From £33,2408

Could Jaguar's transition into an all-electric brand force one of its less commercially successful models into retirement too early?

Find Jaguar XE deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
New car deals
From £33,240
Nearly-new car deals
From £30,990
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

It’s now a decade since British sports car and saloon specialist Jaguar chose a motor show stand in Geneva, Switzerland, to tell the world that it was finally taking on one its toughest assignments in modern times: going after the BMW 3 Series. 

This time, unlike with the Ford Mondeo-based X-Type, it would do that with a proper, rear-driven saloon worth its salt. Later in 2014, the extensively aluminium-constructed Jaguar XE met the world’s motoring press in Paris, and production at Castle Bromwich began the following year. 

And now - after for so long trying to compete with arguably the most dominant and successful executive saloon in the world, and lately setting its sights a little lower - the XE is staring retirement in the face. By 2025, we are told, Jaguar’s modern reinvention as an all-electric brand will be up and running - and every one of its old combustion-engined models, this one included, will have been withdrawn from sale.  

So now in its twilight years - and itself like some tribute to a time when Jaguar still harboured ambitions to strike out among Europe’s big-selling premium brands, rather than transforming itself into a zero-emissions luxury player as it seems now intent on doing - what does the XE have to offer today’s executive saloon buyer? And it might it be worth one final fling in a British-built, combustion-engined saloon, before the lights finally go out on Jaguar saloons as we have known them?

Advertisement

DESIGN & STYLING

8
jaguar xe update review 2024 02 panning side

The Jaguar XE’s showroom fortunes tell a story of great ambition, a few questionable choices, and bad timing on behalf of its maker. 

It adopted the same D7a platform chassis that serves under the XF, F-Pace and the Range Rover Velar and that confers an all-aluminium chassis design (in a class where predominantly steel cars remain the norm), longways engines, double-wishbone front suspension, multiple links at the rear, and a natively rear-wheel-drive layout (with clutch-actuated, electronically controlled four-wheel drive on some models).

Aluminium, JLR's go-to material, accounts for 75% of the body weight in the Jaguar XE

Ten years ago, that kind of construction was exotic enough to compare fairly favourably with the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 of the time. But what’s really interesting to observe is what has happened to the compact executive car market since 2014, and exactly where the Jaguar XE fits into it now. 

Because although it was slightly small by class standards when introduced, this car’s market positioning has crept down a market segment, while its original rivals have crept up. As we’ll explore more fully later, through model renewals and mission expansions, the BMW 3 Series and its German equivalents have become cars that it’s realistically impossible to pay less than £40,000 for, with many big-selling versions ‘transacting’ much nearer £50k.

While the XE was singularly failing to match the sales volumes of those executive rivals, though, it was slowly amortising its fixed costs, avoiding complication and embracing a relative value advantage that now delivers it to market from little more than £33,000 in entry-level diesel form, and from under £37k even as a fairly potent, mid-range, 247bhp four-cylinder turbo petrol.

It’s probably not by chance, then, that in the new range-topping P300 AWD Sport trim that we’re testing it in in 2024, the XE lines up as an almost exact match on price with Audi’s S3 Quattro saloon and the BMW M235i xDrive M Sport. Both of those Germans are, of course, transverse-engined, natively front-wheel-drive competitors with necessarily higher engine packaging, higher centres of gravity and less equal weight distributions – and both could be said to be derived from hatchback platforms.

Could these be the glory days of Jaguar’s smallest saloon, then? Looking back through its life, there were certainly times when it had more sound and fury. The demise of the AJ126-powered V6 XE S in 2017 is a particular shame - and the short-lived, herocially over-engined Project 8 super-saloon is especially hard to forget.

However you see it, Jaguar has just cut down the XE’s derivative range for possibly one last time. There are now only five models left within it in total. Three rear-driven, mild-hybrid four-cylinder D200 diesels (R-Dynamic S, SE Black and HSE Black, each with 201bhp); one upper-mid-range, rear-drive, R-Dynamic HSE Black P250 petrol; and one final range-topping P300 AWD Sport range-topper. The last of those happens to be the only XE now offered with all-wheel drive, and it’s the only one that gets adaptive dampers as standard (Configurable Dynamics and uprated brakes are optional on lower-level models).

The range-topping XE we tested weighed in at 1740kg on Millbrook’s proving ground scales – 89kg heavier than its homologated kerb weight, but fitted with at least some optional equipment (panoramic glass roof, etc) to explain away the ballast.

INTERIOR

8
jaguar xe update review 2024 09 interior

The Jaguar XE never compared well with its original competitor set for outright passenger space, but now that it finds itself with cars like the Mercedes CLA, Audi A3 Saloon and BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé for company on price, what it offers seems a lot more palatable.

Passenger space feels a shade more snug in both rows than is the executive class norm, but the same could be said for its new competitors. Taller drivers might just run out of head room behind the wheel, while fully grown adults may not be too keen on travelling in the back for very long - although space back there is fine for smaller ones, and for kids.

Boot space, meanwhile, is broadly similar to what you’ll find in most compact saloons for loading length, width and height, according to our tape measure. A Mercedes CLA 250e offers a few centimetres more space here and there, but not enough to make a meaningful difference.

Jaguar changed only a few details of the interior’s design and specification for the 2024 model year: the grade of leather on the steering wheel, for example (it’s not smooth, not perforated) and the style of the treadplates on each door sill. 

And here, the XE feels like it’s got off lightly relative to what was done to the interiors of the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport at the same time. The XE retains chunky rotary heater and blower rotary controls, its physical switchgear for the control of anything from audio volume, to ESC, to lane keeping, and its usefully large centre console storage cubbies. Nothing’s been taken away for the sake of ‘reductive design’ or neatness or sustainability.

And what a good job that is. Because while it’s not quite as impressive as in the bigger XF, the XE’s material quality is fairly good - better, at any rate, than it used to be - and the cabin feels moderately expensively done out. The use of satin chrome and high-gloss black is a bit derivative, but if that’s the biggest compromise made here for the sake of an appealing value proposition, you’d happily accept it.

The digital instrument binnacle remains nicely rendered and just about configurable enough, and its Pivi Pro touchscreen infotainment system (which arrived in 2021, albeit without the freestanding display you’ll find in an XF and F-Pace) manages fully wireless smartphone mirroring and is fairly slick and easy to use.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

7
jaguar xe update review 2024 18 engine

The XE’s line-up of four-cylinder Ingenium engines certainly don’t give it the lusty, enticing mechanical charm that Jaguar’s traditional big saloons of so many decades ago had, but they do deliver reasonably refined, flexible and economical motoring in the case of the diesels, and a that bit more urgency if you opt for the range-topping petrol.

Our P300 AWD Sport test car came with a claimed 0-62mph of 5.9sec and, in dry test conditions, fell narrowly but notably short of reproducing that on the track (0-60mph: 6.3sec). Using a more traditional torque-converter automatic gearbox than at least some of its transverse-engined rivals, it doesn’t have a launch control mode and so - four-wheel drive or not - it doesn’t get off the line quite as smartly as it might.

It’s inconvenient for Jaguar that the same excuse can’t be used for roll-on acceleration. From 30mph to 70mph through the gears, the XE needed 5.7sec (4.2sec for the Audi S3 Sportback in 2020). Kerb weight may be part of the problem here, the XE being a deal heavier than so many compact premium options despite its aluminium construction. But the other unmissable fact is that the car’s range-topping petrol engine never really quite feels like it’s making all of its advertised 296bhp.

There’s a slightly gravelly character to the 2.0-litre turbocharged unit that makes for less of an audible contrast with the once-saloon-default four-pot diesel than you might expect. Jaguar’s particular combustion control technology makes this less smooth than some petrol engines, while it’s also a little less free-revving than some harder-working turbo petrol alternatives - although turbo response is generally quite good, and mid-range torque ample also.

The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox shifts smoothly in normal use, but like the engine, it doesn’t seem to appreciate being hurried into service or worked hard. It’s a little slow to engage drive at times, is likewise a bit slow to change ratios in paddle-shift manual mode, and somehow combines with the engine to give the XE’s performance a slightly treacly feel, as if there were simply more driveline friction than the norm for the car to overcome.

However, most of this would only be any obstacle or disappointment for those who might be attracted to the XE as some junior executive sport saloon. During normal day-to-day driving, the P300 powertrain works agreeably well, albeit perhaps with the odd vaguely frustrating moment of gelatinous latency (although, as well come on to later, it isn’t the most fuel efficient petrol engine of its kind).The car’s controls are carefully and progressively tuned, making the brake pedal progressive in its feel, while the XE’s brakes themselves (in uprated form, as tested) are fairly powerful and resist fade well.

The XE’s diesel engines, meanwhile, have proven impressively refined and real-world economical on recent acquaintance. While they may no longer make financially viable options for most fleet car drivers in 2024, they should still be well worth considering for private buyers with higher mileage in mind.

RIDE & HANDLING

9
jaguar xe update review 2024 19 action

Some of the Jaguar XE’s engines may not be the lures upon which it could once depend - but the chassis remains a powerful advert for the car, in some ways perhaps even more so today than it was when it was new almost a decade ago.

The P300 AWD Sport we tested, running on 20in wheels and with its Configurable Dynamics adaptive dampers as standard, offered specific Normal and Sport mode damping, steering and powertrain settings accessed via Jaguar’s Dynamic-i menu, as well as top-level Comfort, Eco and Dynamic drive modes. 

This is the most pleasing car in the 'compact premium' executive class to drive by some distance

Left in its default settings, though, it struck a very effective handling and ride compromise that made it flat, balanced and composed in its cornering manners at speed, as well as supple over tougher surfaces, without any notable trade-off on outright body control. It’s that well-tuned dynamic compromise that shows that Jaguar’s chassis development engineers still better understand the demands that UK road surfaces will make of an executive saloon than so many of their German and Italian opposites.

The XE has an affinity for a British country road - as it rises and falls, cambers and crowns, and throws up hidden ridges and broken asphalt - of a kind that so many modern sport saloons lack. It doesn’t feel quite as firmly sprung as some and its suspension seems to have greater progressiveness and dexterity to work with a changing surface, without diverting the car’s steering or disturbing its grip levels. 

The fluent, comfortable, composed, fast-striding cross-country gait that the car can adopt, when the opportunity presents, feels as impressive today as it did nearly a decade ago. It steers with well-judged weight and some feel, and stays true to a cornering line even over mid-corner lumps and bumps. The one fly in the ointment is that Jaguar’s four-wheel drive system for the car does seem to dull the chassis’s throttle-on handling balance slightly, causing the beginnings of traction-related mid-corner understeer if you exit a corner quickly.

Ride isolation was fairly good in our 20in-rim-equipped test car – slightly quieter at 50mph, by our decibel meter’s reckoning, than a Mercedes CLA 250e saloon, with room for it to be quieter still on smaller wheels and tyres.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

8
jaguar xe update review 2024 01 cornering front

With prices starting from little more than £33,000 - a figure that buys only a mid-range Volkswagen Golf in 2024 and is made to look all the more enticing compared with the figures asked for electric executive cars of similar size - the Jaguar XE has become a car with a real value selling point. Although perhaps small compared with the average executive saloon, it is a lot of car for that kind of outlay and remains similarly appealing in all but its very priciest derivative guises.

Jaguar has sweetened equipment levels on the car once more for the 2024 model year, so even entry-level Dynamic S diesels come with a 10.0in Pivi Pro touchscreen infotainment system with wireless smartphone mirroring, digital instruments, heated leather seats, 18in alloy wheels and a full suite of driver assistance systems.

Mid-level Dynamic SE Black models add 19in rims, exterior black body trim, a Meridian premium audio system and a wireless phone charger. Dynamic HSE Black trim adds Windsor leather seats, ebony veneer cabin trim, an electrically adjustable steering column and a powered bootlid. Only on the XE Sport do the adaptive dampers and braking upgrades that you can pay extra for on other models come as standard.

Our P300 AWD Sport test car managed a touring-test fuel economy return of a little over 42mpg, but its test average result of 30.3mpg exposes what can be quite a thirsty four-cylinder compact saloon when not being driven fairly conservatively. The mild-hybrid D200 models, by contrast, are about as real-world efficient as any comparable diesel saloons in our test experience (55mpg if you really put your mind to it).

VERDICT

8

It was Jaguar’s great ‘moonshot’ to take aim at the BMW 3 Series when it launched the XE saloon in 2014. With regrettable predictability, from a business perspective if not a critical one, the car fell considerably short of its mark.

Without the kind of commercial success that has fuelled so many successive generations of its German-made rivals, this Jaguar simply couldn’t develop at the same rate as its equivalent BMW, Mercedes and Audi rivals has these past 10 years. That’s why there isn’t now a second-generation XE with a modern plug-in hybrid powertrain, and why the car - and, to an extent, its parent brand - faces such a dim and uncertain future.

However, it’s to Jaguar's credit that it has successfully retained a place in the car market for the XE so many years after it was launched - albeit more of a niche place than the one for which it was originally intended. Because when you consider this car purely as a private buy, and as an alternative to the ‘compact premium’ executive saloon options against which it is priced in 2024 - the Mercedes CLA-Class, BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé and Audi A3 Saloon - it finds a renewed kind of appeal.

Just as it did 10 years ago, the XE’s chassis and steering still stand out for the fluent, appealing ride and handling they deliver. For practicality, interior quality and equipment, it is more competitive with its new opponents than it ever was with its old ones. And while its upper-tier petrol engines aren’t a match for those multi-cylinder ones the XE once had, they do respectable job – and its diesels a better one still.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Jaguar XE First drives