Jaguar’s stylish compact sports sedan gets a big refresh for 2020, taking it from also-ran status in this highly competitive segment to one worthy of serious consideration. Jaguar has also streamlined the 2020 XE‘s powertrain selection, with a pair of turbocharged four-cylinders to choose from. Styling tweaks and updated infotainment complete the makeover.
The XE has always been a pretty sharp rig, with a long hood and short-ish tail. Visual upgrades to the 2020 model include slimmer full LED headlights that flank a larger grille with a new mesh design. Both the front and rear bumpers have been redesigned, and in the case of the P300 R-Design, it gets even more aggressive front air intakes. The rear LED taillights are redone as well, echoing those of the tiny E-Pace crossover.
This tester, painted black and sporting optional black 19-inch wheels ($900) along with the Black Exterior Pack ($400) came off as nearly featureless, such was its ability to absorb all light. Shame really. If you want to actually see the XE’s rather elegant design, this is not the way to go.
As this tester was equipped, all the expected safety systems are present and accounted for: blind-spot detection and assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, front collision mitigation, rear cross-traffic warning, head-up display, auto-dimming headlights, 360-degree camera, heated windshield, heated washer nozzles, and more. All-wheel drive is standard with the XE P300.
This is where the XE falls short of the competition. Rear seat legroom is tight for the class and the trunk, while it stretches in quite deep, lacks height. I couldn’t fit in a standard BBQ propane tank in the trunk so it had to go on the back seat. On the plus side, there seems to be reasonable storage in the front cabin area, and Jaguar has redesigned the door pockets to accommodate larger water containers.
User Friendliness: 7/10
Ergonomics are generally good with this P300 which, with the $1,540 Technology Pack, gets Jaguar Land Rover’s latest infotainment setup that augments the main 10-inch touchscreen with a lower 5.5-inch screen between two large, multifunction rotary knobs for HVAC and seat heating/ventilation control.
Like any multi-layer infotainment interface, some study is necessary, but overall the menu structure is easy to negotiate and the graphics are clear. However, the interface isn’t as fast as systems from premium German automakers, and its response to voice commands was sketchy at best. Some simple commands took several attempts, and when dictating a navigation destination, it asks you to spell out each word.
The 2020 XE gets the electronic shifter from the F-Type sports car, replacing the previous rotary type. Is it an improvement? Personally, I like the older one. The XE also gets the F-Type’s driving mode toggle switch, which is a bonus.
The driving position in this sport sedan is excellent, and new this year is a very stylish steering wheel from the Jaguar I-Pace EV. The new digital gauge cluster has pin-sharp graphics – something that has eluded JLR products for years. And compared to when the XE was first launched, the car’s cabin quality has improved dramatically. The quality of materials, design, and overall look are perfectly in keeping with segment expectations and the badge on the grille.
Outward visibility is not the XE’s strong suit. The A-pillars and large mirrors impede sightlines when cornering, and the pinched rearward view will make you glad you opted for the 360-degree camera.
The XE P300 R-Dynamic comes with a healthy list of standard safety and luxury features, but niceties such as a heated steering wheel, blind-spot assist, and 12-way memory seats require delving into the options list. New available features for 2020 include wireless charging, a digital rear-view mirror (via a camera mounted in the shark-fin antenna) and driver attention monitor. Jag’s latest head-up display – again optional – is clear and informative.
JLR’s 2.0L turbo four-cylinder, the only engine offered, is a good one. In P300 tune it makes 296 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, delivering that oomph in a linear and eager fashion. This car feels genuinely quick, and the engine avoids the coarseness that afflicts some other 2.0L turbos. In Dynamic mode, the four-pot kicks out a cool little growl, too. Opting for the P250 model results in 247 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque.
We expect Jaguars to be comfortable, even the compact sport sedans, and here the XE does not disappoint. While this car was not equipped with the optional $1,315 adaptive dampers, it still showed a masterful blend of compliance and sharp body control. This is not a sports sedan that announces its athleticism to your backside over every bump, and it’s a quiet and stable highway cruiser, too. I would like the seats to be a little softer, though they proved comfortable during a long drive.
Driving Feel: 9/10
This is where the 2020 Jaguar XE P 300 R-Dynamic shines. It has quick and accurate steering, and the body stays remarkable flat in corners. Get the P300 up on its toes on a twisty road and it makes for a highly entertaining dance partner; there’s plenty of grip and the rear-biased all-wheel drive comes into play when powering out of bends. All the elements meld into a cohesively dynamic whole.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) rates the 2020 Jaguar P300 R-Dynamic at 10.7 L/100 km in the city, 7.7 on the highway, and 9.4 combined – certainly representative of a 2.0L turbo in this state of tune. The more modestly powered 2020 BMW 330i xDrive (255 hp) drinks less fuel at 9.5 L/100 km around town, 6.9 on the highway, and 8.3 combined.
Jaguar has priced this sports sedan right in line with the competition. With a base price of $55,800 the 2020 Jaguar XE P300 R-Dynamic slots in above the $49,000 2020 BMW 330i xDrive. However, to match the features of this Jag and its as-tested sticker of $61,630 before taxes and freight, the BMW quickly gets into similar territory.
Tight back seat and smallish trunk aside, this vastly improved 2020 Jaguar XE now presents itself as a compelling choice for those kicking tires in Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo, and Audi showrooms. Interior quality and tech count are now up to snuff, and if you count an eager engine, engaging dynamics, and the arguable exclusivity of the XE as desirable features, this little Jag shines.
|Peak Horsepower||296 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||295 lb-ft @ 1,500–4,500 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||7.0/5.9/6.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||410 L|
|Model Tested||2020 Jaguar XE P300 R-Dynamic|
|Price as Tested||$63,330|
$5,830 – Santorini Black paint, $800; Cold Climate Pack, $640; Meridian Sound, $350; Blind Spot Assist, $500; 12-way memory seats, $700; 19-inch black alloys, $900; Black Exterior Pack, $400; Technology Pack, $1,540