Jaguar XE R-Dynamic HSE 2020 road test review

White Jaguar XE parked in front of the seaside

Tim Nicholson

Posted May 17, 2020

Tim Nicholson takes the outstanding new Jaguar XE sedan for a test drive.

Despite flagging interest in medium-size sedans, there are some exceptional models on offer, particularly if you fancy a premium badge. The Alfa Romeo GiuliaGenesis G70 and Volvo’s new S60 are all high-quality cars that don’t get the attention they deserve. Another one is the sole British offering in the segment – Jaguar’s XE. It sold just under 400 units last year, and that does not reflect the quality of the product.

Launched in mid-2015 as a rival for the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the XE was praised for its engaging dynamics and next-generation ‘Ingenium’ engines, but it fell short when it came to interior design and quality. At the time, the XE’s model range was overly complex, with too many engine variants and model grades.

Thumbs up

Outstanding engine and dynamics, dramatically improved interior, wrapped up in a handsome British package.

Thumbs down 

Pricey options, split-fold rear seat is only an option, ride quality is a mixed bag.

Rear view of the 2020 Jaguar XE R-Dynamic HSE


Fast-forward four years and Jag has addressed those issues as part of an extensive mid-life facelift that rolled into showrooms in August last year. The model range has shrunk from eight variants to just two – the R-Dynamic SE priced from $65,670 before on-road costs and the more generously specified R-Dynamic HSE priced at $71,940. Both are powered by the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. 

Our R-Dynamic HSE had a tick over $10,000 worth of options fitted, some of which should be standard. We’ve said this before, but heated seats should not be an option on a premium car. Nor should a head-up display or the 40/20/40 split-fold rear seats which cost $460. Without ticking that box there are no folding rear seats, which is unacceptable. Aside from this, the XE has a relatively healthy standard safety and comfort features list.

Jaguar tweaked the design of the already handsome XE with fresh front-end styling that includes new slimline LED head and tail-lights, new bumpers and larger front air intakes, all inspired by the stunning F-Type sports car.

The previous model’s interior wasn’t awful, just off the pace. Not any more. It’s up there with the best-in-class BMW 3 Series. More premium soft-touch materials on the dash and doors, and classier inserts, lift the ambience, while the new-look dash layout is welcome. 

Minimising the number of buttons by having multi-purpose controls for some functions is a stroke of genius. You can switch between phone, seat and climate-control settings via a menu on the lower screen and then use a couple of dials to adjust any of these functions. It takes some getting used to but it’s another point of difference for the Jag and we like it. The ‘hidden-until-lit’ graphics on the gorgeous leather steering wheel are a cool addition.


Wheel rims on Jaguar XE R-Dynamic HSE 2020


The main screen above it houses Jaguar’s extensive Touch Pro system incorporating infotainment and sat-nav as well as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. It’s bigger and better than the old model’s system and the menu structure is easy to use, although we had a couple of issues reconnecting the Bluetooth. The redesigned centre console now houses a regular gear shifter, replacing the polarising pop-up dial from the previous XE. Smart move, Jag.

Up front, the gorgeous sports seats offer outstanding levels of support and plenty of adjustability. The white stitching is a nice touch.

The sloping front and rear windscreen, chunky B-pillar and low seating position means visibility is just okay in the XE. Taller folk take note – it’s easy to whack your head when getting out. 

Rear-seat space is about average for the segment. Toe room is tight but there’s plenty of knee room, and head room is fine, but anyone over six foot might scrape the headliner. The bucket-style rear outboard seats render the middle seat all but useless – the XE is best used as a four-seater.

The XE’s 410-litre boot is long and shallow, but not as big as the 3 Series (480 litres), and it comes with a space-saver spare tyre. 

Jaguar has always had a reputation for producing exceptional driver’s cars and the XE is proof of this. The silky 221kW/400Nm turbo-petrol engine is flawlessly matched with the XE’s chassis and the slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, making for linear performance. There is no turbo lag and the XE gathers pace quickly, instilling confidence during overtaking manoeuvres. 

The powerplant has an appealing note, which gets sexier when you flick the drive mode to Sport. This mode doesn’t transform the XE like in some other cars – notably the BMW 330i – but it certainly gives it teeth.

The steering offers sharp turn-in and is a little heavily weighted off centre. The XE’s brakes are exceptionally strong, no doubt helped by the bigger brakes fitted to our test car.

Quite simply, the rear-wheel-drive XE is one of the best-handling sedans on the market. It loves a corner and is flat through bends, offering outstanding road-holding ability. 

We were a little confused by the ride quality. It absorbed potholes well, but speed bumps around town less so. It’s not jarring, but some road imperfections are more noticeable than others. The 19-inch low-profile tyres have an impact here. 

After a week of mixed driving, we recorded fuel use of 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres, a bit more than the official claim of 6.7L.


The verdict

Jaguar has addressed the key criticisms of the XE with this update, elevating it to one of the best premium sedans money can buy.


Jaguar XE R-Dynamic HSE


List price: $71,940 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $82,320 before on-road costs.

Model range: $65,670 to $71,940 before on-road costs.


2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive.

Power: 221kW@5500rpm.

Torque: 400Nm@1500-4500rpm.

Wheels: Front 225/40 R19; rear 255/35 R19.


RON 95 petrol, 63-litre tank.

Consumption: 7.9L/100km (RACV test), 6.7L/100km (government test).

Emissions: 153g/km CO2.


Autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitor and reverse traffic detection, reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition, tyre-pressure monitoring system.


DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 11-speaker Meridian sound system, ambient interior lighting, dual-zone climate control, rear air vents, auto-dimming rear-view mirror.


Three-year/100,000km warranty. Five-year/130,000km service plan.

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