2020 Jaguar XE P250 S Review - Close, but No Cigar
2020 Jaguar XE P250 S Fast Facts
Ever since Jaguar launched the XE a few years ago, I’ve held high hopes for it. As much as I, like most auto journalists, dig the BMW 3 Series, I’ve always pined for more compact luxury sport sedan competition.
Mercedes has the C-Class, sure, and Lexus’ IS has often been a solid challenger, especially in certain trims. But the more the merrier, I say, and this particular Jag had a chance at contention.
At least, that was my thought based on a limited drive at a media event, although I didn’t get a great bead on handling, since this mini-junket took place near downtown Chicago. I do remember thinking the interior design, especially the gauges, looked old and tacky – too old and tacky for a luxury vehicle, even one that’s relatively affordable.
Fast-forward a bit. The XE’s insides have been updated and modernized, and the powertrain lineup has been enhanced. I finally had my hands on one for a week, instead of 20 minutes, and I was curious to see where the XE fit in the luxury sport-compact sedan class.
We don’t have the resources for instrumented testing here at TTAC, unfortunately, but I can report that on public roads, the XE performs well. It’s swift to accelerate, sharp to handle, and the ride is sports-car stiff. It does flirt with the harsh side of the line.
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It felt a tad lighter on its feet than the all-wheel-drive 330i xDrive I’d driven previously, no doubt in part because my XE tester was rear-drive. Indeed, the XE is lighter than both the rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive 330i. Gee-whiz electronics involving the various drive modes no doubt helped, and yes, Dynamic mode is more fun. Oh, by the way, you Canuck readers can only get the XE with AWD.
I was having a hard time finding fault with the XE, even with the base engine – a 2.0-liter turbo four that makes 247 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic gets the power to the rear wheels.
The Jag even looks sleek and sexy, a real head-turner, even in grey. Jag has built a winner, I thought.
Then my family ruined the buzz.
See, this was pre-pandemic times, and I had to drive my parents across town. Along with some stuff. At that point, I realized how cramped the rear seat and relatively low on space the trunk is.
That’s a problem, because sports sedans, even compact ones, still have sedan in the name. Buyers have kids, and pets, and in-laws, and friends to haul around. As well as the stuff we all accumulate in modern life. Pet carriers, car seats, groceries, luggage, the usual. Jaguar designers seem to have been so focused on making a good driver’s car that they forgot about the passengers. It’s not just a seating issue, as the cargo space is less than what BMW offers.
The numbers, on paper, are close, at least when it comes to rear-seat room, but that didn’t seem to help in the real world. To be fair, I didn’t have rear-seat passengers with the last 330i I drove, but it did feel a bit roomier when I parked my tall and overweight frame back there to take pics.
At least the interior is modernized, bearing the highly digital experience that has become familiar across JLR’s lineup over the past few years. A well-integrated infotainment screen sits on top of a mostly digital HVAC display, with two big knobs for temperature adjustments and a volume knob being the only knobs in sight. It’s a good look, and not terribly difficult to learn, but I do wonder how expensive repairs will be once the warranty expires.
The gauges are also digital, and the steering wheel buttons are haptic touch and light up only when needed. It’s a bit corny, but it works, aesthetically. Again, I do have concerns about future repair bills. And not just because of the history of electronics and British cars.
It’s a pretty little thing, with sloping, rounded lines and a minimalism that keeps things simple. It’s a cliché to talk about Jaguar sports cars looking like jungle cats on their haunches, ready to pounce, but it sort of fits here. It’s a sleeker look than what the 3 Series offers, and I rather like the 3 Series’ classic lines. More importantly, it doesn’t go too far in the direction of bro racer, as the IS arguably does.
My test vehicle came with standard features such as 18-inch wheels, torque vectoring, moonroof, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, USB, lane-keep assist, and driver-condition monitor.
A Technology Pack ($1,950) added a rearview-mirror camera, head-up display, and wireless cell-phone charging. A Drive Pack ($1,700) brought forth blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control, and high-speed emergency braking, while a Dynamic Handling Pack ($1,615) tacked on a rear spoiler, adaptive and configurable dynamics, 350-millimeter front brakes and red brake calipers. Another package ($1,365) added navigation, Wi-Fi, traffic-sign recognition, and adaptive speed limiter. Keyless entry and a power gesture-activated trunk were part of yet another package ($1,200), along with an electronically adjustable steering column and extra power outlets. Yet another option pack included a heated steering wheel ($620), and a different package added parking aids such as a 360-degree camera ($600).
Other options included black exterior styling touches ($375), satellite radio ($300), premium audio ($800), 19-inch wheels ($1,400), power-folding mirrors ($360), the grey paint job ($610), heated and cooled front seats ($1,500), and uplevel leather seats ($650)
All told the car cost $55,940, including the $995 destination fee.
The XE is a sleek sporty sedan that does a lot right, and could serve as an alternative to the usual suspects – unless you need to haul rear-seat passengers or a lot of cargo often. It’s a good car with one big flaw.
Flawed as it may be, its on-road dynamics make up for it quite a bit. Perhaps not enough to move this Jag into serious contention for compact-luxury class supremacy, but it’s not an also-ran, either.
That will be good enough for some. Which may be good enough for Jaguar.
[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]
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