Four years ago I tested the Jaguar XE for the first time, a car that at the time was the second model – after the gorgeous F-Type – to be launched under TATA ownership. I was positively impressed by several aspects.

Few weeks ago I had the opportunity to test the last edition of the XE before putting my hands on the facelifted model that has just been announced; so here’s the review of the 20d AWD Landmark Edition.

Exterior

The Landmark is based on the R-Sport trim, featuring sporty front and rear bumpers alongside prominent sideskirts and chrome twin exhaust pipe. Specific to this Landmark are the 18″ alloys with a distinctive 10-spoke design and diamond-cut finish.

Body colour is Firenze Red which goes really well with the exterior muscular design, emphasized by the Black Accent pack that darkens the front grille, side vents, mirror caps and windows surroundings.

Front and rear lights feature LED daytime running lights, while the main beams are xenon.

Interior

The XE cabin has a good fit and finish and quality materials are used throughout; soft black leather and piano black veneers give an elegant touch to the sporty design of steering wheel and dashboard; the perforated seats are extremely comfortable and electrically adjustable.

Brushed aluminium door sills feature a unique finish, just like the pedals that boasts a Union Jack pattern.

Front occupants have plenty of room to travel in comfort; rear passengers shouldn’t be more than 2 because the third one sat in the middle could struggle a bit: the transmission tunnel is bulky, the center cushin is a tad higher and harder than the other two and the sloping roof line limits headroom.

The steering wheel is nicely shaped and hosts the main controls for the infotainment; flappy paddles are a nice touch but I wish they were made of real aluminium. Instrument cluster is a mix of analog and digial with two big circular gauges and a trip computer display in the middle; it’s white backlit but it turns red when Dyamic mode is engaged.

White stitchings contrast the black leather and aluminium inserts of the center consolle which hosts the  two-zone climate controls, driving mode buttons, gearbox rotor and the massive infotainment display.

Icontrol Touch Pro is found in its latest iteration, it’s responsive enough and has plenty of features and menus to go through; it also shows the crisp parking camera. The standard audio system offers good quality with clean and rich bass; the Meridian Surround is optional.

Specs

Under the bonnet we find the well-known 2.0L four cylinder turbodiesel Ingenium engine producing 180hp and 430Nm of torque; this unit is mated to the awesome ZF 8-speed box driving all four wheels. The car is rear wheel drive-biased with 90% of the roque going to the rear axle and 10% going to the front one, however, in slippery conditions that figure can go up to 50%.

Ventilated discs at all the corners, double wishbones front suspension and Jaguar’s unique Integral Link at the back complete the package. The scale stops a smidge over 1600kg despite the heavy use of lightweight alloys.

With 455 litres of capacity the boot is large enough for an average family needs.

Driving Impressions

Jaguar’s compact executive drives extremely well: dampers are tuned towards the comfort side, the car swallos potholes and bumps with ease but it also stays flat and well-balanced in corners, with minium body roll. The electrically-assisted steering is weighty, direct and precise. The engine and gearbox pairing is sublime, the four-pot pushes at any rev and gear changes are subtle. The only negative thing I have to say is that the motor is a bit drowny when revving out first gears.

Flicking the switch to Dyanamic and the ‘box to make the XE a bit more lively; the throttle pedal sharpens and the ZF tends to shift upper in the rev range. The superb chassis and suspension set-up make the car wrap around the diver, giving the feel of a shorter and smaller sportcoupè. The all-wheel drive system comes in handy when the weather isn’t on our side.

After 2700km of highways, countryside roads and city driving I gave the car back with an average fuel consumption of 6,9L per 100km, not bad for this kind of vehicle with the AWD system.

Verdict

The Jaguar XE has centainly found it’s way into the compact executive segment thanks to a great build quality, its sporty design and engaging driving experience. With the introduction of the AWD system the car added another trick up to its sleeve.

If 4 years ago the handling of the Jag was no match for the competitos, today’s rivals (A4, 3-Series, C class, Giulia) are well equipped to tackle the compact executive. Jaguar has just updated the XE both inside and out and  I can’t wait to drive it to see if it will rise the bar again.