2020 Jaguar XE Review

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
April 25, 2019

Buying tip

A stock Jaguar XE S gets the standout maintenance plan—can an Alfa Giulia say the same?

The 2019 Jaguar XE delivers legitimate sport-sedan goodness.

The 2020 Jaguar XE has put on new blinders. The pursuits for diesel economy and supercharged V-6 performance always were at the fringes of its talents. For 2020, they’re out of sight, out of mind.

With the 2020 XE, Jaguar focuses on turbo-4 engines, smartly tuned ride and handling, an excellent warranty and maintenance plan, and a slightly warmer interior.

We give it a 6.4 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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This year’s XE doesn’t stray too far from the BMW-driven norm in sport-sedan style. The LED headlights are new and trim, the LED taillights have been flattened at the bottom, and the R-Dynamic trim packages clips metallic and mesh trim to the well-proportioned body. It’s classic sport sedan, stem to stern—we just wish Jaguar would rifle through its own closet for more interior style. It’s a plain place to work, more stern than even BMW’s latest cockpit designs.

As it’s streamlined to turbo-4 power alone, Jaguar’s kept two power levels that keep the XE in the hunt. Base XE S cars have 247 horsepower, while R-Dynamics have 296 hp, for 0-60 mph times that bracket the 6.0-second mark. In sync with a crisply responsive 8-speed automatic and rear- or all-wheel drive, the 2020 XE’s powertrain remains a strength, though its ride and handling merit more attention. More absorbent than a 3er, more resilient than a Weeble-Gummibear hybrid, the XE knows where straight-ahead lies and knows that nervous and twitchy in high-speed curves is not a good look.

Sure, it could use a bigger back seat, but then it’d be an XF, and the 2020 Jaguar XE fares better for the two passengers who really count: the ones in front. Grippy sport seats don’t swamp passengers in space, granted, but the cocoon-like cabin fits the mission here. It’s tougher to get into the back seat, but the space is acceptable for adults, and the XE’s trunk is reasonably big.

No crash-test data has ever been compiled for the XE, but automatic emergency braking now is standard, and Jaguar sells adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system as side dishes.

The base $40,895 2020 XE sedan gets leather upholstery, a 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 18-inch wheels and all-season tires, power front seats, and a sunroof. Options include navigation, a second touchscreen for climate controls, 825-watt Meridian audio, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a rear camera mirror, all-wheel drive, and the R-Dynamic trim package.

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2020 Jaguar XE

Styling

The Jaguar XE’s me-too styling hits fine but familiar notes.

When Jaguar sketched its XE compact luxury sedan, it didn’t stray too far from the outline familiar for decades. The longish nose, the short-ish deck, it’s all an homage to a generation of sport sedans—and though it’s derivative, it’s detailed well.

We give the XE a 6 for styling, with an extra point for its body. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The drama of Jaguar’s past has left the studio; the 2020 XE goes out of its way to mimic the 3-Series, down to the gentle flare of its wheel wells and the tightly tucked rear end. It’s elegant, it’s muscular, but the whole sport-sedan multiverse has converged on the same silhouette, and it’s difficult to distinguish the XE from a Model 3 or a BMW 3er. We’ll hand it to Jaguar that the XE’s proportions are perhaps finer and its details better drawn—there’s no history to bow down to, so its LED headlights take a fun hockey-stick angle, and its taillights flatten out into pulse waveforms. R-Dynamics twist the style dial a notch with dark mesh trim and brushed metallic bits.

We miss the old notions of British luxury more inside. This year, Jaguar’s polished the cabin with better materials that cover hard plastic with softer synthetics, with a secondary digital display for climate controls, with a new shift lever that replaces the old Star Trek-ish transmission puck.

The XE’s muted cabin has the control-pod realness of a vintage-2010s sport sedan, but it lacks the warm and wooly seats of a Range Rover Velar, or the pretty combinations of ambient light and wood trim that graced the old XF sedan. It’s a British sense of British luxury—but does the rest of the world want something more retrograde?

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2020 Jaguar XE

Performance

A turbo-4 provides all the Jag XE’s power needs; it’s still a handling gem.

Jaguar has stripped the V-6 and turbodiesel powertrains from the 2020 XE’s hymnal, but it still hums sweetly behind the twin powers of a turbo-4 and a well-tuned suspension.

We give the latest XE a 7 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

There’s just one engine in the 2020 XE, though it’s offered in two output levels. The same 2.0-liter turbo-4 from the previous XE returns and in the XE S P250 it’s rated at 247 hp, which it reaches at 5,500 rpm. Peak torque of 269 pound-feet arrives at 1,300 rpm and holds through 4,500 rpm. Like many of the turbo-4s in compact luxury cars, the Jag engine’s well-tuned to deliver its power and doesn’t sound strained as it reaches for redline. Jaguar promises 0-60 mph runs of 6.2 seconds, and limits top speed to 120 mph.

In the uprated version found in the XE R-Dynamic S, the turbo-4 generates 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, reaches 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and a 120-mph top end. All those figures square with leaders like the C-Class and 3-Series and A4, and the XE’s curb weight ranges from 3,385 to 3,560 pounds like them, from base rear-drive form to fully loaded AWD trim.

All XE sedans get a deftly programmed 8-speed automatic with available paddle shift controls. The former rotary transmission knob on the console’s gone, swapped out for a stick-style shift lever that connotes performance better than a rheostat-like knob. The transmission holds gears when its Sport mode is selected; the XE also has drive modes from Comfort to Eco, to Rain/Ice/Snow, to Dynamic, which remap shift points, throttle response, and steering weight.

Jaguar XE ride and handling

With minor retuning and the elimination of some base tires, the XE’s ride and handling retains its attentive charm. The body’s composed of lighter-weight aluminum, and so is the suspension; the steering’s by electric motor. It’s all synthesized into a package that bests cars like the bigger 3er for overall feel and especially, ride comfort.

The XE hasn’t lost the exceptional steering feel, even with its base wheel-and-tire package upsized to 18s. The steering’s not overloaded with artificial weight, even when tapped into Sport mode on the ribbon of console-mounted buttons.

The graceful and fluid suspension feel still sets this apart from more brittle rides. Jaguar’s hallmark ride quality decades ago was a source of pride. It’s firmed up considerably, but in the company of German and Japanese iron, the ride’s blessed with more compliance and better absorption, especially when fitted with the adaptive dampers that can be ordered in a bundle along with driver-programmable modes, performance brakes, red calipers and a decklid spoiler. We’d put an asterisk on the 20-inch wheels and summer tires walled off on R-Dynamic cars, which we’ve driven in France but not on some less forgiving roads in America. The XE may look too much like a 3-Series, but it’s no sin at all that it handles as well as one.

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2020 Jaguar XE

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Jaguar XE warms its cabin a degree or two, but it’s still snug in back.

While Jaguar’s refreshed the XE under the skin and at its nose, the passenger and storage space has remained the same. It’s sport-sedan snug inside, undoubtedly better in front for passengers than in back, but size-appropriate.

We give it a 6 for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

At 184.2 inches long overall, the 2020 XE rides on a 111.6-inch wheelbase. It’s spun from the same architecture as the longer XF sedan, but the two are similar in front-seat space and support.

Like the cars it takes in its direct aim—C-Class and 3-Series—the XE knows that a firm, well-bolstered seat cues drivers up for a more engaging experience. The XE has all the cushion it needs, whether it’s across the shoulders, under the legs, or cinched at the waist. They’re a nice complement to the car’s ride and handling prowess, and from their basic 12-way power adjustment they can be optioned up to 16-way adjustment and heating and cooling. We wouldn’t call the space that surrounds them copious, but the XE doesn’t feel confining, even though the console has sprouted a shifter in the place of the low-lying transmission puck.

The XE’s back seat poses more of a challenge to tall passengers. Leg room hits the mark—it’s 35.0 inches—but the rear doors have relatively small openings at their base. The slide in can be more difficult, and there’s not a vast expanse of head room, but a 6-foot-tall adult can sit behind themselves.

The XE’s trunk measures a bit on the small side at 14.5 cubic feet, but small-item storage in the car is better and the rear seats fold down for larger storage space. Some foibles dot the cabin—power windows switches sit on top of the door panels, while the lock switch sits below. The XE’s more pressing concern is, despite higher-grade materials inside, the cabin’s still plain by any standard, especially the high one set by pre-XE Jags.

 

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2020 Jaguar XE

Safety

No crash-test scores are in for the 2020 XE.

Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has ever crash-tested a Jaguar XE, and we don’t expect they will in this revised form, either. We leave it without a safety score, until that changes. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With the 2020 upgrades, Jaguar’s made a lot more safety equipment standard. All models now have front and rear parking sensors and active lane control, as well as automatic emergency braking.

On the options list, buyers will find adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, blind-spot monitors, a surround-view camera system, and automatic park assist, which steers the car into a parallel or perpendicular spot while the driver works the throttle and brakes.

We’ll update this section if any crash tests are performed.

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2020 Jaguar XE

Features

The 2020 XE streamlines its features in the right direction, and keeps its excellent warranty.

Jaguar sells the 2020 XE sedan in two versions. There’s an XE S sedan with 247 hp; it costs $40,895 in rear-drive form, and $42,895 with all-wheel drive. The R-Dynamic trim pack adds equipment and trim and costs $47,290.

We give the 2020 Jaguar XE an 8 for features, thanks to excellent standard equipment, infotainment that works, and a sterling service plan. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The choice between XE sedans largely hinges on your need for all-season traction. All 2020 XE sedans come with 18-inch wheels and tires, a glass sunroof, LED headlights with automatic high beams, leather upholstery, 12-way power front seats, a synthetic leather dash, ambient lighting, keyless ignition, a 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and HD radio. The base model would keep us happy, and it’s something of a bargain among 3-Series and C-Class sedans.

The $47,290 XE R-Dynamic S adds its own wheels, sport seats, contrast stitching, metallic trim, and a dark headliner.

Options include gloss black exterior trim, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, 16-way power heated and cooled front seats with memory, navigation, a power trunklid, a performance pack with adaptive dampers and red brake calipers and a trunklid spoiler, twin-screen infotainment, a rear camera mirror, a head-up display, wireless smartphone charging, 380-watt or 825-watt Meridian sound systems, and 19-inch wheels. R-Dynamic models can get 20-inch wheels with summer tires.

All cars come with Jaguar EliteCare, which offers bumper-to-bumper warranty and maintenance for 5 years or 60,000 miles. It's a service plan that does more than any of its rivals, and that alone makes it worth consideration.

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2020 Jaguar XE

Fuel Economy

Turbo-4s grant the 2020 XE sedan good fuel economy.

Since Jag’s shaved all the engines with more than four cylinders from the 2020 XE lineup, fuel economy ratings are a snap. The XE gets a 5 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Now shorn of its diesel and V-6 engines, the XE lineup gets its best fuel economy in rear-drive XE S trim. That’s EPA-rated at 25 mpg city, 34 highway, 28 combined. With all-wheel drive, the city number slides by 1 mpg.

The higher-output R-Dynamic edition has 296 hp, and the extra boost on its turbo-4 costs it some fuel economy. It’s rated at 22/30/25 mpg.

It’s unlikely the former turbodiesel and manual-transmission options for the XE ever will return.

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$39,900
MSRP based on S RWD
 
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6.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 5
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2020 Jaguar XE Pricing Insights

  • 2019 Jaguar XE features new limited edition Project 8; 2020 XE can now be reserved
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