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Pre-facelift updates aim to keep the XE in contention
You’ll be familiar with Jaguar’s first junior sports saloon, seen here in 2019-model-year guise and tested with the entry-level petrol engine. In fact, this is the only petrol engine now available in an XE, the old 3.0 V6 since killed off by stringent new emissions regulations. It means there’s no 375bhp XE S for those who want to just about keep touch with a BMW M3 and do it without the animalistic looks, and that’s a shame.
We’re now limited to a downsized four-pot option offered in three states of tune. That means 197bhp, 247bhp or a range-topping ‘30t’ with 296bhp. The last of those also features in the new four-wheel-drive XE 300 Sport, intended to cast across the range a much-needed halo effect. A drop in demand for diesel, meanwhile, may have resulted in Jaguar trimming production at a key plant to three days a week, but it still accounts for half the XE line-up. There are three versions of the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel, ranging from 161bhp to a twin-turbocharged 237bhp.
Other changes for 2019 are subtle. All XEs now get Jaguar’s 10.0in Touch Pro infotainment – a £1610 option before – plus metal treadplates, chrome switches for the seats and a frameless rear-view mirror.
This chassis has double-wishbone front and integral-link rear suspension. The XE doesn’t turn as flatly as some rivals, or develop quite as much grip, yet it’s perhaps the most satisfying to put through a corner because it never relinquishes an overt rear-driven balance. The roll rate is well-judged too.
R-Sport models come with passive dampers but the set-up is sweet enough to make you wonder why you’d pick the adaptive option. Rarely does the XE crash but there’s also precious little float unless you’re carrying considerable speed. The manner in which it’ll becalm a B-road is remarkable, and Jaguar also seems to have diminished the effects of road roar and engine chatter with its improvements to sound insulation.
And yet there are familiar weaknesses. A combined 39.8mpg compares poorly even with more powerful rivals, the power delivery lacks soul and there’s a small but noticeable deficit of perceived quality within. If the facelift can remedy these, the XE package will be as covetable as its handling dynamics.
Engine 4 cyls, 1998cc, turbo, petrol
Power 197bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 236lb ft at 1200-4500rpm
Gearbox 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight 1540kg
Top speed 143mph
Fuel economy 39.8mpg (combined)
CO2, tax band 162g/km , 33%
Rivals Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.0T Super, BMW 320i M Sport