Jaguar XE D200 review

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Jaguar's XE is much improved. Jonathan Crouch looks at the volume D200 diesel version.

Ten Second Review

Though the Jaguar XE has been around since 2015, it's entirely possible that as a buyer of a compact to mid-sized premium sports saloon, you might not have yet come across it. If that's the case, allow us to introduce you to this revised version, which is smarter, quieter and classier inside than the original and remains appealingly different to the usual German suspects in this segment. On paper at least, it now seems to have the design, technology and ambition necessary to succeed in this sector, with the dynamics of a BMW and the luxury of a Mercedes, plus all the efficiency and connectivity modern business buyers now expect. It's a surprisingly strong contender, especially in D200 diesel form.

Background

At its original launch in 2015, Jaguar's XE, the brand's smallest saloon, was tasked with selling in bigger numbers than any Jaguar before it. It didn't. And the British brand has been scratching its head wondering why. They've responded with this significantly revised version, which offers more luxury, technology and value. Or, if you want us to put it another way, basically, it's the car we should have had right from the start.

The question is though, whether all this will be enough to rejuvenate the XE's fortunes. It does, after all, have to contend with brand new versions of BMW's 3 Series and Mercedes' C-Class, plus substantially revised Audi A4 and Alfa Romeo Giulia models. In short, further headway in this segment will be difficult to achieve. Can this improved XE manage it? We tried a D200 diesel variant in a bid to find out.

Driving Experience

There's only one diesel engine now on offer to XE buyers - just the mid-level D200 derivative we're looking at here. Which isn't of much consequence because it's the variant that most buyers in search of such a unit would have chosen anyway, this 2.0-litre Ingenium powerplant now featuring the brand's latest mild hybrid tech and offering 204PS, enough to get you to 62mph in 6.9s en route to 146mph. Like all versions of this Jaguar, this one only drives through an 8-speed ZF auto transmission; sales of manual gearbox versions of the original XE models were vanishingly small, so that option's been deleted too.

When you compete in the same class as the BMW 3 Series, it's a measure of real confidence to bill your contender as "the driver's car in the global mid-size saloon segment". Yet that's exactly what Jaguar has done and a closer look at the XE reveals the reasons behind their bullishness. Right from the off in an XE, you get to experience what Jaguar's engineers call the '50 metre feel' - the all-important first impression that any vehicle conveys about the way it will drive. This one feels sharp, purposeful and, from the very start, beautifully composed over our country's terrible tarmac. Part of that's due to a much more sophisticated suspension system than most competitors use, a so-called 'Integral Link' set-up that's particularly good on a route with quick, sweeping, open bends, over which this car sweeps imperiously from turn to turn, soaking up undulations with perfect poise.

Design and Build

The XE has what the brand hopes is an 'assertive' appearance, with advanced all-LED headlights, a wide lattice mesh grille and tail-lights with distinctive LED signatures. In contrast to rivals, there's still only a single saloon body style though.

The cabin's been improved in this latest model, primarily with the introduction of the brand's new generation 'Pivi Pro' infotainment system, which operates via a 10-inch central touchscreen and features the potential for over-the-air updates. The 'Pivi Pro' system also has the advantage of being able to offer embedded dual-SIM capability, with two LTE modems enabling the set-up to carry out multiple functions at the same time, such as streaming media and downloading SOTA updates, without compromising performance. This level of connectivity also ensures minimal interruptions caused by coverage blackspots as it roams across network providers for the strongest signal. Plus it's compatible with 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring.

As before, as an option (or as standard with top-spec trim) you can also have a lower 5.5-inch centre stack screen combining two multi-functional LED rotary controllers for intuitive operation of key vehicle functions. And it all works in conjunction with an advanced 12.3-inch HD interactive instrument binnacle display screen which replaces conventional dials.

The interior now feels more up-market too, thanks to extensive use of soft-touch materials, a re-designed split-rim steering wheel, an embossed Jaguar Leaper logo on the headrests and a fresh quilt design for the seating. The first-in-segment ClearSight interior rear view mirror improves safety and convenience by ensuring the driver has an unobstructed view of the road behind. Using a wide-angle rear-facing camera, the system feeds images to a high-definition screen within the frameless rear view mirror, unhindered by tall rear passengers, poor light or rain on the rear screen. That revised steering wheel, shared with the all-electric I-PACE, features hidden-until-lit graphics and capacitive switches for intuitive, tactile control of key functions. As before, space in the rear is fairly tight. And there's a 450-litre boot. The rear seats can be optionally heated and offer a 40:20:40 split-fold and a through-loading feature.

Market and Model

Jaguar's taken a scythe to the XE range, slimming it down to the models that sold in reasonable numbers the first time round and deleting versions that didn't. As before, there's only a single saloon body shape and the brand's 8-speed ZF auto gearbox is mandatory. D200 prices start at around £30,000 and run up to around £33,000. XE D200 buyers will be choosing between five levels of trim - 'S', 'R-Dynamic S', 'R-Dynamic SE', 'R-Dynamic HSE' and 'R-Dynamic Black'.

All the usual executive niceties feature across the range - leather upholstery, powered front seats, full-LED headlights, alloy wheels of at least 18-inches in size, a frameless rear view mirror, a 3D surround camera and the latest 'Pivi Pro' infotainment system with its 10-inch centre stack screen. Avoid the 'S' -trim levels and you get an 'Interactive Driver Display' digital instrument binnacle screen too. One nice recently added touch is the enhanced Cabin Air Ionisation system, which improves interior air quality through 'Nanoe' technology; this removes allergens and unpleasant odours. The front seat occupant activates the system simply by pressing a provided 'Purify' button. Safety kit includes autonomous 'Emergency Braking', 'Lane Keep Assist', a 'Driver Condition Monitor' and 'Traffic Sign Recognition' with an 'Adaptive Speed Limiter'.

Cost of Ownership

Here's an area in which this XE simply has to be on the pace. As before, it helps the XE's cause that its structure is relatively light weight, thanks to the fact that over 75% of the structure of the car is fashioned from aluminium. The important news with this revised model though, is that its core 204PS 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine now features Jaguar's latest next generation Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) technology for the first time. This uses a Belt-integrated Starter Generator (BiSG) situated in the engine bay to harvest energy usually lost when slowing and braking, which is then stored in a 48V lithium-ion battery located beneath the rear loadspace. It is able to redeploy the stored energy to assist the engine when accelerating away while also delivering a more refined and responsive stop/start system. What about the WLTP-rated results of all this? Well, you're looking at 57.7mpg on the combined cycle and 128g/km of CO2, which is very class competitive. Plus the D200 is RDE2-compliant, so is tax-optimised.

What else? You get the usual unremarkable three year warranty. And service intervals are set at 21,000miles or every 24 months, whichever comes first and it would be sensible to consider one of Jaguar's Service Plans that cover you for virtually everything in advance. There's a 'Standard Mileage Service Plan' that covers you for five years/50,000 miles. Or a 'High Mileage Service Plan' that covers five years/75,000 miles.

Summary

The XE shows that Jaguar can bring something to this kind of car that no other rival brand can quite replicate. Mainstream buyers in this sector may have often previously ignored this car's sublime balance of ride and handling, but those who've tried one and appreciated the exemplary drive dynamics in play here have often found it hard to walk away from ownership. Prior to this update, these people had to overlook quite a lot to sign a cheque for an XE, but this revised model's smarter cabin, better value proposition and improved diesel efficiency make it a far more palatable proposition.

Of course there are still lots of reasons why this small Jaguar saloon might not stack up for you. There are no really affordable entry-level engines, no estate body style and as an owner, you'll be more restricted in terms of cargo room and rear passenger space than you would be in an obvious rival.

But keep this car on your shortlist anyway, then go and drive it. It's the kind of car that when driven hard, makes some others in its segment feel distinctly one-dimensional. Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons insisted that a sports saloon of this sort must 'make you feel alive'. This one does; he'd have liked it.

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