Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: February 3, 2020
The Jaguar XE is a sleek, refined, and quintessentially British take on the sports sedan, and it deserves more attention. Last year, XE sales were dwarfed by the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, and there is an army of newcomers also eyeing the prize, with entrants from Alfa Romeo, Genesis, and even Cadillac. For 2020, Jaguar has decided to step up their game with a mid-cycle revision on the XE, bringing to the table updated styling, a revamped interior, and an amended powertrain lineup.
The already handsome Jaguar sheetmetal receives slimmer front and rear lights that are narrower than before, much like the new F-Type coming later this year. The front grill is slightly larger. There are currently only two trims for the 2020 XE, SE ($49,900) and SE R-Dynamic ($55,800), the latter adding a more powerful engine tune, larger front brakes, a more aggressive body kit with blacked out elements, larger front air intakes, a leather steering wheel, sport leather seats with contrast stitching, and new wheel designs.
The interior upgrades steal the show, making for a clean and uncluttered aesthetic, and the wraparound cockpit design is a breath of fresh air from German designs. The new steering wheel is borrowed from the I-Pace EV, and ranks right up there with the AMG wheels in terms of leather feel, grip, and appeal. Even the paddle shifters are metallic and emit an authoritative click when pulled. Like on the Range Rovers, the embedded buttons on the spokes respond to haptic touch, so wearing certain gloves disappointingly won’t trigger a response. Furthermore, the added favourite button shaped as a diamond is handy like in Audis, but unfortunately you can’t program the more useful options like turning on Dynamic Mode. On the bright side, the rising rotary gear shifter has been replaced by the pistol-grip shifter from pretty much every product in the JLR portfolio, and a new wireless charging pad sits right above it.
Jaguar was also keen to drift over to a digital screen format, with a full-digital driver instrument cluster and new dual center screens stacked on top of one another, much like they are in the Range Rover Velar. Making for a beautiful centerpiece, the unit is a delight to use, with the bottom screen handling quick functions for the climate, heated seats, radio stations, and limited setting controls. Prior Jaguar systems were buggy, laggy, and relatively unresponsive but this new unit is a big improvement, though the overreliance on touch-prompts may take some getting used to for those migrating from BMW and Mercedes-Benz’s rotary dial.
Both XE trims are powered by the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder but in two states of tune. The SE P250 receives the 247-hp tune (0-100 km/h in 6.5 s) while the R-Dynamic P300 gets the 296-hp output instead (0-100 km/h in 5.7 s). All-wheel drive is standard, as is an 8-speed automatic transmission. Normally I would suggest holding off until the inevitably more powerful XE S variant comes into fruition, but this four-cylinder is plenty eager, capable, and more than enough for the casual runabout.
Though not as free-revving as a BMW’s four-cylinder, the power is good and acceleration feels stronger than the G70 2.0t. Switching to Dynamic mode via the center toggle spices up the powertrain, and the speakers begin to pipe in some extra noise once you pass 5,000 rpm. Sadly, it does not sound nearly as exciting from the outside, where the actual noise is muffled - you can listen for yourself in our newest Exhaust Notes video above. I guess those are the constraints of a small turbo engine - but that doesn’t stop BMW and Mercedes from making them sound like gems. We also noticed some over-throttle whereby lifting off the accelerator does not instantly equate to a drop in acceleration.
The steering feels more electrically assisted and boosted than before, and while incredibly reactive to even the most minute of rotation inputs, makes it tricky to modulate at speed. The same goes for the brakes, which almost feel like a hybrid’s regenerative brakes in terms of its initial springboard-like feedback and tricky nonlinear travel. With the Alfa Romeo Giulia and BMW 330i both harbouring crisper and more progressive steering with predictable brakes that you can lean on, I feel like Jaguar took a step in the wrong direction here. At least the chassis pays dividends to the XE’s excellent road manners, absorbing vertical undulations like a larger mid-size sedan, all without upsetting its already impressive inherent balance. Our XE did not come with the adaptive dampers either, and I don’t think it needs it.
We have yet to receive word of a diesel or a supercharged V6 offering, though we have high hopes for the latter or JLR’s new inline-six. The chassis is just begging for a larger motor, and it should make for one underrated and engaging driving experience. In the meantime, the four-cylinder is all you get, and a good one at that. Mixed with a buttoned down chassis and outstanding new interior, the updated XE remains one of our top picks in the segment.
Model: 2020 Jaguar XE P300 R-Dynamic SE
Paint Type: Santorini Black
Base Price: $55,800
Price as Tested: $61,630
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,678 / 1,967 / 1,425
Curb weight (kg): 1,615
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 296 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1,500 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.7 / 7.7 / 9.4
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.1