Jaguar’s 3 Series-fighter tries to claw its way back to competitiveness with a mild facelift and updated interior
Photos: Lionel Kong
The junior executive sedan segment is heavily dominated by the Germans, specifically the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4. Their domination is so total that pretty much any other competitor that tries to muscle in ends up having a hard time convincing customers to look their way.
Lexus gave it a fair go with the IS, and while it is a credible offering, it has never really won over the consumers the same way the Germans have. Jaguar too tried to grab a slice of the pie when it launched the XE back in 2015, and again, while a decent effort, it unfortunately wasn’t quite up to the mark.
They’re not giving up though, and Jaguar has given the XE a mid-life facelift. It’s a much needed one too, given that most of its rivals have themselves been either recently refreshed, or are expecting a full model change soon.
The changes to the XE are fairly minimal, at least on the outside. The headlights are now slimmer, and the grille slightly enlarged, but you’ll have to put it beside the old car to notice the difference. The test car’s R-Dynamic spec adds sportier-looking bumpers, and while it doesn’t look quite as aggressive as, say, a 3 Series with an M Sport kit, that’s no bad thing as it means the XE remains a classy looker with that slight hint of sportiness.
The more obvious updates can be found on the inside, with the XE now featuring a virtually all-digital dashboard. The dual-screen Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, borrowed from its Range Rover cousins, now finds its way onto the XE’s centre console. The instrument panel is also now all-digital (a la Audi Virtual Cockpit), and the gear selector reverts to being a traditional stick instead of the rotary knob of the previous car.
The XE also boasts another Range Rover-derived feature in the form of the ClearSight rear view mirror, first seen in the new Evoque. A quick flick changes the view in the mirror to an image delivered from a rear-facing camera mounted on top of the car. It’s somewhat handy if your rear windscreen is being blocked by tall passengers, but we can’t imagine it being used too often to be honest.
Probably because anybody taller than average would find sitting in the rear a rather tight squeeze, and would not want to be there voluntarily. Rear passenger space remains a weak spot for the XE, and the wide driveshaft tunnel running down the middle doesn’t exactly help matters.
Clearly, the XE places its priority on the driver rather than any hangers-on that decide to ride along, because it actually offers quite a decent drive. The steering is sharp and accurate, and the Jag turns with the kind of nimbleness and light-footedness that is hard to find in its class these days. I wouldn’t say it out-handles a 3 Series, but it comes pretty close.
The 2.0-litre turbo four, with 250hp and 365Nm of torque, is quite a smooth operator, picking up speed effortlessly with relative ease. The experience is slightly let down by the 8-speed automatic gearbox though, which can seem a bit jerky in its shifts, especially through the first couple of gears as you’re accelerating off the line. But aside from that, the XE driving experience is generally pleasant, with a well-controlled ride quality that copes well on all but the harshest of road surfaces.
Ultimately though, it’s not quite enough to make the XE a compelling package to challenge the Germans properly. It’s a bit of a shame because it does have some potential, with its keen driving manners that makes it one of the more entertaining cars in its class. If you’re willing to look past its shortcomings, then perhaps you could reacquaint yourself with this British cat as an alternative to the Germans.
Jaguar XE 2.0 R-Dynamic SE
|Engine||1,997cc, inline four, turbocharged|
|Power||250hp at 5500rpm|
|Torque||365Nm at 1300-4500rpm|
|VES Band / CO2||C1 / 164g/km|
|Price||S$206,999 with COE|
|Verdict:||Updated XE brings it up to date against its newer rivals, and remains good to drive, but let down by packaging issues|