The mid-sized luxury sedan segment isn’t what it once was.
With the ever increasing popularity of SUVs, the desire for cars such as this has decreased substantially over the last few years, but luxury car makers believe demand will stabilise and buyers will see the benefits in premium sporty sedans once more.
It won’t take much convincing to see what Jaguar means about the appeal of sedans, because the 2020 Jaguar XE – a facelift of the car that launched in 2015 – is a superbly capable vehicle both dynamically and technologically.
It also happens to be, arguably, the best-looking sedan in its class. Even so, it’s up against some exceedingly capable competition with the likes of the new BMW 3 Series and ever-popular Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Jaguar has reduced the complexity of the new XE range from 14 variants down to just two. There is now just the one single engine choice and two equipment grades, with a few option packs thrown in. The idea, unique for Jaguar, is to give the buyers some choice – but not too much.
As such, the only powertrain on offer is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine driving the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Power comes in at 221kW with 400Nm of torque, to push the XE from 0-100km/h in just 5.9 seconds.
Jaguar claims a fuel economy rating of 6.7 litres of fuel per 100km, with a minimum 95RON required. In reality, that is... an unlikely target to meet if you have a lead foot.
Those power and acceleration figures should give you a rough idea of where the appeal for the XE sits, because at $65,670 for the base SE model, it’s a bit of a performance bargain if you consider the Jaguar brand value as well.
The mid-life update to the Jaguar XE brings a host of cosmetic changes both inside and out.
Externally, the front and rear receive some minor cosmetic updates, headlined by more aggressively defined all-LED headlights and new taillights that finally bring some shape to their design, along with the now standard-fit R-Dynamic package.
Jump inside though and the interior is where most of the changes have taken place. Gone is the outdated infotainment system and instrument cluster, replaced by large digital screens that really give it a modern look. It even has Apple CarPlay, which has been long overdue for Jaguar Land Rover.
There are completely new door cards, a refreshed centre console and a new steering wheel.
Jaguar has also done away with the rotary gear selector, replacing it with a more traditional centre shift system, which it believes presents a sportier feel. I'm not really sure about that; I had a bit of a soft spot for that more practical and space-saving rotary dial.
If you go for the HSE variant ($71,490), you will even get the dual-screen infotainment setup we first saw in the Range Rover Velar, which means a great deal of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning controls are digital.
In addition to that, the HSE also gets bigger wheels (19-inch over 18), more advanced memory seats, electric steering adjustment, a 380W Meridian 11-speaker system (over a rather average 125W six-speaker setup).
There's also a range of active safety features such as a more advanced autonomous emergency braking system (works at higher speeds), blind spot assistance with steering intervention, adaptive cruise control and a few other less significant changes.
For an extra $6270, it seems like a pretty good deal and one we would recommend. Then again, a fair few of those additional bits of kit can be had as individual options, so you can find a healthy middle ground on the SE.
There are also a bunch of options packs worth considering.
The Cold Climate Pack ($1010) adds headlight washers, a heated windscreen, and a heated steering wheel.
Ticking the Technology Pack ($2160 SE, $1710 HSE) adds a head-up display, solar windscreen, digital instrumentation display, wireless smartphone charging, and a rear-view camera in place of the interior mirror. It also includes the Touch Pro Duo infotainment unit on SE models.
If you want hands-free boot operation, keyless entry, and more power sockets, you'll have to opt for the Convenience Pack ($1050 SE, $750 HSE), which really should be standard.
Lastly, the Premium Interior Upgrade Pack ($1010) includes illuminated sill plates, metal-covered pedals, and configurable ambient lighting.
As per the previous XE, the interior does feel a tad smaller than its German rivals. Certainly, the back seats are best made for two adults, with a third not really being a feasible option for long trips. Even with two, legroom can be questionable if your passengers measure north of 180cm.
Otherwise, it’s a genuinely comfortable cabin with very high-quality materials throughout. We struggled to find any surfaces that felt cheap or poorly fitted. Jaguar has come a very long way in its fit, finish and interior quality. It’s on par with Audi in refinement and pretty close to Mercedes-Benz in the wow factor.
Turn the engine on, pull down the new gear-lever into D and the XE moves with a brisk pace. It’s fast, without being over the top. It’s definitely as fast as you will ever need a sedan to be in Australia.
Power and torque delivery is smooth and the rear-wheel drive setup with Jaguar's lightweight aluminium chassis (the car weighs just around 1500kg), offers a package that is nimble and very responsive to corners.
It’s a driver’s cars, and that’s what Jaguars are all about.
It offers a great deal of feedback through the wheel and, as we spent hours punting it through highways, inner city streets and country roads, it was relatively compliant and competent drive that inspired a sense of confidence to push harder and harder into corners.
It’s worth noting though that – unsurprisingly – we found the ride compliance better on the base model car (which was optioned up to 19s, whilst our HSE test cars were running 20s) than the high-spec model, even though the base model was running without the optional adaptive dampers.
In terms of suspension, there is a double-wishbone setup at the front, while the rear rides on an integral link arrangement.
One interesting feature of the XE is the digital rear view mirror that comes with the tech pack. It’s not a new concept, but it’s done rather well in the Jaguar, even if it does take some getting used to. There is an aerial pod mounted to the roof, which has a dual purpose, doubling as the housing for the optional ClearSight rear-vision camera and as a radio antenna.
The mirror can be used both as a regular mirror or a high-resolution rearward-facing camera. It presents a much wider and clearer view of what’s behind you than using a traditional glass mirror, but you’ll need to give it a few days to make it feel natural, because it’s so damn clear and realistic that it can be a bit strange at first.
Jaguar offers the XE with a three-year, 100,000km warranty with service intervals that occur every two years. Servicing can be pre-purchased for $1500, which provides coverage for five years or 130,000km.
Overall, the 2019 Jaguar XE is an excellent choice in what is a very crowded and competitive market. It’s the pick of the bunch for those that value style, dynamic competency and individuality.