2020 Jaguar XE Review

Liz Kim | Feb 18, 2020

Introduction

Intended to disrupt Germany’s grip on building thrilling entry-level luxury sedans, the Jaguar XE debuted in 2017 to fight for British honor against the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class models that sell (lease) like penny candy. Secondary targets in the Jag’s sights included the Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50, and Lexus IS.

Though undeniably stylish and unexpectedly good from a dynamic standpoint, the XE suffered from its smaller size, sketchy technology, and unimpressive fuel economy. In 2019, insufficient sample size prevented the XE from inclusion in official J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study final results, but had it made the cut based on the information gathered, it wouldn’t have ranked well against the competition.

This year, Jaguar freshens the XE, simplifying the lineup in the process. More standard equipment, revised exterior styling, upgraded interior materials and controls, improved cabin storage, new infotainment technology, and additional features highlight the changes. Also, Jaguar drops its turbo-diesel and supercharged V6 engine offerings, sticking to a pair of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines.

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated an XE R-Dynamic S P300 AWD, the most powerful version of the car. It included extra-cost paint, 20-inch aluminum wheels, and auto-dimming, heated, and power folding side mirrors. Inside, the test car featured carbon fiber interior trim, premium leather, 16-way power adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, and a premium surround sound system with satellite radio service.

2020 Jaguar XE R Dynamic S front view in red

Additional options included the following packages: Black Exterior Pack, Convenience Pack, Technology Pack, Connected Navigation Pack, Cold Climate Pack, Park Pack, Drive Pack, and Dynamic Handling Pack. The price came to $63,125, including the $995 destination charge.

What Owners Say…

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the freshened 2020 XE, it is helpful to understand who buys this compact premium car, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 42% of Jaguar XE owners are female (vs. 35% for the entire segment). The median age of an XE owner is 57 years, identical to the segment, but the Jaguar attracts more affluent people with a median annual household income of $168,750 (vs. $150,146).

Half of XE owners identify themselves as Performance buyers (vs. 44% for the segment), yet only 59% agree that family and friends think of them as someone who knows a great deal about autos (vs. 66%). Curiously, 39% of Jaguar XE owners agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (vs. 29%).

Jaguar XE owners are more likely to agree that they avoid vehicles with high maintenance costs (89% vs. 80% for the segment). This sentiment could reflect Jaguar’s generous free scheduled maintenance program of five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. It could also be due to the high rate of leasing rather than buying in this segment.

Quality of workmanship is not as important to Jaguar XE owners. Our data shows that 89% agree that it is a first consideration (vs. 95% for the segment). Jaguar XE owners are also less likely to agree that they’re willing to pay extra to obtain the latest safety features (75% vs. 86%). Jaguar XE buyers do, however, agree more often that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd (98% vs. 86%).

Owners say their favorite things about the XE are (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving dynamics, engine/transmission, interior design, and seats. Owners indicate their least favorite things about the XE are (in descending order) the visibility and safety, climate control system, infotainment system, storage and space, and fuel economy.

What Our Expert Says…

In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own perceptions about how the 2020 Jaguar XE measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D Power 2019 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

Exterior

The problem with an almost century-old luxury brand is constant comparison to the glorious past. Looks-wise, the 2020 Jaguar XE is certainly a great looking sedan, but it’s not as distinctive as old-school Jaguars with their scalloped hoods and leaping cat hood ornaments.

Still, this mini-Jag is a head-turner in R-Dynamic S trim with Caldera Red paint. My test vehicle also had the Black Exterior Pack that provides unique black trim as well as imposing 20-inch wheels, furthering its allure. At night, the puddle lights that greet you as you approach the car are very bright and feature a can’t-miss-it Jaguar logo, just in case someone didn’t notice that you’re driving a Jag.

Owners cite exterior styling as their favorite aspect of XE possession, and it’s easy to understand why.

Interior

Cabin design and controls are minimalist in nature, and even somewhat simplistic in appearance when finished in the monotone black of my test car. Thankfully, the contrast stitching and the extra-cost carbon fiber trim livened up the mood.

For 2020, the interior upgrades make a big difference in terms of impressions of quality. Still, an abundance of hard plastic continues to befoul the lower parts of the cabin, and in the rear seating area.

Seats

With 16-way power adjustable front seats, it was easy to find a great driving position in my test vehicle. They were heated and ventilated, too, and during rousing backroad romps both front seats provided plenty of bolstering and thigh support.

Space is downright tight for rear seat passengers, who get minimal shoulder, head, and leg space. The front seatback panels are hard, too, which is unfriendly to knees and shins. And the bigger your feet, the harder it is to get them tucked into and retrieved from beneath the front seat.

Quizzically, there are no USB charging outlets for the back seat. Instead, Jaguar supplies two 12-volt outlets. What year is this?

Climate Control System

With the debut of the latest InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system in the 2020 Jaguar XE, the lower touchscreen module is largely dedicated to the climate controls. Once you learn how to use it, this setup is both simple and logical.

Physical knobs control automatic temperature adjustment, and you pull on them if you want to adjust fan speed or push them to call up the seat heating and ventilation functions. The center display shows various settings or can be modified to convey other information such as the phone connection, the radio, and more.

Infotainment System

Unfortunately, the upper portion of InControl Touch Pro Duo is not as easy to use. While the graphics are clean and modern, and it is designed to work similar to a smartphone screen, the somewhat cryptic icons, small virtual buttons, and confusing menus made it a regular source of frustration. It can behave in unexpected ways, too. I recommend spending plenty of time with the owner’s manual in order to master it.

Fortunately, the radio offers a physical power/volume knob located on the center console, and you can control both volume and cycling through your saved station favorites using the controls on the steering wheel. Keep the navigation map on the top screen, and change the bottom screen to the radio, and you’ll minimize your interaction with the technology.

Jaguar’s updated digital instrumentation is similarly aggravating at times, but once you’ve got it set up the way you want it, you won’t need to futz with it much. And the head-up display provides plenty of salient information in addition to speed.

Overall, this is a technologically sophisticated car that simply needs a little more attention to detail with regard to the user experience.

Storage and Space

Jaguar XE owners cite storage and space as the penultimate least favored aspect of this vehicle, and in spite of the automaker’s claims to have improved the 2020 model in this respect, it remains obvious why this is a problem.

The center console storage compartment, glove box, and door bins are tiny. Still, a new-for-2020 wireless charging pad to house your phone, and the small bin to squirrel away some coins, are much appreciated.

Pop open the trunk and you’ll be underwhelmed by the 12.1 cu.-ft. of trunk space. Both shallow and narrow, the cargo area is not terribly useful. Under the load floor is the spare tire, so you’ll find no extra space there.

Visibility and Safety

With its optional Cold Climate Pack, the Jaguar XE has a heated windshield with tiny wires zigzagging throughout the glass. They’re finer than hairs, but noticeable nonetheless, and can be a bit distracting.

Otherwise, forward visibility is good, but rear visibility is obstructed by a small rear window and large rear seat head restraints. Therefore, it is best to make use of the rearview camera and the new-for-2020 ClearSight rearview camera mirror. With a flip of the switch, it delivers an unobstructed video feed view of what’s behind the XE.

Sometimes, it seems like the more you pay for a vehicle, the less you get in terms of active safety technology. Items that you might expect as standard equipment on a luxury car are instead part of an expensive package. Take, for example, the $1,700 Drive Pack that installs blind spot warning and assist, high-speed emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control on my test vehicle. Those should be standard, no?

At the time of this writing, the 2020 Jaguar XE has not undergone crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Engine/Transmission

Jaguar streamlined the XE’s engine lineup for 2020, ridding itself of the supercharged V6 and diesel powerplants. That leaves two 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engines.

My test car, the R-Dynamic S P300 AWD, had the 296-horsepower version that Jaguar claims can move the XE from rest to 60 mph in about 5.4 seconds. Refined, but with a seductive growl, it was a pleasure to let this cat prowl on lonely back roads. A sharply attenuated 8-speed automatic transmission manages the power.

It is worth noting one more time that Jaguar XE buyers benefit from free scheduled maintenance for five years or 60,000 miles. That helps take some of the sting out of your likely fuel bill.

Fuel Economy

The EPA says you should expect to average 25 mpg (22 city/30 highway) with the R-Dynamic S P300 AWD. However, on my test loop, I barely mustered 20 mpg. Granted, that result includes spirited mountain driving in Sport mode and using the car’s paddle shifters, but my result falls far from expectations. It’s no wonder that fuel economy is the least favored facet of XE ownership.

Driving Dynamics

Jaguar composes the XE’s vehicle architecture mostly of lightweight aluminum in order to keep weight down, and my test vehicle included the Dynamic Handling Pack with a configurable adaptive suspension.

Not surprisingly, then, on the sinuous section of my test loop the XE bit into corners and zipped out with nary a waft or wallow, the car remaining utterly composed at all times. Taut, responsive steering and firm, well-modulated brakes also help the XE to meet the expectations of an athletic luxury sport sedan. You can choose between various Drive modes – Comfort, Eco, Dynamic and Rain/Snow – and I found that even in Comfort the XE provided plenty of driving entertainment.

Shod with 20-inch wheels and sticky performance tires, my XE couldn’t help but prove harsh over bumps around town, but the petite proportions encourage squirting into and out of small holes in traffic while the tidy turning circle and compact exterior dimensions let you whip the car into tiny parking spaces.

Final Impressions

The upgraded 2020 Jaguar XE makes for a compelling alternative choice in the entry-level luxury sedan category. Be advised, though, that its surprisingly reasonable starting price quickly ventures into the realm of larger, sometimes sportier and sometimes more luxurious, automobiles.

Nevertheless, for those who want the allure and dynamism of a luxury sports sedan replete with the whiff of mystery accompanying a heritage British brand boasting the Royal Warrant, the improved 2020 Jaguar XE is undeniably seductive.

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