• Refreshed XE sedan
  • New soft-touch leather interior
  • Turbo 2.0-liter available with 246 or 296 horsepower
  • Supercharged V6, diesel dropped
  • SportShift gear selector replaces rotary dial
  • Four optional Drive modes
  • Prices range from $39,900 to $46,295

 

You’re forgiven if you don’t know much about the Jaguar XE because this compact rear-wheel-drive sports sedan tends to fly beneath the radar. Maybe it’s because only 4,704 Jaguar XEs were sold in the U.S. in all of 2018.

Whatever the case, the English manufacturer aims to fix that sales dearth with a significantly refreshed 2020 Jaguar XE that has new styling and a modernized leather interior featuring the steering wheel and optional 12.3-inch interactive display pulled straight from the electric I-Pace.

Two engine choices

Two turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines are available, one with 247 horsepower, the other with 296. Both mate to an 8-speed automatic transmission with available paddle shifters. Last year’s supercharged V6 engine, as well as the 2.0-liter turbodiesel, have been dropped from the simplified XE lineup.

The XE P250, with rear- or all-wheel drive (AWD), gets the 247-horsepower engine. The XE P300, available only with AWD, gets the more powerful 296-horsepower 4-cylinder. Jaguar says the P250 hits 60 mph in 6.2 seconds. The P300 gets to that speed quite a bit more quickly, in 5.4 seconds. Top speed for both is electronically limited to 155 mph. Competitors for the 2020 Jaguar XE include the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Audi A4 and the Lexus IS.

New exterior design

The exterior refreshments of the new 2020 Jaguar XE begin in front, where some of the design cues have been influenced by the F-Type sports car. A larger and wider grille helps make the new XE look more planted, complemented by revised latticework in the grille. The standard LED headlights look like those of the F-Type and I-Pace. They’re slim, and they make the nose of the XE look lower and more assertive, contributing to a more dynamic stance.

The XE R-Dynamic S model adds even more aggression with winglet-inspired sculpted surfaces on the front bumper and a dark mesh in the new rear bumper, which has been designed to accentuate the width of Jaguar’s compact sports sedan. Neat detail: The XE’s slim new LED taillights incorporate a chicane-shaped line into their design, a subtle way of reminding us of Jaguar’s long sporting heritage.

“The new Jaguar XE is all about building on the undeniable sporting proportions of the original car," sums up Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director. “We’ve given the car much bolder graphics and more visual width, planting it in a way which really illustrates its dynamic intent. The new XE is a wonderfully complete package with a very purposeful exterior matched to a beautifully crafted, sporty interior.”

What’s the biggest change to the XE interior for 2020?

The biggest change to the 2020 Jaguar XE’s interior s the increased use of soft-touch materials throughout, together with redesigned door panels. Also, the center console, upper instrument binnacle and dash have all been covered with premium new finishes, and the veneers extend into the back of the XE’s 5-seat cabin.

The XE’s leather seats, twin-stitched and featuring embossed headrests, are comfortable, and the interior door panels have been redesigned to significantly increase the amount of available storage. Large water bottles fit with ease inside the front doors, and their armrests are both wider and softer than before.

 

Traditional shift lever returns

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Last year’s rotary dial gear selector has been replaced by a more traditional looking stick, which Jaguar calls the Sportshift. The electronic lever can be moved fore and aft as needed, and the button marked by a P is pressed to engage Park. A forward nudge of the lever calls for a downshift; a rearward tug results in an upshift. Shift paddles made of a brushed aluminum are available if you prefer to shift with your hands still on the steering wheel. 

Perhaps the most significant interior option is a 10-inch upper touch screen for Jaguar’s “InControl Touch Pro Duo” infotainment. This system, like that of the I-Pace, uses upper and lower touch screens that are seamlessly integrated to control numerous functions. Jaguar says the improved human/machine interface reduces driver distraction by separating information and interactive controls logically. A pair of rotary controllers allows the XE driver (and front passenger) to control the heating, cooling and fan speed.

One more option deserving mention: the XE’s Clear Sight Rear View Mirror. Via a panoramic camera mounted in the dorsal fin antenna atop the new 2020 Jaguar XE, a high-definition image of the scene behind the XE is shown on the cars frameless rearview mirror. The image, which eliminates blind spots, is amazingly clear, and the system is great for those times when you are carrying tall passengers in the XE’s back seat. A switch on the bottom of the mirror toggles between the conventional mirror and the video image.

Configurable Dynamics

The JaguarDrive Control interface, from the F-Type sports car, is standard on the 2020 XE. Via a toggle switch on the center console, the XE driver can choose among four settings: Comfort, Eco, Rain/Ice/Snow and Dynamic. The response of the XE’s steering, throttle and gearbox is tailored for each setting, but the shock absorber damping doesn’t change like it does in some other sports sedans with driver-selectable drive modes. Dynamic mode, for the record, provides faster gear shifts, snappier throttle response and heavier weighted steering. 

A Configurable Dynamics system is available as an option on the XE. This allows the XE driver to choose personalized settings for the engine, gearbox and steering, not just rely on the ones in each of Jaguar’s pre-set modes. Of note, Configurable Dynamics is part of the Dynamic Handling Pack, which groups many performance-related items that include adaptive shock absorbers, larger disc brakes, colored brake calipers and a trunk lid spoiler. 

Four drive modes

The JaguarDrive Control interface, from the F-Type sports car, is standard on the 2020 XE. Via a toggle switch on the center console, the XE driver can choose among four settings: Comfort, Eco, Rain/Ice/Snow and Dynamic. The response of the XE’s steering, throttle and gearbox is tailored for each setting, but the shock absorber damping does not change like it does in some other cars with driver-selectable drive modes. Dynamic mode, for the record, has faster gear shifts, snappier throttle response and heavier weighted steering.

A Configurable Dynamics system is available as an option on the XE. This allows the XE driver to choose personalized settings for the engine, gearbox and steering, not just use the ones selected by Jaguar for the XE’s pre-set modes. Configurable Dynamics is part of the Dynamic Handling Pack, which groups many performance-related items that also include adaptive shock absorbers, larger disc brakes, colored brake calipers and a trunk lid spoiler.

What’s it like to drive the 2020 Jaguar XE?

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It’s rewarding. I drove a 2020 Jaguar XE, a rear-drive P250 model equipped with the R-Dynamics S package, at the car’s official press introduction in the south of France, near Nice, where I was immediately impressed with the quietness, refinement and agility of the compact Jag sports sedan on winding roads that included the famous Route Napoleon. Although the XE’s electric-assist steering felt a bit heavy at first, it quickly became normal as I flung the car up and down the tight and narrow canyon roads, aided by staggered width tires—size 225/40-19 in front and 255/35R-19 in back—that provided plenty of grip on the occasionally damp roads.

All the while, the turbocharged 247-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder—mounted well back in the chassis to help give this Jag ideal 50/50 weight distribution—did a fine job of propelling this 3,600-pound sports sedan with plenty of verve. Turbo lag was basically nonexistent, and the 8-speed automatic transmission upshifted smoothly but with good crispness any time I was hard on the throttle.

Smooth ride

What’s more, the ride quality delivered by the XE’s suspension—which features double wishbones up front and a multilink rear—artfully blended good chassis control for excellent cornering composure without making the car uncomfortably firm. While the AWD version of the new Jaguar XE may hook up a little better out of corners, it’s about 175 pounds heavier so it may not have quite the same entertaining agility of the rear-drive XE. 

Fuel-saving automatic stop/start is standard on the 2020 Jaguar XE. The restarts weren’t especially smooth, so we tended to just shut the system off every time we fired up the Jag.

How much does the 2020 Jaguar XE cost?

The rear-wheel-drive 2020 Jaguar XE, the P250—which like all XEs is built at the company’s plant in Solihull, England—starts at $39,900, plus a destination charge of $995. The all-wheel-drive version of the XE P250 with the same 247-horsepower engine starts at $41,900, plus the same destination charge. If you want the all-wheel-drive XE with the more potent 296-horsepower powerplant, you’ll have to order the P300 R-Dynamic S, which starts at $46,295.

Class of 2020: The New and Redesigned Cars, Trucks and SUVs

Final thoughts

Jaguar’s compact aluminum-intensive sports sedan is better than its small sales numbers have suggested. And although the XE’s rear leg room is sparse when the comfortable new front seats are moved all the way back, this entry-level Jaguar nevertheless shines bright as a well-built sports sedan with impeccably good road manners and niceties such as Apple CarPlay (standard) and wireless smartphone charging (available).

Moreover, you can tell the 2020 Jaguar XE has been tuned by engineers who like to drive and styled by designers quite familiar with company’s DNA. Although some may lament the discontinuation of the supercharged V6 or the diesel, the simplified lineup of XEs may help Jag’s compact sports sedan get the sales numbers it finally deserves.

Between now and when this refreshed XE arrives at dealerships, you can get a great deal on a 2019 Jaguar XE

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