Parkers overall rating: 3.8 out of 5 3.8

Jaguar is still a sporting brand at heart, and that’s evident in the way the XE drives. The sad part is that, apart from the bonkers SV Project 8, there’s no halo performance model. The range instead tops out with a 300hp petrol, sat above a 250hp petrol and a 180hp diesel – all 2.0-litre, four-cylinders from Jaguar’s ‘Ingenium’ family of engines.

All three use Jaguar’s eight-speed automatic gearbox, which isn’t quite as responsive as the one in the BMW 3 Series. However, it’s far less hesitant than the dual-clutch ‘box in an Audi A4. Select Dynamic drive mode – which you need to do for weightier steering – and this holds onto the gears for longer. This is hardly fitting for when you want to waft and relax in your Jaguar saloon, but it’s calibrated well enough for you to be in the right gear at the right time during spirited driving.

Petrol power leads the way

The 250hp petrol is the entry point to the range. Badged P250, it’s actually a very generous power output – the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series offer 156hp, 150hp and 184hp respectively, significantly down on the Jaguar.

Top speed for this engine is electronically limited to 155mph, while 62mph arrives from rest in 6.5 seconds. That makes it plenty punchy for everyday use – it’ll cruise effortlessly at motorway speeds, get off the line fast enough to break traction on the rear tyres if you’re not careful and offer up a satisfying kick of acceleration if you put your foot down as you would when overtaking.

We found the P250 to beat its claimed fuel economy - we averaged an easy 38mpg out of a long weekend of mixed cruising. For those plying the highways, this figure should be very attainable – though do note, repeated short runs or city driving will see the fuel economy plummet.

The 250hp petrol offers such a good level of performance that it’s not really worth opting for the higher-powered, 300hp model. Though it cuts the 0-62mph time down to 5.7 seconds, it doesn’t feel significantly faster in the real world. And, while the P300 (as it's so badged) comes with all-wheel drive for a bit more security in slippery conditions, it actually compromises the purity of the driving experience. We’d head for the rear-drive, P250 any day of the week.

That said, if you do simply want the most powerful XE, the P300 is unlikely to disappoint as performance is strong, but only if you have the driving modes set to the most sporting. Otherwise it can feel quite restrained. While that's fine for most situations, it can be surprising how long it can take to get going when you expect it to a bit more responsive. Still, the automatic gearbox works well with this engine, and the fine chassis setup in combination with the engine makes for a great car to drive on a twisty road.

Just one diesel option

There’s a single diesel offered in the XE – it too is a 2.0-litre four cylinder, producing 180hp and badged D180. It’s understandably the slowest of the bunch, with a maximum speed of 143mph and a 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds. It does offer the greatest posted fuel economy, making it a good choice for high-mileage drivers or those looking to cut costs as much as possible. However, the diesel’s slightly coarse edge means it can’t really compete with the excellent diesels in the BMW 3 Series.

That said, it still feels strong enough for most and works well with the standard eight-speed automatic transmission. It'll be the best option for long stints on the motorway, and will go longest between visits to the petrol station.

Discontinued petrols (pre-2019 models)

The original four-cylinder petrols were ousted at the start of 2017 with a pair of Ingenium units taking their place: both are 2.0-litre turbocharged units. First up is the 20t, a 200hp version producing 320Nm of torque from 1,200rpm and sending its power to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’ll reach a top speed of 143mph with a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds.

The 380hp supercharged V6 S model ceased production in Spring 2018 and sang its way from 0-62mph in five seconds flat. This performance flagship was replaced with the 300 Sport, using the same engine found in the 30t, producing 300hp and 400Nm of torque from 1,500rpm. This meant this was also four-wheel drive, rather than rear-wheel drive V6 predecessor.

Discontinued diesels (pre-2019 models)

Most efficient was the 2.0-litre 163hp rear-wheel drive version, producing 380Nm from 1,750rpm, with claimed figures of up to 58.9mpg and 126g/km of CO2 for the six-speed manual model. Top speed was 132mph – as it is for the optional eight-speed automatic variant – although at 9.4 seconds the manual was six-tenths of a second slower in the 0-62mph sprint.

Featuring a 240hp twin turbo iteration of the engine with standard automatic transmission and all-wheel drive was the 25d AWD, topping the diesel range. Torque’s ramped up to 500Nm from 1,500rpm equating to a 155mph top speed and a 6.5-second 0-62mph time. Despite this, Jaguar still claims 48.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 153g/km.

How does it handle?

  • XE is one of the best small saloons to drive
  • Excellent blend of comfort and agility 
  • Sharp and communicative steering

The Jaguar XE is great fun to drive regardless of which engine you opt for. Jaguar has a knack for making cars that are both comfortable for passengers and involving for the driver, and the XE is one of the best of the breed.

The suspension is perfectly tuned so that it doesn’t lean too much in the corners, yet it still deals well with lumps and bumps on the roads. Whether sat up front or in the rear, the it's a very comfortable car indeed – easily the equal of a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Jaguar has set the XE up to have quick steering, and it’s easy to feel what the road is doing through the wheel. Keen drivers will enjoy how communicative the steering is, but it’s not so darty that others won’t be able to get comfortable.

At high road speeds, such as on the motorway, the Jaguar settles down very nicely to an extremely relaxed and refined cruise. It’s a little less relaxed around town, where the gearbox can feel a little recalcitrant to slower-speed driving. But that’s not a deal-breaker.