Regal Jaguars once trumpeted their arrival with rich baritone exhausts, sporting curves shaped by craftsmen in leather aprons.
They oozed elegance and old-school, filled to their roof-lines with leather and polished wood and wool carpets.
Heck, they even looked good sitting on the side of the road in clouds of steam.
The 2020 Jaguar XE P300 I had last week took a decidedly different route, trading a sonorous six and timeless styling for four-cylinder hip and modern.
It was a smart and necessary swap in these heavily regulated times, but I still kind of miss those breathtaking, fickle old Jags.
My deep red, all-wheel-drive XE generated its own heat and glow, though, with refreshed styling and a much-improved interior.
A broad, sculpted hood, for example, eased gracefully onto a blunt front anchored by one of Jag’s signature 21st-century flat black grilles.
Large lower grilles added some street-tough to the handsome XE, while fierce, slender headlamps scowled on either side of the upper grille, looking mildly angry.
Short – and highly contemporary overhangs, meanwhile, kept the mostly smooth body taut, assisted by subtle character lines cut through the doors.
Moreover, a sleek, nicely curved top emphasized the XE’s long-hood/short trunk proportions, while 20-inch honeycomb wheels shod with 235/35 tires up front and 265/30s on the rear filled the wheel-wells.
It turned many a shaggy urban head, and ranked in my tattered gray-beard book as one of the better-looking near-luxury compact sedans on the market.
Just don’t look for many historic old Jaguar cues in the smooth, well-proportioned XE.
That became especially apparent with the first push of the Jag’s starter button, summoning to life a 296-horsepower 2-liter four pumped up by a turbocharger.
The P300 designation, incidentally, signified the sedan’s standing as the highest-performance version of the XE. The lower-priced P250 has a similar engine tuned for 247 horsepower, while six-cylinder engines and an optional diesel got axed from the 2020 XE lineup.
Rest in peace, I say.
Although the stout little four suffered some from turbo-lag, it felt spirited around town, jumping away from stops with a fat surge of turbo energy.
Tied to an 8-speed automatic, the engine willingly revved to near its 6,000-rpm redline, sounding a bit coarse up high, but still pretty urgent.
Zero to 60 – the best measure of city acceleration – took about 5.6 seconds, according to Car and Driver, 0.3 of a second slower than the BMW 330i equipped with a turbo 2-liter engine.
The Jag’s willing little engine flattened out some above 60, likely feeling the sedan’s estimated 3,900 pounds of weight.
However, it also returned a reasonable 28 miles per gallon in overall fuel economy.
Far more interesting to me was the XE’s nimble handling. It dove into fast corners eagerly while maintaining its balance and a compliant ride.
Likewise, the steering was quick with decent road-feel, reaffirming the XE’s sport-sedan intentions.
It was a pleasure to drive. Jaguar, incidentally, did not release a window-sticker for the XE I had, but its base price is $47,290, according to published reports.
And I thought the XE’s black interior pretty well reflected that level of near luxury.
A dashboard in smooth semi-pliable black plastic, for instance, curved around a hooded instrument panel and prominent – though fairly elegant – center-stack.
It rolled down gracefully to a smooth mid-dash with white stitching on its edges, while the center-stack featured surfaces and video displays in black with flat-silver trim.
Though the car’s infotainment system could be slow to respond, the XE offered the usual safety systems, including blind-spot assist, pedestrian detection and lane-keep assist.
Unfortunately, the Meridian audio system had to be tuned through the screen and the volume knob was located “conveniently” on the right side of the XE’s electric shifter.
But Jag kind of made amends with the XE’s small, great-looking three-spoke steering wheel.
Even the often-neglected door-panels displayed some flair with curved tops and panels of presumably faux carbon-fiber trim.
The black seats brought good news and bad with slender bolsters that made sliding into the seats easy and perforated centers.
But you may need to leave any large children behind. The back seat looks good, but has limited leg- and headroom.
If Jag had provided a window-sticker for the XE, I could tell you what was included on my car and the costs. The car I had seemed well-equipped and probably cost around $50,000.
It could be a tough sell against the 3-series BMW and Audi A3 because the XE lacks their provenance and cachet.
The fine-looking XE, though, offers its own distinctive characteristics, a vaguely English personality and should shine more in the company garage with better styling.
Now if it only had a baritone exhaust.
2020 Jaguar XE P300
- What I liked most: The XE’s quick steering and eager well-tuned handling.
- What I would change: Give the engine another 30 or 40 horsepower and maybe a competitive advantage against its rivals.
- MSRP: Base price, $47,290; as equipped, estimated $50,000 (no Monroney).
- Official color: Caldera Red.
- Fuel economy: 24 mpg city/ 34 mpg highway/28 mpg combined with filler on the right
- Odometer reading when tested: 714 miles.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- Weight: 3,900 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 184.2 inches long/77.4 inches wide/56.1 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 16.6 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not applicable.
- 2020 Jaguar XE P300 in a few words: A handsome compact sedan with good performance that is still trying to carve an identity in the near-luxury segment.
- Warranty: Five-year, 60,000-mile overall warranty.
- Final assembly location: Solihull, England.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.jaguarusa.com
- E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Up next: 2019 Mercedes Benz AMG CLS53
Tags: 2020 Jaguar XE P300, Jaguar, 2020, Jaguar XE, Sedan, Luxury Sedan, New Vehicle Reviews