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Jaguar XE 20d: Road Test Review


We get our hands on the made-in-India, diesel-powered Jaguar XE to see if it lives up to the hype

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

The Jaguar XE was launched back at the Auto Expo 2016 more than a year after it was shown internationally. Promising a break from the German trio that was dominating the world of luxury cars in India, the XE is stylish and sporty - as all Jaguars are meant to be - while being luxurious, safe and, with the new 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel motor, economical too. Does the XE deliver on those promises? Let's find out.

Hello there, Beautiful!

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

You’d find it hard to ignore the brilliance of Ian Callum’s design, of how he has been able to add classic sportscar proportions (long hood, small cabin, stubby boot) to a 4-seater sedan. The sad bit is that, at least in India, the XE is only offered in very ‘safe’ paint options - the Loire Blue colour you see here is the most exciting one of the five available.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

Still, the Jaguar XE is a sexy looking car - there’s a sort of tension along the body of the car, to make it look like a cat preparing to pounce. The highlights at the front include the headlamps with the signature ‘J-blade’ DRLs, the flowing hood with the prominent power bulge and the recessed grille with the Red Growler badge.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

When looked at from the side, the chrome vents on the front fenders, chrome highlights around the windows and the Red Growler wheel centre caps catch your eye. The 17-inch wheels and the 225/55 section tyres look a bit out of sync with the sporty design, but there is a reason for them being the way they are. More on that later.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

Move to the rear and the XE seems to have suddenly become a bit ungainly, especially because of the rather large taillamp cluster which clashes with the otherwise lithe design of the car. The F-Type inspired lights, with the unique LED guides do look good at night though. Finishing up the highlights are the leaping Jaguar badge on the bootlid and the twin-pipe exhausts poking out near the bottom of the bumper.

Is simplicity the new fancy?

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

After being slightly overwhelmed by the XE on the outside, you will find its interior rather subdued. Don’t get us wrong, the XE’s interior is swathed in leather and nice to touch materials almost everywhere, but the design itself doesn’t excite as much. Sure, elements like the pulsating start/stop button, the Jaguar signature 'Handshake' gear knob which rises up from the lower centre console, the wide 8-inch touchscreen infotainment, the 10-speaker Meridian surround sound system or the large openable sunroof do add a bit of excitement, but that’s about it.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

In isolation, that 8-inch infotainment screen would feel quite good to use. It has handy shortcut buttons on both sides to access features quickly, the tile-like menus are clear and easy to read on the move, the touchscreen is responsive and there are many functions which can be accessed through the system. But, in comparison to its competition, the system feels cumbersome; there should have been more input options than just stretching out to the screen and using the touch interface. Not having Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connectivity in a car that costs over Rs 40 lakh is also puzzling. Our test unit also had trouble with random Bluetooth connectivity - the impression overall is not positive.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

The Jaguar XE is as large as its competitors in terms of exterior dimensions. In fact, it is the longest and the widest in comparison to the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4, but that does not translate to better interior space. Its design really hampers interior space, with the sloping roof eating into cabin space. Jaguar has tried to address this by placing the seats really low, but that creates additional problems with ingress, egress and legroom/kneeroom.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

While the front passengers have the luxury of getting their seating position right, thanks to the 10-way electrically adjustable seats, space at the back is quite limited. You could be chauffeur driven in this car if you are accompanied by one more person, but this is no five-seater sedan as claimed in its brochure since the centre passenger at the rear will have to deal with a large transmission tunnel. Speaking of which, the XE is the only other rear-wheel driven sedan in its category apart from the 3 Series.

Drivers, get excited!

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

You read that right, the Jaguar XE is a front-engined, rear-wheel driven sedan! You get that vibe the moment you lower yourself into the car - you are sat low with your legs stretched forward, the steering wheel is chunky, you gaze longingly past the two large analogue meters to see a long hood stretching out in front of you.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

 

Thumb the pulsating starter and the XE comes to life with a distant growl, the gear selector rises from the centre console and the digital screen in between the display shows the leaping Jaguar motif. Select ‘Dynamic’ mode (other modes include Normal, Eco and Rain/Ice/ Snow) and the instrument cluster turns red, the throttle becomes sharper, the gearbox preps to hold the revs longer and shift quicker, and the steering firms up a bit.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

The 2.0-litre, ‘Ingenium’ JLR proprietary engine develops 180PS of maximum power at just below the 4,800rpm redline, while 430Nm of peak torque is delivered from as low as 1,750rpm. Paired to an 8-speed ZF-designed automatic, the XE has the right formula on paper. Driving it like you stole it makes you feel that the formula is working; dial in the fact that the XE is fitted with nice paddle shifters behind the wheel to give you that feeling of being in control.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

In spite of using a lot of aluminium, the XE still weighs 1.5 tonnes, and that reflects in our test figures - the XE managed to complete the 0-100kmph run in 8.7 seconds, while the almost 100kg lighter Audi A4 35TDI did the same 0.8 seconds quicker.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

Where the XE really begins to feel like the 3 Series rival it is meant to be, is when you drive it on the twisties. The chassis feels playful, egging you to push the limits on every corner. Switch off the traction control and the XE will step out, but in a very non-seat-staining way. Confidence is further enhanced thanks to the quick, direct steering. The XE’s dynamics beg you to question if the package would have been even better with larger wheels and fatter and stickier rubber.

Master of none

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

Jaguar, for reasons unknown, wants you to believe that the XE can be your daily car - whether you are chauffeur-driven or not - and that’s exactly where this Jag fails to deliver. The XE in India has been given the bad road package, which increases the ground clearance and tries to compensate for the stiffer suspension with smaller wheels and tyres with larger shoulders. But without adaptive damping and the sportier suspension setup, the ride never seems to settle and sharper bumps are quite audible inside the cabin.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

Combine this with a drivetrain which is not particularly good at tackling the slow stuff and you’ve got a car that does an average job as a commuter. Jaguar seems to not have got the otherwise brilliant XF gearbox to work well with the Ingenium diesel motor - it is slow to react to driver inputs and seems to get confused quite often as to what it wants to do. This indecision shows up in the mileage runs too - while the XE manages a very respectable 20.59kmpl on the highway, it drops dramatically to 13.2kmpl when driven in the city.

What’s it like then?

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

This is a car that could have been brilliant at one thing, being sporty, if it hadn’t tried to be good at everything else. The Jaguar XE could have been a very compelling alternative to the BMW 3 Series; it handles well and has a very enthusiastic drivetrain, but lacks that final bit of finesse. If Jaguar wanted it to be a C-Class or an A4 rival in terms of luxury, they should have focussed more on the interior space, sound deadening and the quality of materials which it has unsuccessfully tried to.

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

The Jaguar XE 20d will offer you unmatched design, exclusivity and a sporty driving experience, but also frustrate you with its not-so-luxurious interiors and cramped rear seat space. If you still like the XE, tick the boxes for bigger wheels and smaller profile tyres to exploit its handling abilities to the max. If you are looking for a luxurious car, wait for Jaguar to bring the updated XE to India or look elsewhere.

Photography: Vikrant Date

Spec Check
Jaguar XE 20d Prestige

Jaguar XE 20d Prestige Road Test Review

Engine:
2.0-litre, 4-cylinder

Power:
180PS @ 4,000rpm

Torque:
430Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm

0-100kmph:
8.77 seconds

Mileage:
13.2kmpl (City)
20.53kmpl (Highway)

Price:
Rs 40.54 lakh
(ex-showroom India)

Recommended Variant : XE Prestige

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