2020 Jaguar XE: Testing the Near-300-HP Four-Cylinder and the Improved Interior

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It didn’t rank near the bottom because it lacks admirable qualities. We have long commended the XE’s sharp handling and effortless power delivery. But some coarse mannerisms, including its rough ride, buggy infotainment system, and subpar interior design, made it less well rounded than other luxury competitors. For the 2020 model year, the XE receives many small updates. It gets a wider but shorter grille that nearly touches the slim new LED headlights. Adding to the bolder look are new front and rear bumpers and thin taillights to match the lights up front.

More important, Jaguar also updated the interior. For the first time, it looks and feels refined, and that’s partially because of the new multimedia setup. Now it has two touchscreens, the top for infotainment functions and the bottom for climate control. It’s eye-catching, and although the system has improved, we still found it slow to respond at times. The large physical temperature knobs complement the tactile controls well, although it takes time to get used to pulling forward on the knob to change the fan intensity.

Loved by some and hated by others, the rotary shifter has disappeared, making way for a traditional shift stalk that’s easy enough to operate. The cupholder compartment can now be closed off for an uncluttered look when not in use. Jaguar also redesigned the interior door panels, dashboard, seats, and other areas, putting in nicer, soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. Say goodbye to the previous model’s hard plastics and outdated technology.

In the aforementioned sport sedan comparison, we drove the base model with the 2.0-liter turbo-four engine that makes 240 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque (since upgraded to 247 hp and 269 lb-ft). We’ve also tried out the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 model with 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque, but now there’s no available V-6. For the first time, we’re testing what promises to be a sweet middle ground: the 2.0-liter turbo-four making 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. This engine delivers power to all four wheels through a familiar eight-speed automatic transmission. If you were wondering, the diesel is donezo for the U.S.

Since Jaguar pared back the engine choices to two, we hope that only the best remain. We can attest to the base Jaguar’s competence from our time with the 2017 XE, noting the engine and transmission are well calibrated, and it’s always in the right gear. Hitting 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, the Jaguar XE with the base four-cylinder came in mid-pack with other competitors at the time. Our new tester with the more potent four-cylinder matched this exact time despite having 56 additional horsepower. The added weight of our 2020 XE tester’s AWD system may have contributed to this, as could the Jag’s lack of a launch control feature. Meanwhile, other less powerful sport sedans manage better times. A 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Q2 Ti we tested with just 280 hp reached 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, and a 2019 BMW 330i M Sport with 255 hp hit the mark in 5.4 seconds.

It’s a similar story with the quarter mile. The XE completed the stretch in 15.0 seconds with a top speed of 93.7 mph. The base Jaguar XE took the same amount of time, hitting 94 mph. The Alfa managed 13.8 seconds at 100.6 mph, and the BMW came in at 14 seconds at 98.1 mph. Our Jag tester was equipped with the Dynamic Handling pack, which brings configurable and adaptive dynamics.

“Very smooth upshifts at 6,500 rpm (beyond indicated redline) in Dynamic mode,” road test editor Chris Walton noted about the XE. But he also lamented the excessive tire noise it exhibits on regular roads. There are a few other things we aren’t so fond of. Comfort mode elicits a clumsier transmission response than Sport mode, and handling is noticeably less sharp in the city or on the highway. On the highway at 65 mph, it feels like it’s fighting road imperfections rather than smoothing them out.

The XE may not be any quicker with the more powerful four-cylinder compared to the standard four-cylinder, but objectively, it is more agile. In the figure eight, our tester managed 25.4 seconds at an average 0.71 g. That’s an improvement over the base XE, which rounded the bends in 26.4 seconds at 0.70 g. Our new Jag outperformed the Alfa Romeo (25.6 seconds at 0.71 g) but not the BMW (25.2 seconds at 0.73 g). Although we have to say, the Giulia feels a lot more nimble on twisty roads than the XE.

A few hundred pounds heavier than the less powerful XE we tested with rear-wheel drive, this all-wheel-drive tester loses some of its light and tossable charm. Still, the XE still has some sharp reflexes.

Our test team noted the XE is responsive to throttle changes mid-corner in the figure eight, although exiting a corner is a little less smooth. “AWD has a big consequence on this car’s handling (as it usually does),” testing director Kim Reynolds noted. “Used second gear to exit the corner (third seemed a little dull) but had to immediately upshift.”

Suffice it to say, the 2020 Jaguar XE makes tangible improvements from previous iterations, but it still isn’t close to the top of its class. We can’t even say it’s one of the best when it comes to its most improved area, the interior. Still, the XE boasts strong exterior and interior design, as well as confident performance. If the XE tickles your fancy, the base four-cylinder may be the better value, since the performance penalty is so little with this version.

2020 Jaguar XE P300 S AWD (R Dynamic)
BASE PRICE $47,290
PRICE AS TESTED $63,125
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.0L/296-hp/295-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,904 lb (52/48%)
WHEELBASE 111.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 184.2 x 72.4 x 56.1 in
0-60 MPH 6.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.0 sec @ 93.7 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 109 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.94 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 25.4 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 22/30/25 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 153/112 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.78 lb/mile

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