First Drive

First Drive: Jaguar XE 300 Sport

The story:
Jaguar’s 2019 model year upgrades to the XE bring interior and infotainment changes, as well as a new model at the top of the line-up, with a 300hp Sport model replacing the previous 380hp range-topper.
Category:Compact Executive
Key rival:BMW 3-Series
Jaguar XE 300 Sport
Price:£44,755
MPG:37.2mpg
Emissions:171g/km
On sale:Now

Jaguar is a company known for making annual tweaks with each new model year, and the 2019 XE is no exception. The compact executive car now has a larger 10.0-inch touchscreen as standard, as well as some little interior tweaks to lift the quality, including chrome electric seat switches, premium carpet mats on all cars that don’t get the sport mats, metal pedals and a frameless auto-dimming mirror, as well as metal treadplates on the sills.

First Drive - 2018 Jaguar XE 300 Sport - Image 4But a bigger change, in every sense, is the addition of a new 300 Sport model at the top of the range. In the wake of the new WLTP testing regime, the brand has dropped the previous 380hp range-topper, which means the line-up now consists of 200hp, 250hp and 300hp petrols and 163hp, 180hp and 240hp diesels, all 2.0-litre units developed and built by Jaguar Land Rover.

The 300 Sport is its own trim specification, marked out by distinct badging, larger alloy wheels, black brake calipers and a dark satin grey finish to the grille surround, side vents, sills, mirror caps, boot spoiler and rear valance.

First Drive - 2018 Jaguar XE 300 Sport - Image 6The inside is more overtly different to the regular Jaguar XE R-Sport model, with striking yellow stitching across the seats, dashboard, steering wheel and door panels distinguishing the car from the other trim levels that the engine can also be specced with – only the Landmark trim (see panel) doesn’t also get the 300hp powertrain.

 

As is also the case with the 240hp diesel engine, the 300 is available only in all-wheel-drive form, and with Jaguar’s smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic that seems to have ironed out some of the hesitance of early XE models. As before, only the 163hp and 180hp diesels are also available with the six-speed manual ’box.

A NEW LANDMARK

As we’ll as the new 300 Sport, Jaguar has also added another special edition to the XE range, in the form of the Landmark Edition model.

The Landmark Edition is based on the R-Sport, with a sport front bumper, unique 18-inch alloys and what Jaguar describes as a “refined interior and exterior palette”, including grained perforated leather seats.  It also gets front parking sensors and rear parking camera, which is only otherwise standard on the top 300 Sport model (see main drive), and is available with all engines bar the top 300hp petrol.

Also new to the 2019 Jaguar range is Apple CarPlay, rather than the brand relying on its own less user-friendly smartphone connectivity.  The system comes in as a £200 option.

Jaguar XE Landmark Edition - front light logo

Jaguar says that half of its XE sales are now petrol models, despite the diesels still proving more tax-efficient, although the 300 Sport may not take many of that 50% thanks to its price of just under £45,000 – almost £4000 above the same engine in R-Sport trim that is virtually indistinguishable from the outside. It’s also up at 171g/km, which is middling versus rivals of the same power – the rear-wheel drive 280hp Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce leads the pack at 160g/km, while Audi’s S4 saloon is 3g/km behind the Jaguar and Mercedes hasn’t got a car within less than 90hp of the XE 300. BMW’s new 3-Series, not out until next March, is a different story; the 258hp 330i will offer just 132g/km, trumping all its rivals.

None of these high-powered petrol versions commands as high a residual value as the more mainstream models, but the Jaguar’s 31.1% is better than the Alfa and less than a percentage point off the Audi S4.

The 300 Sport retains the XE’s fine-driving characteristics, enjoying sharp steering, a firm ride that feels sporty rather than rough, and power delivery that is quick rather than blistering. It also looks great, sleeker than any of its competitors, especially the nose.

The cocoon-like cockpit is attractive in the front, with the door panel curving inwards for a cosier feel, although rear space is pretty poor, and the boot is smaller than most rivals’. The interior also has a few below-par touches, and the infotainment, while better, still isn’t as user-friendly as those in the Jaguar’s rivals’.

 

Paul Barker

The verdict

Mild changes to the XE range overall, but the 300 Sport is a potent and attractive range-topper, if not quite as efficient as some rivals.