Sorry, you’re too late. While you were out driving who knows what, Jaguar was busy selling an entry-level rear-wheel-drive sport sedan with a rip-snorting supercharged V-6. Once the stock of 2019 XE S models dries up, though, it’s over. Hot on the heels of the mighty 600-hp XE Project 8, the 2020 Jaguar XE is now exclusively a four-cylinder affair in the U.S. We got up close and personal with Jag’s refreshed sport sedan in the south of France, where we conquered Route Napoléon and blasted down the French Riviera.
About the Things
Beyond the significant powertrain updates, the 2020 XE receives a minor nip and tuck procedure, wearing a tweaked front bumper design, a more aggressive grille, and sleeker rear taillights. It’s not profoundly different, but it’s both more aggressive and more interesting than the outgoing XE. The XE was always one of the most handsome cars in the segment, but it rode the razor’s edge between having reserved good looks and being boring. Now, we’re pleased to say it decidedly falls in the former camp, especially when equipped with the optional R-Dynamic aesthetic package that adds a little more flair to the front bumper and interior.
The interior is the biggest beneficiary of the update. It was the weakest part of the outgoing XE, as it didn’t quite live up to the expectations set by both the car’s outward appearance and the growling cat on its front. But now the materials, design, and standard equipment have all been improved, especially the infotainment. A 12.3-inch screen fills the driver’s gauge cluster, and it sports some of the prettiest digital gauges we’ve interacted with. The new XE even offers a rearview camera screen in place of the traditional mirror—the first in the segment, and the first in the Jaguar lineup. Gone is Jag’s rotary shifter, with an F-Type-esque “SportShift” pistol shifter protruding from the center tunnel.
Spring for the optional InControl Touch Pro Duo, and climate, infotainment, and vehicle settings are managed by a pair of very slick touchscreens. It’s very I-Pace in execution and makes a loaded-out XE interior one of the best cockpits in the entire Jaguar lineup. Even the steering wheel has been changed; it’s now the same one in the I-Pace, with the same backlit controls.
We’re also pleased to report that while power is down compared to the departed V-6, the 2.0-liter turbocharged Ingenium four-cylinders still pack quite the punch. Two tunes are available. The entry level is the P250, packing 247 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. It’s offered with either rear- or all-wheel drive, so if you prioritize a lively rear end while tearing around the Côte d’Azur, stick with the base engine.
That’s because the top-spec model, the P300, is AWD-only. Power jumps here to 296 horses and 295 lb-ft, and it uses the same ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic as the P250. The zero-to-60-mph sprint is said to be accomplished in 5.4 seconds in the P300, and 6.2 seconds in the P250.
Driving the Things
We started off in the P250 as we blasted over the Maritime Alps. It was clear that Jaguar worked hard to strike a balance between dynamic capability and day-to-day comfort. Out on the butter-smooth French mountain roads, it’s a well-balanced car, perhaps even more so than the Mercedes-Benz C300 and Audi A4. It’s not as engaging as the Alfa Romeo Giulia, but the Jag’s has interior quality and overall refinement over the Italian.
Power is more than adequate, but the engine doesn’t have much of a personality. Given that’s the case for the Ingenium four-banger in the F-Type, too, it’s safe to say this four-cylinder family just isn’t that thrilling. But the steering is reasonably communicative, and it falls on the lighter side to cater to those buyers who seek something fashionable, premium, and comfortable more than a canyon-carver. The brakes are strong, as well, with modulation becoming easier with familiarity.
Our stint in the P300 found us on similarly tight mountain roads. Its 49 extra horsepower was immediately evident as we charged down the twisty passes and scrambled up the wide, cliff-lined sweepers connecting the many idyllic villages nestled in valleys and perched on hilltops. The P300-spec 2.0-liter doesn’t have the same drama, power, or torque as the outgoing V-6, but it feels more agile than the old XE S—thank the weight reduction over the previous AWD model.
Even with a 115-pound penalty over the rear-drive P250 and after engineers assured us the suspension, brakes, and steering were only nominally changed when compared with the rear-wheel-drive models, the P300 simply feels livelier in every situation. With AWD, it crawls through tight corners, and blasts toward the next turn with massive amounts of grip and poise. It feels smaller, tighter, and a touch more responsive than the V-6, and that’s high praise—we liked the XE S quite a bit.
Color us impressed with the results of this mid-cycle freshening. It’s not as engaging as an Alfa, but it cuts a quicker, and more enjoyable path through the mountains than most in the segment. Better still, it has an interior that befits both the price tag and the Jaguar name. About those prices, the rear-drive P250 starts at $40,895 and the P250 AWD at $42,895. Go for the more satisfying P300, and pricing spikes to $47,290. Not too shabby.
|2020 Jaguar XE|
|ON SALE||Summer 2019|
|ENGINE||2.0L DOHC 16-valve turbocharged four-cylinder; 247 or 296 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 269 or 295 lb-ft @ 1,300 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine RWD or AWD sedan|
|L x W x H||182.4 x 77.4 x 55.7 in|
|0–60 MPH||6.2 seconds (P250 RWD, est)|
|TOP SPEED||120 mph|