Jaguar XE R-Sport Review
It has a surprising facility which made it the best. Few tears were shed when the XE drove off my driveway for the last time. I didn’t mourn the bare patch of pea-shingle it left, didn’t mentally drop my automotive flag to half mast, and didn’t look longingly at other XE models I saw in the weeks that followed its departure. This surprised me a great deal because I really liked the little Jaguar. During the best part of a year, I loved walking up to it, thinking ‘My Jaaaag… tidy.’ I really enjoyed driving it, reveling in its pace and poise. And I liked the way it made me feel as an XE driver – a little bit special.
So why no lachrymose farewell? Well, the more I thought about the XE after its departure, the more I realized that its talents do an outstanding job of effectively covering up its shortcomings. And when I balanced the pros against the cons, its list of limitations is significantly longer than its set of skills. Which, given all the time, resources and top-drawer rivals Jaguar had on hand to make this car an absolute nailed-on class-leader, was pretty damned disappointing.
Take the XE’s looks. Its cab-backward thrusting proportions were spot-on (if a little generic three-box at the rear) but the price you paid for that long bonnet and truncated tail was a snug cabin up front, abysmal accommodation in the rear and a smallish odd-shaped boot. Visibility was unimpressive, too. Likewise the cabin architecture. The symmetrical dash and logically laid-out center console layout appealed deeply to my OCD nature, but the quality of the materials and overall fit and finish were pretty modest for a £42k executive express.
Same went for the infotainment system – the touch screen was sluggish and unresponsive, its graphics looked dated, Bluetooth hook-up was frustratingly erratic, and the sound quality of the audio system was thin and tinny. And as I’m on a roll, the thick A-pillars and narrow glasshouse resulted in awful visibility.
The 2.0-litre Ingenious turbo diesel was certainly not short of punch – with 177bhp and a stout 317lb ft, it snapped briskly off the line (as long as you manually selected first gear), dished up generous portions of effortless in-gear go and made high-speed cruising a low-rev pleasure. But it’s disappointingly coarse and vocal soundtrack felt distinctly at odds with the XE’s suave sheet metal and dynamic flair.
So, after 16,625 miles, I’ve realized the XE does a pretty good job of pulling the wool over your eyes. Its strengths make you think it’s a straight a car, a benchmark maker, and a risk taker. But go granular and dig deep, and the reality is that its year-end report reads B(+ve) and no more. The basics are all there, it’s head and shoulders above the mainstream, and there’s talent in spades. But it needs a bit more polish, a dash more application and just a touch more effort. This first-gen XE doesn’t feel like it’s reached its full potential. I don’t expect its replacement to make the same mistake.