Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: March 1, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Jaguar XE, specifically the XE S with its enthusiastic supercharged V6 and brilliantly tuned chassis. The prospect of packing 380 horses into a tight compact sedan is enough to make my mouth water, and it allows the XE S to launch with a similar neck breaking feeling as sitting on top of a Saturn V (well, I can only assume the latter).
I am testing another XE this week but this one is a bit peculiar. There’s a diesel engine under the hood and it produces a measly 180 horsepower instead of 380. Sure, torque is high at 318 lb-ft (more than BMW 328d actually) and it provides great passing power at highway speeds, but when all is said and done, it seems like the XE made a Faustian deal with the devil and gave up everything, most notably powertrain refinement, for a critical advantage in fuel efficiency.
The ingredients are still there: the diesel engine is small but packs a punch. With that immense amount of torque at its disposal, the ability to overtake at triple digit speeds is remarkable, meaning you can confidently get up to your desired speed without a worry. The quick steering rack is faithful to input and makes it easy to place the XE where you want it, and the rear-biased all-wheel drive system lets the vehicle corner with some sporting flair. The suspension keeps body motions in check yet strikes a clean balance between firmness and comfort. The looks are there too - the XE carries some stunning sheetmetal, especially at the front where it is more refreshing to look at than the comparative BMW 328d.
But nothing is married together with the same cohesion that I experienced in the XE S. Everything seems to have been tuned in different offices. It seems that without that instant-delivery supercharged engine, the XE falls apart and offers a rather bland driving experience that not only teases you with what it could become, but with what it should become.
Constant diesel chatter runs rampant, noticeable both outside and inside the XE, and it shakes the frame when idling in both warm and cold temperatures. The start/stop feature is rough, and violently rattles the vehicle during transitions. This diesel engine (called 20d) also commands a premium of $2,000 over its smoother, more refined, and quicker 2.0-litre four-cylinder gasoline counterpart (25t), which delivers 247 hp and 269 lb-ft and runs from 0-100 km/h 1.7 seconds faster.
Curiously enough, this four-cylinder turbodiesel (20d) is also found in other JLR applications like the F-Pace, XF, and Range Rover Velar but no matter the vehicle, it never seems to feel at home. I don’t want to make it sound like diesels are insignificantly poor performing. I just expected it to complement the XE rather than drag it down. That being said, when it comes to fuel efficiency, the XE strikes gold. I managed some excellent fuel economy numbers: on the highway alone I averaged 6.0 L/100km with a highway range of 850 km, enough to get from Toronto to New York City without filling up once.
And there aren’t many diesels around in Canada these days either. If you are looking for a premium compact sedan, you are really only left with the Jaguar XE 20d and BMW 328d. Either that or find yourself a plug-in hybrid. There sure are plenty of those roaming around the markets.
The XE is a brilliant sports sedan but without the V6 engine holding together the branches, the tree falls apart. The diesel has its many benefits and hits a home run with fuel economy, but something tells me that if you are looking for a fuel efficient four-door, you're better off buying a Chevrolet Cruze diesel rather than this endangered Faustian feline.
Model: 2018 Jaguar XE 20d AWD Prestige
Paint Type: Firenze Red ($670)
Base Price: $50,200
Price as Tested: $57,060
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,672 / 1,967 / 1,416
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Horsepower: 180 hp @ 4,000 rpm
Torque: 318 lb-ft @ 1,750 - 2,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 9.8 / 6.9 / 8.5
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 6.8