First drive: 2016 Jaguar XE in Spain

First drive: 2016 Jaguar XE in Spain

2016 Jaguar XE 23

Well, is it better than the 3-Series? Let’s get rid of that obvious cliched question first. We don’t know if the all-new 2016 Jaguar XE is better, but it is certainly equal to BMW’s often-mentioned benchmark, at least when it comes to the driving factor. We had to slum it out all the way in Navarra, Spain to figure that out.

The mostly-aluminium XE doesn’t look impactful in photos, but it’s a pretty handsome little sedan in person. We can’t find fault in the styling, although designer Ian Callum seemed to lose interest by the time he reached the tail lamps, going for a conservative motif rather than the flamboyance of the XJ.

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There are several trim levels to go with several petrol and diesel engine options, with visual differences mostly limited to the front bumper intakes and wheel designs.

Inside, the interior looks simple at first glance, but then you notice the oddly unique design traits, such as the speedboat-inspired edge that wraps around the dash and doors, and the dual levels for buttons on the door panels. The latter is ergonomically confusing initially, but then we appreciated the straightforward capacitive touchscreen for the multimedia-nav system, with a new simple-to-use interface that debuted in the Land Rover Discovery Sport.

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Jaguar makes good use of premium materials, available in a wide variety of colours. We liked the padded stitched-leather coverings on the dash and doors, but they also left certain hard-plastic areas as is, such as the glove-box cover and everything below the waist, which is something BMW didn’t skimp on.

Space up front is fine, although rear passengers won’t enjoy their accommodations too much if tall front passengers move their seats back. There are the usual number of exposed cup-holders and pockets, while the boot is of a good size.

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Having landed at the small Vittori airport, we drove right from the terminal in an XE with a “25t” badge, which meant it had the 237 hp turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-4 petrol engine with 339 Nm of torque, mated to an 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel-drive. It’s the same motor found in the Range Rover Evoque, except that it feels more potent in the smaller XE.

There’s great initial torque for a good kick at low speeds, followed by a gradual increase in power. It is also adequately quick for overtaking at highway speeds, and feels like it is all the engine this car ever needs. But then there is the subtly-named XE S version, with the 335 hp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with 450 Nm of torque, plucked from the base Jaguar F-Type.

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The boosted V6 is a remarkable engine, with tons of low-end as well as high-end kick, and has a slight grunt on full throttle that isn’t quite as brutal as the F-Type, but suitable for a sporting executive sedan. Just like the smaller-engined car, the gearbox is great in both normal and sport modes, responsive and smooth for the most part. Unfortunately you can only get a manual gearbox with the diesel engines.

So Jaguar’s got the powertrains right. What about the ride and handling? Well, after two days of cavorting around Spain’s twistiest mountain roads as well as a racetrack, we think they’ve nailed it.

The XE, whatever trim it may be, takes corners confidently with tons of grip and minimal body roll. The handling is beautifully neutral without being boring, unlike heavier cars like the Lexus IS 350 which seem to border on understeer most of the time unless you man-handle them. At the right entry speeds, it is possible to completely avoid any hint of understeer with the Jag’s sharp turn-in prowess, while the rear feels more stable than the last BMW 335i we tested, devoid of unintentional oversteer. If it’s the electronic nannies controlling this behaviour, they’re doing a darn good job.

Some credit also goes to Jaguar’s newly-developed double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, although Jaguar’s aluminium car isn’t a whole lot lighter than the steel-bodied German competition, some of it possibly due to that complicated suspension.

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In the age of electric power steering, Jaguar’s own system is pretty good, relatively better than what BMW or even Porsche has cooked up. It’s direct, responsive and has just enough weight to be an easy steer without being vague, in addition to offering some semblance of feedback. Switching to “dynamic” mode firms up the steering by only a tiny bit, as well as firming up the suspension by a smidge.

The brakes are great, with strong and linear stopping power, but the pedal feel is lighter than you’d expect for a sports sedan. It would seem there are minor compromises to make the XE a comfortable daily driver.

To that end, they’ve done well to make the ride quality fairly smooth, given its handling abilities. There’s some jitter when going over bigger cracks on the road, but it’s not jarring at all considering the low-profile tyres.

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The Jaguar XE is a massive effort from the Indian-owned independently-run British company, easily their best car yet, and one that properly takes on the Germans in the compact sports-sedan stakes. This was one segment that Jaguar had unceremoniously exited with the death of the X-Type six years ago, but they’re back with a bang now. A very big bang.

For UAE prices and GCC specs, visit the Jaguar buyer guide.

Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury & Jaguar

What do you think?



  1. Dear Mr. Mashfique Hussain & team,

    First of all I would like to appreciate your work on reviewing most cars, Although I would like to request you and your team to kindly provide updates pros and cons and known issues with the cars as per year, as I find the same being mentioned for cars in all the years, except for a few; with this information its very difficult to rely and it creates a big dilemma while buying one as to which car we should go for.

    As of the latest offering from Jaguar the XE which most people are so excited for knowing its facts and the price at they r being sold in competition to its German rivals. Here in U.A.E, they are selling cars for a much higher price than the same being sold in other countries, isn’t it?… are there any particular reasons for this?. As far as I know after inquiring with the sales here the BMW maintains its price the same as other countries unlike the Mercedes Benz, Jaguar and Porsche. I honestly have no idea on this. Could you please explain?..Thank you in advance.

    • Author

      The Jags are actually cheaper than the equivalent BMWs. Everything else is just variations in options.

  2. a “luxury” sedan cannot get any more boring than this one!

    compared to mercedes, bmw, infinity, lexus, audi: a FULL failure IMHO!

    anyways, good article mash

  3. I have been fan of the new Jaguars that have been churning out. I like the overall look but the tail lights kinda took it from perfect. From drives with the 2013 XF, so I am sure the premium feel will be there in this one too. I found the rear space wanting in the XF so Im pretty sure the smaller XE might be quite a bit of squeeze in the back. the 3.0L should be an actual cracker, because on the XF itself, its quite a monster. Can’t wait to get a test drive

  4. Good article and great photos. Thanks.
    Other than reliability issues, JLR makes quality products. – IMHO

  5. Its a good effort by Jag, going aluminum was a good move to be efficient too. This time around, they didn’t do a shortcut job like the X-Type. BMW 3 series has always been the benchmark of the segment, It’s a tall order to compete with. However it seems Jag got most of the ingredients right for XE.

    Not a fan of the rear to be honest, the new XF seems to integrate this design well. There would be a brand new, fully redesigned XJ, which then will inherit its looks to future siblings, so will wait and see

  6. Jaguar has definitely stepped up there game recently. especially now with the XE, it’s pretty much a car for everyone, Now let’s imagine if they put the V8 500+ hp in this one, that will make the c63 and the Audi rs4 really scared, I think Jaguar might do it later on..

  7. Hi Mashfique,

    what will be the price range.? Any Guess.??

  8. Well I call upon the enthusiasts here to try to forget about BMW. I had a MB before and it though the ride is good, the handling is imperfect; same for softened BMWs recently. I rented an ATS and to my surprise it is easily one of the best handling cars I ever drove. I couldn’t even make the car have its tail dance a bit even with ESP off!!…Jag is up the game really and the ATS is for sure a winner specially with its good pricing. It is our perception of the branding that makes german cars expensive, and hey!..Stop whining about the tight rear seat those are executive compact sedan and I am TIRED of cars growing a gen after the other..Cheers

  9. when jaguar XE will be available in UAE..?

  10. Thanks Chowdhury, it’s available in showroom / dealer for test drive

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