If you haven’t noticed the Jaguar XE, the company’s compact sports sedan, you can be forgiven. After all, its predecessor, the 2001-09 Jaguar X-Type, tried way too hard to hide its humble Ford origins with a retro design that made the car look as if had been left in the dryer too long.
The 2014 Jaguar XE replaced it, debuting at a time when many consumers were still becoming accustomed to Jaguar styling that didn’t look as if it were decades too old. It wasn’t helped by the interior, which didn’t quite have the feel to match its trendy, cosmopolitan wardrobe.
Thankfully, the XE has been updated for the 2020 model year with a front and rear makeover, gaining full LED lighting and a more aggressive grille and fascia that bring it more into line with its siblings. It’s subtle but effective.
If you’ve ever experienced the 2014-19 XE, you’ll notice the new model’s major interior makeover. Thanks to a bigger development budget, the XE is fitted with finery found in tonier Jaguar Land Rover products. These bits include the Jaguar I-Pace’s steering wheel, the F-Type’s electronic shifter, and the newest rendition of the company’s InControl Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, consisting of a 10-inch upper screen and a 5.5-inch lower screen nestled between two large high-tech climate control knobs that boast inset screens.
Best of all, Jaguar redesigned the XE’s door panels, which no longer intrude on passenger space and actually offer a decent amount of storage. And designers have rectified their biggest flaw. Previously, the power window switches were located where you’d expect to find the power mirror and memory seat buttons, and vice versa. And they were identically shaped. Thankfully, a more thoughtful design is now in place.
Beyond that, the whole interior benefits from better quality materials throughout, endowing it with the feel of a modern British luxury sedan without resorting to the cliché of wood trim. It’s quite a transformation, and far more impressive than the previous interior, with a truly opulent feel that was noticeably lacking until now. Had this cabin been fitted since the model’s launch, sales might have been better.
And there are new high-tech touches you’d expect given the XE’s station, such as wireless charging and an optional digital rearview mirror. Other goodies include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a head-up display, and a driver-attention monitor.
It all sets the stage for the XE’s true treat: its performance.
For 2020, the refreshed XE is powered by Jaguar’s new Ingenium turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s rated at 247 horsepower in the XE P250 model. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive a $2,000 option. A more powerful 296 horsepower version of the same engine is standard in the XE P300 as is all-wheel drive. An optional Dynamic Handling package adds larger brakes, adjustable dampers, and selectable Comfort, Eco, Rain/Ice/Snow, and Dynamic driving modes, which alters steering, engine and transmission behavior, although the changes are not dramatic. For the 2020 Jaguar XE delivers the sort of crisp, responsive performance you’d expect. Cornering finds the XE remaining resolutely flat, without any float or histrionics, while the steering remains quick and perfectly weighted.
The 296-horsepower P300 seems more than adequate for the XE’s mission, although some may miss the more powerful V-6 options available last year. Others may never notice, given that the P300 roars to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. The driveline is aided and abetted by the eight-speed automatic transmission, which turns out to be this engine’s perfect partner in crime.
All of this goodness starts at $39,900, a very competitive price in this segment, with the top-of-the-line P300 starting at $46,295.
Until now, you may never have noticed the XE, given the plethora of entry-level Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi models that now seem as common as Toyota Corollas. The 2020 Jaguar XE is more rarified — a fine feline that can more than keep pace with the entry-level sports sedan pack and is now a true luxury sedan.
2020 Jaguar XE P300 AWD
Base price: $46,295
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 296/295 pound-feet @5,500 RPM
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 22/30 mpg
Fuel required: Premium
Wheelbase/Length/Width: 111.6/184.2/77.4 inches
Cargo capacity: 14.5 cubic feet
Curb weight: 3,560 pounds