► Jaguar XE reviewed on UK roads
► We try the 4-cyl petrol i4 engine
► Worth swerving the diesel models?
It’s safe to say CAR’s tested diesel-powered variants of the new Jaguar XE extensively. We trekked to Gibraltar in an early pre-production car, pitted the highest-powered Ingenium diesel head to head with rivals from BMW and Mercedes (a test the XE won, in fact) and have racked up plenty of UK miles in the company car heartland 161bhp 2.0 D R-Sport.
So it’s time to look at the petrol side of the coin, in this case the 2.0-litre ‘i4’ engined XE in plush Portfolio trim. We’ll leave the 335bhp 3.0 supercharged V6 XE S range-topper for another time.
What exactly is the i4 engine?
While the XE’s diesel engines are shiny new Ingenium units, its 2.0-litre petrol options are currently Ford-sourced carry-over units. You can pick from 197bhp or 237bhp outputs – we’re testing the latter here.
Something of a stop-gap they might be (brand-new, Midlands-built, Ingenium-branded petrol four-pots are currently in the pipeline), but early demand for the dusty old 2.0 units has surprised even Jaguar. Curiously, Jaguar quotes unchanged fuel economy and CO2 figures for both power outputs – 37.7mpg and 179g/km respectively, which, let’s be honest, aren’t figures to shout about in 2015.
In top 237bhp guise, pricing for the i4 XE is actually very similar to that of the 178bhp diesel version, which manages 67mpg and 111g/km in equivalent Portfolio trim.
What’s the 237bhp i4 like to drive?
Absolutely fine, by and large. But not without the odd niggle. Although it quietens down nicely at higher speeds, on start-up and around town it’s just a little bit thrashy and industrial-sounding, and the eight-speed auto gearbox (the only transmission option available with the i4) has a tendency to abruptly change its mind over which gear it fancies. The manual override paddles work nicely though, and unlike some the powertrain’s happy to give downshifts at higher revs.
While it doesn’t feel outright fast per se, it’s an easy car to build speed in. Almost too easy, in fact. Were it not for the (annoyingly fuzzy, reflection-afflicted) head-up display option fitted to this particular XE, it wouldn’t have been difficult to end up travelling rather faster than intended much of the time, because it’s such a well-insulated car. There’s a little engine noise, yes, but as for road and wind roar, there simply isn’t any. In the front, at least. Rear passengers might find things marginally noisier, but nonetheless, XE cabin refinement’s up there with the best.
Handling, as you’ll have read elsewhere in CAR, is sublime. Subjectively, I’d say the newly updated BMW 3-series is just as much fun to drive, although its recently stiffened-up front suspension makes its nose a little keener to follow cambers than the unruffled XE.
Portfolio trim – worth it?
Effectively the poshest trim in the XE lineup, it packs in all the kit you could reasonably want and plenty you don’t. There’s DAB, that enormous 8in touchscreen, sat-nav, cruise control and automatic emergency braking – but, thing is, all of that’s standard on every XE, regardless of trim. To fork out the extra for Portfolio you’d need to be really keen on the soft leather seats and extra bits of chrome it brings.
Anything else I should bear in mind?
The XE might be marketed as a compact saloon but feels bigger than you might expect on the road, and in most parking spaces. Until you get in the back, that is. It’s fine for 5ft10 me, but if you’re any taller you might find it just a little too cosy. Blame that handsome roofline.
The dashboard-dominating multimedia touchscreen’s not perfect but, to my eyes at least, its graphics look superb, and although some of its menus can be fiddly to operate on the move, they’re no worse than most. Shame you need to awkwardly tap the screen to zoom in and out on the sat-nav display – a rotary dial would make life simpler.
The hype’s justified. Overly snug cabin space and a few smaller niggles aside, the Jaguar XE is a deeply impressive car with a definite desirability factor. But unless you’re a resolute petrol purist, skip the i4; the diesel models are the ones the fuss is all about.