Look fast - even when standing still

What is it about a painting or a sculpture that captures the heart? Why do some objects create desire and others get passed by? Beauty is about balance of form and thanks to the visionary talents of the design team at Jaguar headed by Ian Callum, the Jaguar XE P300 AWD Sport is an artistic yin and yang success story.

The XE looks fast whilst standing still.

It’s sharper, more assertive stance is aggressive, yet welcoming. Jaguar’s XE Dynamic R has captured the quintessential bad boy external good looks you know you want, without compromise or detracting from the luxurious internal European sophistication that you desire.

Fine detail and cohesive styling give this Jaguar strikingly pretty aesthetics. From any standpoint, this vehicle’s charismatic appeal and character brings a smile of approval to your face.

New to this handsome Jag’s exterior are lashings of gloss black accentuated body trim, clearly denoting the darker side to this XE’s on-road dynamics and performance, all carefully concealed under its debonair tuxedo outer shell.

There are slimline congenial cat like front and rear LED lights, a set of unique ‘J’ blade daytime running lights and voguish animated directional indicators.

The new nose cone is more aggressive, encompassing a prominent front grill opening, and side apertures with accented aircraft winglets that suggest air intakes on a RAF F-35B jet fighter, all covered in a menacing black lattice mesh.

The elegant rear end treatments from the subtle boot tipped wing to sporty twin exhausts in the rear valance all enhance this vehicle’s low and wide posture.

The XE gets very close to the holy grail of design simplicity. It has near perfect balance and harmony when you look at its dimensions. The height, width and length all work beautifully together to accentuate the XE’s body shape, bringing out those subtle yet seductive lines and panel contours.

According to the Jaguar Australian website, there’s only one model now available-the Jaguar XE P300 AWD Sport with a range of options and packs allowing you to customise the vehicle to your own tastes.

With an obvious thinning of model variants, could the XE be headed for departure?

This would be a real shame, as whilst it has struggled for outright sales numbers against the likes of the BMW 3 series, Mercedes C class and Audi’s A4; this latest refresh has made up significant ground on its predecessor’s interior shortcomings, making it a noteworthy adversary for consideration.

This Jaguar feels a little special. It’s not flamboyant or ostentatious, and it doesn’t need to be. It is elegantly confident, and with its street cred for both performance and visual appeal this is a vehicle that won’t look out of place parked between two American muscle cars, nor lack the sophistication and grace for valet parking at the opera. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but when you drive the XE, there’s an inimitable Jaguar-esque experience, a je ne sais quoi that only a Jaguar has, and which continues to elude capture by other manufacturers.

The interior is pure Jaguar, simple and elegant. Tactile leather surfaces, quality of materials, accentuated stitching, colour coordinated accents, and metal highlights all combine to form a sumptuous cabin. Reactions and comments from passengers were all favourable. 

Front seating is very comfortable, and there’s a good range of adjustment in the voluptuous leather clad 12-way electric driver memory front seats and of course the convenience of an electrically adjustable steering wheel allowing you to set your posture for a relaxed long drive, or choose upright and down low to explore the XE’s on road talents.

Drive instrumentation is via a superb 12.3-inch interactive driver display that will change appearance pending drive mode selection. 

I did like the inclusion of Jag’s ClearSight interior rear-view mirror, which projects an uninterrupted view from the rear of the vehicle via a roof mounted camera, regardless of what obstructions may be on the rear seat blocking the back window.

Navigation, phone, media, a range of inbuilt apps and various vehicle settings were displayed and controlled via Jaguar’s dual screen Pivi Pro infotainment system.

It was great to see that Jaguar hasn’t lost their fun side as the XE still offers tactile engagement and control to the driver. 

When so many others are dumbing down interiors and opting for a subdued minimalist rotary selector ….

I loved the fact Jag grabbed the sportier F-Type / Range Rover Sport SVR gear lever and that great race inspired console drive mode toggle switch allowing you to move from Comfort to Eco, to Rain/Ice/Snow, or Dynamic to remap shift points, throttle response, and steering weight to optimise the vehicle for the conditions.

There’s wireless charging, with the usual suspects of connectivity–Android Auto and Apple Car Play. The system also has Software Over The Air (SOTA), which will provide additional functionality as updates become available. Using the system, its response to touch selection and swipe gestures is reasonably quick. The intuitive menu design and side bar shortcuts make for easy access to an array of information and functionality. 

Comprising a crisp 10-inch upper display front and center with a smaller 5-inch display below dedicated to vehicle controls, it’s housed between two large multifunction rotary dials for easy, precise control over seat heating and cooling, cabin temperature and fan speeds. Practicalities such as storage and connectivity have also been improved with larger door pockets and console bin, dual USB’s (A and fast charge C ports) plus dual 12v outlets.

Jaguar plucked the steering wheel out of an I-Pace, featuring tactile switches with hidden until lit graphics, and delightful satin chrome gear shift paddles for a
more rewarding and interactive driver experience.

Albeit it’s all electronically controlled; this is a sports saloon after all, it’s not a wannabe luxury SUV barge.

But not all is perfect. This vehicle’s design brief seems to be to indulge and pamper front passengers. The same cannot be said for those in the rear, who seem little more than an afterthought. The aesthetics are commensurate with the rest of the opulent interior standards, but what is lacking is the most basic requirement for comfort … space! 

Given the not so insignificant external dimension of the Jag, it left me feeling perplexed about where all the room went. Leg, head, and shoulder clearance is at a premium for normal sized adults, let alone those who are taller than six feet. 

At 390L, even rear boot space is moderate, with enough room for the weekend away with a couple of carry-on suitcases, but not a lot more.

Punting the Jag around town in stop-start traffic, those fetching 19” rims and low-profile tyres are tailored more towards the performance aspect of on road handling, rather than ultimate ride comfort. 

The suspension is supple enough at low speeds to avoid jostling the cabin over various road surface irregularities but retains equanimity for confident cornering when you feel like indulging your senses and engaging the paddle shifters. 

The steering has a wonderful direct pinpoint accurate feel, allowing you to read the surface beneath you and position the Jag exactly where you want it.

Carving through winding roads and engaging the paddle shifter for a little manual control, the Jag continues to reward the driver with predictable and responsive handling. 

Crank the windows down to enjoy the rasp from the dual exhausts as you near the redline and there’s no doubt, the XE’s as playful as it is pretty. 

It might not be eyepopping, but it does significantly widen your smile.

Just like the model variations, so too has the choice of power plants been reduced to one option.

Under the hood lives Jaguar’s high performance Ingenium 2.0L four-cylinder petrol, coupled to a resilient ZF 8 speed auto and plumbed through Jag’s all-wheel drive platform. For the technical boffins, there’s an impressive 221kW of hustle, backed by 400Nm of strength. The AWD capability ensures traction is maintained by biting hard on the bitumen when liberating the Ingenium’s proficiency to propel the rather rotund XE’s kerb weight of 1,700kg from standstill to 100kph in vigorous 5.9s. Whilst a sub six second time is impressive, hauling that weight around does influence economy.

While Jaguar may indicate a svelte drinking habit of only 6.9L/100 I couldn’t seem to coax the Jag below my average of mid 8’s. With a 61-liter tank then you should see a range of 700ks.

It’s the driving characteristics of the 2.0L which impressed me.

With that rich 400Nm of torque being available from 1500rpm all the way to 4500rpm and peak power at just a tad over 5000rpm, it provides the XE with a very broad, tractable and user-friendly driving experience. Mid-range performance is where this 2.0L begins to show its strength, cruising at highway speeds is effortless, overtaking maneuvers in the 80 to 110km/h range are executed confidently as the Jag puts that 400Nm to good use.

Some have chastised the XE for needing more low-down grunt, but I’m not convinced. In my experience, power delivery is progressively linear and more than adequate as a daily commuter, and I never felt it lacking at moderate throttle settings even when negotiating gaps in heavy traffic. I agree, it’s no straight-line muscle car, but it’s not trying to be.

It simply does what a Jag does best: excellent ride and handling, providing drivers with a confident sporty feeling that’s smooth and comfortable, not highly strung, or edgy. In other words, it’s easy to live with and drive.

This latest revision of Jaguar’s XE sedan is a very polished product. It has achieved an equable balance between elegant exterior styling, a pleasing interior design, superb on-road dynamics and feisty mid-range performance from the compact 2.0L Ingenium motor.

If the mundane practicalities of having a large spacious back seat for the extended family and friends or being able to haul loads of luggage are less a priority and you place more emphasis on resplendent exterior style and rewarding on road dynamics, then the Jaguar XE could well be the right fit for you.

And it’s all backed by Jaguar’s 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty and 5-year roadside assistance adding an additional level of confidence

Price As Tested: $67,974

  • Engine: Ingenium 2.0L 4-Cylinder Turbo Petrol
  • Output: 221kW/400Nm
  • Transmission: 8-speed ZF Auto AWD
  • Fuel: 6.9L/100km
  • Safety rating ANCAP 5 Stars

Drive Editor - Ray Cully

Drive Editor – Ray Cully

About our Motoring Editor: Ray has been passionate about all things automotive since he first started collecting Matchbox and Hot Wheels models when he was five. Since leaving his executive role at General Motors (GM), he’s been sharing his driving experiences with Australian audiences for nearly 20 years, commencing his automotive journalist career with a popular WA-based magazine and was writing his own column in The West Australian for 8 years.

Ray’s strong love of automotive engineering and clever design has seen his articles and photography featured in prominent national magazines in Australia and the UK. He loves sharing his passion with other drivers, including via a long running stint as Senior Instructor for Land Rover Experience, providing training and education for new vehicle owners.

Recently Ray has been presenting on TV shows including Ready for Adventure and the very popular Caravan and Camping WA, to showcase some of the great products, vehicles and companies that make getting out and exploring Western Australia that much more enjoyable.