► New engine line-up for 2018 Jag XE
► We drive most powerful XE diesel
► Cabin tweaks, extra safety kit
Amid all the excitement about Jaguar’s growing SUV range and its electrification programme, don’t lose sight of the fact that the Midlands manufacturer doesn’t make traditional saloons just out of habit – it’s constantly updating and refining them.
The Jaguar XE – smallest of its three saloons, roughly equivalent to the BMW 3-series – has a new engine line-up for the 2018 model year, as well as a series of upgrades in the cabin and under the skin. It shows that a company often thought of as very conservative is in fact keeping ahead of the game.
Looks like another agreeable Jag saloon, like they’ve been making forever…
There’s certainly no shortage of familiar curves and reassuringly traditional details, but like the XF (the 5-series rival) the XE doesn’t lag behind the more high-profile SUV family that is proving so successful for Jaguar.
So in its 2018-model-year form the XE is available in five specification levels, with a big choice of engines, most of them now Jaguar’s own Ingenium units: three four-cylinder petrols, three four-cylinder diesels and a V6 petrol. Gearboxes are eight-speed automatics on most cars, but a few are available with a six-speed manual; some cars are all-wheel-drive, others rear-drive.
The new petrol fours use twin-scroll turbochargers for minimal lag and maximum efficiency. Jaguar’s patented CVVL technology (Continuously Variable Valve Lift) gives ultra-precise intake valve control for better efficiency and higher outputs across the rev range. The new diesel (the 237bhp four that we’re driving here) also uses twin turbos, and makes a hefty 368lb ft of torque as low as 1500rpm. That gives a 0-62mph time of 6.1sec – particularly pleasing in such an unsporty-looking car – and an official combined fuel economy figure of 54.4mpg.
All XEs now come with a torque vectoring system, derived from the F-type coupe’s, that helps with precision cornering by braking the inside wheels.
Jaguar XE: what the new engine specs badges mean
There are also new badges. A car housing the 197bhp engine has a 20t badge; a 247bhp engine is signified by 25t; a 30t badge means that car has a 296bhp engine; our diesel is a 25d. Got it?
Like the XF, the XE can be had with Configurable Dynamics, allowing the driver to choose between Normal and Dynamic gearbox, steering and engine settings. Suspension settings can also be tailored to the driver’s preferences.
Options now include gesture control for opening the bootlid (wave your foot under the rear bumper, while the key is in your pocket, and the lid should open without you having to put down your bags. And you can choose a 12.3-in TFT virtual instrument cluster, letting the driver decide which infotainment elements to prioritise.
You get Forward Traffic Detection to help you look for other vehicles; Forward Vehicle Guidance to help in tight spots; and Blind Spot Assist to warn that another vehicle is approaching on your flank, and nudge the steering if need be.
How does the new 2018 model year Jaguar XE compare to other Jags?
It’s very good, and feels very much part of the Jaguar family; take away the badges and there’s still plenty of the style, sophistication and dynamic ease that drivers of other Jags will recognise. It’s tiny next to the XJ, but compared to the XF it doesn’t feel like a small car – at least not for the driver; it has less room in the back and the boot, making it less handy as family transport.
It doesn’t have the magic of the F-Pace, but that’s a longer car as well as being taller. It’ll be interesting to compare it to the new E-Pace, which is similarly priced and slightly shorter (and with a smaller boot, rear seats up).
Although it’s the smallest saloon, the XE is not a cheap car. With this engine and this spec, the on-the-road price is a touch over £40,000. But add in the generally quite sensible extras fitted to our test car – bigger wheels, audio upgrade, tow bar, heated rear seats, switchable driving modes – and it gets close to £60,000...
Is the Jag XE really a match for the Germans?
The Audi, Mercedes and BMW alternatives are all excellent, and are all available in a dizzying variety of spec, engine and transmission combinations – enough to make the usefully broad XE line-up look a bit skimpy. But if you can get a combination you’re happy with – and we’d be surprised if you couldn’t, unless you need an estate, where Jag can’t help you – then the XE is a direct competitor.
Each of these cars – XE, A4, C-Class, 3-series – has its own distinct character and feel, and it may well be that you prefer one over the others on that basis. But there’s no reason why you wouldn’t choose the Jag, which excels on refinement, comfort and a glorious feeling of engine, brakes and suspension working in harmony.
Jaguar still does these things very well. Demand for saloons may be dropping as the SUV continues to spread throughout the motoring world, and demand for diesels may be collapsing, but this is a traditional style of car executed with considerable aplomb. Good to drive, easy to live with and a British product to be very proud of.
Read more Jaguar reviews