2017 Jaguar XE 20d AWD Review

One of the most hotly contested segments in the luxury market is the compact premium sports sedan category. Here, BMW’s 3 Series has long reigned supreme among drivers who prefer a sporting edge, while the Mercedes-Benz C- Class got the nod from those who value luxury over sheer dynamics. Audi’s A4 made its bones by splitting the difference between the two. Back in 2001, Jaguar also tried to play in this space with the introduction of the X-Type. Introduced while the brand was under Ford ownership, Dearborn’s bean counters decided a compact Jaguar based upon the European market’s Ford Mondeo was a good idea.

Buyers disagreed.

So now we have an all-new — from the ground up — Jaguar compact sedan. In keeping with the marque’s current nomenclature scheme, the XE slots into the lineup beneath the XJ and XF four-doors. The family resemblance is instantly recognizable as the contemporary Jaguar sedan design cues translate nicely to the XE’s more compact dimensions. We particularly like the feline appearance of the face of the car when viewed straight on.

The XE’s planted stance and rearward sweeping profile telegraph its handling potential, while solidly communicating the Jaguar’s place in the upper tier of the automotive hierarchy. In other words, it looks both expensive and fun to drive. On the other hand, its appearance might be a bit too close to its siblings because people hardly give it a second glance. Our guess is they’ve been seeing the XF and the XJ for so long, the XE simply doesn’t stand out as being something new.

It’s too bad they couldn’t see the interior though, as it is easily the most gracefully executed in the segment. The sweeping cowl line from the XF and XJ carry over to elegant effect, while our Prestige-trimmed test car featured niceties such as keyless entry and pushbutton start, upgraded leather upholstery, a heated power-adjustable steering wheel, heated front seats, Jaguar’s InControl apps suite, nav and a handsome set of 18-inch wheels. This is on top of an already generous standard features list, boasting details such as dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment interface, eight-way power-adjustable seats up front and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Leg- and headroom are more than adequate up front, while taller rear passengers will need the people in the front seats to exercise some generosity. They might also find the sweeping roofline eats into headroom. While all of the seats are comfortable and supportive, the XE is a four-passenger car at best. Squeezing three people into the rear seat will induce some discomfort. The trunk is deep, though a bit narrow. Cargo capacity is rated at 15.9 cubic feet.

Jaguar’s first-ever diesel offering in the United States displaces 2.0-liters. The turbocharged inline four-cylinder is good for 180 horsepower and 318 ft-lbs of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission feeds all four wheels. Fuel economy is rated at 34 mpg overall. However, during our testing, which included a joyful 150-mile romp over twisty mountain roads, we averaged 35 mpg.

 In all frankness, with the 340-horsepower supercharged gasoline-fired V6 out there, we weren’t particularly overjoyed when we learned we’d be assigned the diesel. However, the XE 20d AWD does have a charm all its own, even if it doesn’t return the sportiest of driving experiences. While 318 ft-lbs of torque sounds great in advertisements, the truth is the engine builds power rather gradually (Jaguar quotes 7.5 seconds to 60). You won’t be bolting away from traffic signals, even with the drive mode selector set to dynamic and the transmission in sport mode.

That said, the XE 20d isn’t exactly slow either. The engine is perhaps best described as determined in the way it goes about its business. Smoothness is quite good for a diesel and the start/stop feature is only mildly imposing in operation. The engine is also quite smooth and remarkably quiet.

Meanwhile, the almost surreal combination of refined ride and spirited handling we’ve been conditioned to expect from a Jaguar sedan is solidly represented. The suspension soaks up even the most corrugated pavement with grace and dignity, allowing the Jaguar XE 20d to glide along with exceptional composure. Steering is both direct and accurate, body roll is minimal and grip is resolute. A bit of softness at the top of the pedal’s range of travel characterizes brake feel, but stopping power is plentiful.

If you value fuel economy over outright performance, but still enjoy the feel of a well-sorted car, the Jaguar XE 20d AWD might well be a good choice for you. Plus, all of the other attributes expected of a premium compact sport sedan are there, including handsome styling. All in all, the Jaguar XE 20d AWD is a nicely competitive entry for the segment, with pricing starting at $36,400.

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