Jaguar’s medium sedan launched in 2015 with a very broad, 15-strong range. Fast forward six years and there are just three XE varieties on our shores – but does a more concise choice still make this sporty saloon resonate?
Midsize SUVs may be where most Australian car buyers shop now, but the executive sedan is one of the most prestigious in the market. These are the cars famous for turning company fortunes around in decades gone by, and still includes huge names like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
With the efficiencies of platform sharing, more manufacturers have entered the ring despite shrinking sales, with current segment players taking in the Italian Alfa Romeo Giulia, the recently-discontinued Japanese Lexus IS and, of course, the British-built Jaguar XE, tested here in P300 AWD Black Edition specification.
The Jaguar XE has been on sale in Australia since August 2015 and despite only shifting 141 units from January to November in 2021, anecdotally, the XE is a common sight in Sydney’s more affluent suburbs, even if it is outsold by Jaguar’s less-affordable and heavier E-Pace SUV (533 sales).
A conventional three-box sedan, the XE’s lines were gracefully penned by esteemed Jaguar Land Rover designer Ian Callum. The rear door is truncated and swoops up to give the rear a powerful stance, meanwhile the bonnet is long (with plenty of space for a V8, as seen in the left-hook-only XE Project 8) lending a classic sports sedan stance.
The detailing is restrained, and this $64,704 (before on-roads) Black Edition (the new entry grade for 2021) bundles in a black pack for the grille, mirrors, wheels and badging. Whilst not a classical Jag in spec, the car looks sharp in Yulong White pearlescent paint.
Jaguar’s broad customisation offers you the choice despite only offering three main variants, and that’s cool. Even better still is how the XE offers all these goodies with a very reasonable starting price.
The other great feature of the XE P300 is its engine, at least on paper. Compared to rivals like the BMW 330i ($79,900), Mercedes-Benz C300 ($75,300) and Audi A4 45TFSI ($70,800), the Jaguar’s 221kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder has at least 10 percent more power.
It sounds good, too, though the Jaguar’s four-cylinder induction bark is more Renaultsport Megane than prestigious Jaguar. Yet the grunt doesn’t translate to outright pace, the XE P300 only gets to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds which is decent, but a tenth behind the BMW 330i (5.8 seconds).
The AWD XE tipped our scales at 1594kg, 124kg more than the claimed kerb weight of a BMW 330i which goes some way to explaining its slower sprint time.
The turbo petrol ‘four is coupled with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, which is mostly slick but has a tendency to get caught between gears and stumble around town. Add to that a throttle pedal which seems to run-on after lifting off and the XE’s drivetrain is ultimately not as slinky as the black big cat on the grille promises.
Do I wish Jaguar had kept the option of the 280kW/450Nm supercharged V6? Absolutely. For all the grunt of the P300 powertrain, it can only sound so good, and a growling V6 or fire breathing V8 (as in the 2019 limited production left-hook Project 8 which was sold in Australia briefly but couldn’t be road-registered) would be ace.
The XE’s awkwardness continues over bumps where the 19-inch alloys and passive dampers get hung up on sharp edges, occasionally crashing through so as to make cabin plastics creak. Our previous experience in XEs with 18 or 19-inch alloys show this sedan can be slinky and supple on the right wheel and tyre package, or with adaptive dampers ($1850).
Like a chubby and (mostly) content house cat, the XE manages to surprise you in the way it steps up to a challenge when one is presented. With the tiller slicing through open countryside the Jaguar performs more favourably, that awkward urban transmission tune is forgotten as the ’box chooses the right gear for the situation, and the 400Nm of torque sees speeds rise briskly on the open road.
As much enjoyment as I got guiding the Jaguar through a set of bends though, it never felt light on its feet the way a 3 Series does, so instead it’s best to dial it back a notch and enjoy the XE’s fluid responses rather than going full-bore.
When it comes to assistance systems, the XE’s list of features includes adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring, AEB with pedestrian detection and lane-keep assist and has a five-star ANCAP rating from 2015.
While you may only get one engine choice, the remainder of the Jaguar experience is all about individuality. The marque offers 10 paint colour and wheel choices for you to select from, and the choice becomes even broader in the cabin.
Specifying the XE from scratch offers the choice of black, cream, tan or red leather as a no-cost option, and higher grade perforated ‘Windsor’ leather in the same hues for $3890 extra (in conjunction with 16-way electrically adjustable pews).
However, our car didn’t take advantage of the options, and was appointed with ever-practical black leather-upholstered seats, with 12 ways of electric adjustment and standard seat heating up front.
There were some option boxes ticked, including a $2160 technology pack that bundles wireless charging, head-up display and and a Touch Pro Duo infotainment system with touchscreen HVAC controls.
While touch-driven climate control rarely works well, Jaguar’s implementation is clever, isolating HVAC control into a 10.0-inch separate screen below the main infotainment, with the temperature and fan speed adjustment controlled through knurled dials for driver and passenger.
Well integrated into the centre console is the main 10.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Jaguar’s infotainment system is pleasing to use as well with its muted colour palette easy on the eyes and the navigation easy to input directions.
The digital driver’s display also offers more comprehensive navigation integration than a BMW 3 Series – if still behind the industry-standard Virtual Cockpit instrument pack fitted to the Audi A4.
That classic driving position is oh-so big cat as well with the driver’s seat on the deck, and space for long legs to stretch out. On the whole the cabin is presented well, though does fall a little short in outright finish quality, with some materials – like the dash top – feeling flimsy to the touch.
Still the 14-speaker Meridian sound system (standard on the Black edition) was lovely, providing thick renditions of smooth tunes with a plushness that suits the Jaguar’s relaxed demeanour.
In the rear quarters, the XE shows one of its weaknesses – a back seat that was clearly benchmarked on the competitors of a generation ago. Legroom is poor: anyone over 175cm is going to be squeezed in tight, with not much knee or headroom to speak of. The middle seat is off-limits for all but those who haven’t hit puberty yet.
The XE’s boot continues this trend, offering a measly 345 litres of space and a space saver spare tyre under the floor. Unlike rivals, Jaguar does not offer a labrador-friendly XE station wagon.
Going back to the loss of the 250kW/450Nm supercharged V6, you would expect the four-pot P300 to use less fuel. However our testing showed 11.5L/100km on the trip computer, which is a far cry from the 6.8L/100km claim made by Jaguar.
At least the British marque has now moved to a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty in Australia which should provide welcome peace of mind.
Servicing is relatively affordable, with maintenance due every 12 months or 16,000km and five years or 102,000km capped at $1950. That’s a little more expensive than a BMW 330i ($1750), but more affordable than an Audi A4 45 TFSI ($2920) and far less expensive than the $4300 five years of C300 servicing costs.
With an attainable price of entry, the most powerful engine in the segment and standard AWD, the Jaguar XE is a very tempting package on paper.
When in its natural habitat, this big cat impresses with long legs and fluid, effortless dynamics. However in tighter settings, the XE P300’s suspension doesn’t cosset you like the lovely Meridian stereo does.
On top of the slightly knobbly ride when fitted with 19-inch wheels, the packaging of this sedan feels like it was based on competitors that have gradually been replaced by more spacious newer-generation sedans.
So the Jaguar XE P300 ticks many boxes, and looks incredible doing so – but in this highly competitive, prestigious field that continues to receive close attention from carmakers, the XE feels just about ready for a generational update.
Variant tested P300 R-DYNAMIC BLACK (221kW)
Key specs (as tested)
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