle styling updates enhance handsome looks; increased value
Supercharged V6 killed off; active safety systems remain an option for cheaper variant; some expensive options remain
The Wheels Verdict: While those in search of outright power might be disappointed by the range culling, Jaguar should be commended for simplifying its XE line-up. By leaving the excellent dynamic character unchanged, but refining the interior and exterior styling, the XE retains its driver appeal, and should be more appealing for mainstream buyers.
- Overseas drive: 2019 Jaguar XE review
What is it?
Jaguar’s premium mid-size sedan, which has been treated to its first mid-life update. New styling and a more focussed line-up headline the changes.
Why we’re testing it
We’ve always rated the XE as one of the best driver’s cars in its segment. But with sales in a downward spiral, Jaguar needed to add some mainstream appeal to match the dynamic prowess. As part of a mid-life update, engines have been culled to just a single unit, with under-the-radar styling tweaks inside and out.
Read next: 2016 Jaguar XE long-term car review, part 5
The Wheels review
There’s something about the Jaguar XE that hasn’t grabbed the attention, and wallets, of the buying public, despite being one of the most appealing drives in the premium mid-size sedan segment. Just 528 registrations were recorded for the XE last year, down from 729 in 2017. Meanwhile, class sales leader the Mercedes-Benz C-Class shifted 5055 units in 2018 and 8549 in 2017. Jaguar hopes to have found the fix, by radically readjusting its local offering as part of the model’s first mid-life update.
Cosmetic changes are subtle; littler more than tweaks front and rear, enhancing the already handsome looks, while the interior has been graced by the infotainment system and steering wheel from the Jaguar I-Pace, as well as a new gear selector (gone is the fiddly rotary dial), and revised door trims.
Also gone is all bar one engine configuration. Previously Jaguar XE buyers had to choose between five different engines, spread across 11 variants. Now, just two variants are offered in a delightfully simple range, wiping out hard-to-sell stock. The last engine standing is the old ‘30t’, the (previously highest output) 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol producing 221kW/400Nm, badged P300, and sending power to the rear wheels via the carry-over eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.
While the four-pot is a good engine, and one of the most powerful in this class, with ample grunt piling on progressively through the rev-range, it’s a shame to see the supercharged V6 S dropped for those partial to its crackling soundtrack and extra kilowatts.
Trim levels are now limited to either SE or HSE badges ‒ $65,670 and $71,940 respectively ‒ with no base S grade in sight. Both variants come fitted with Jag’s more aggressive R-Dynamic styling pack as standard.
So, should you be parting with an extra $6270 for the higher grade XE? HSE buyers score an electrically-adjustable steering column, 16-way adjustable heated front seats (SE buyers have 12-way adjustable pews), 19-inch alloy wheels (up from 18s for the cheaper variant) an 11-speaker sound system, and the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system spread across two 10-inch touchscreens on the centre console. The SE gets the same software, but just a single 10-inch screen, leather seats, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, lane-keeping assistance, DAB+ digital radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring. If you want high-speed autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control on the SE, you’ll need to tick the box for the $1340 Drive pack.
Thankfully, the XE’s dynamic appeal remains unmolested, retaining class-leading steering, which is beautifully weighted and progressive. Our test cars were fitted with 20-inch wheels (a $2300 option on the SE, and $1300 for HSE), wrapped in sporty Pirelli P Zero rubber which aided the corner carving ability, but hindered interior refinement due to intrusive road noise.
Despite the slim sidewall (tyre specs were 235/35 front and 265/30 rear), the XE retains an impressively compliant ride, particularly on gnarly bits of backroad bitumen. Opting for the $1850 adaptive dampers improves things further, with the optional suspension offering better poise when dealing with mid-corner bumps, and urban irritations like speed bumps.
The mid-life changes also make the interior a slightly nicer place to spend time. Crucially, though, it’s the range rationalisation that should result in more customers opting for a test drive before giving up out of confusion and opting for a rival brand. Hopefully JLR’s Australian operation applies a similar strategy to its other flabby model lines. Sometimes, less really is more.
Mercedes Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Lexis IS, Genesis G70, Infiniti Q50
Model: Jaguar XE R-Dynamic SE
Engine: 1997cc 4 cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 221kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 400Nm @ 1500-4500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 5.9 seconds (claimed)
On sale: Now