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Jaguar XE 300 Sport review: baby Jag shrinks its engine

£44,755 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£44,755
Brake horsepower
300bhp
Fuel consumption
36.7mpg
0–62 mph
5.40s
CO2
175g/km
Max speed
155Mph
Insurance Group
34E

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A new fast Jag? They need a good news story right now…

Too right, but this isn’t the Jaguar super saloon you might have expected. In fact, the fastest XE isn’t as powerful as it used to be.

Uh-oh, another WLTP detune?

More drastic than that. Jaguar’s previous XE flagship – the 375bhp supercharged V6-powered XE S – was a fabulous sports saloon, but it sold in such tiny numbers that it wasn’t worth Jaguar’s time and money homologating the niche range-topper for the new WLTP emissions tests.

So, you can’t buy a V6-engined XE any more. Instead, there’s a 296bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, available across every XE trimline. But, if you want it on the best wheels, with the smartest (XE S-spec) bodykit, and some yellow stitching, you’ll want this. The XE 300 Sport. Three hundred metric horsepower, a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox, and four-wheel drive.

Kind of like a 2.0-litre Audi S4 rival then?

Bit too down on power for that – the likes of the (V6-powered) Audi S4 and Mercedes-AMG C43 develop in excess of 350bhp. But, the Jag’s got less weight in the nose, which is good news for handling which was never shabby to begin with. This is more in the vein of the 276bhp Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce – thrusting looks, but a smaller engine than you might be expecting.

Is it quick?

Not compared to the Germans – they’ll all go from 0-62mph comfortably under five seconds, while the XE 300 Sport needs 5.7 seconds. It’s brisk, but doesn’t pin you back in the seat with its fury. The four-pot turbo Alfa is exactly as swift.

As it’s a four-pot, you’re not being towed along by an effortless, surging performer. The Jag needs the revs, and doesn’t sound enthusiastic about doing the job. You get a bit of a rasp as the needle winds its way to 6,000rpm, but it’s not rorty. No pops or bangs, or warble-generator.

On the flipside, it’s very quiet the rest of the time. It’s a refined and polite saloon. More understated – a rare treat in 2019. The gearbox, after a slightly vague getaway, where the biting point feels a bit indistinct, goes about its business subtly. The reactions to tugging the paddles are obedient. It’s very grown up, very sincere. Not exciting, but none of the Ingenium engine family has ever achieved such heights.

Much more economical than the old V6?

Yes, if you don’t use the performance (begging the evergreen question, why not buy a slower, less powerful engine?). But if you’re regularly enjoying the majority of those 300 horses, economy’s not staying above 30mpg for long. We averaged 17mpg in town, and 28mpg on more open roads. That’s not shocking – despite its aluminium chassis, this AWD XE weighs in at over 1,600kg.

Quite simply, the XE 300 Sport is slower than its German rivals, but has similar fuel appetites, unless you treat the throttle pedal like it’s made of glass.

How much?

This engine is available across the XE range, so you can incongruously spec it in the dowdy body of a base-spec XE SE, for £39,415. Great news for the police for speccing an undercover chase car, perhaps.

Add this motor to the bodykitted XE R-Sport, and it’s £41,680. You get 18-inch rims and side skirts. It looks the part. But for the privilege of 19-inch wheels, 300 Sport badges, and huggier seats, it’s £45,640. That’s almost £5,000 cheaper than an AMG C43, but only a few hundred pounds less than an S4. BMW’s also cooked up a four-wheel drive version of the brand-new 340i, and that’ll be arriving imminently.

What does the Jag do better than the Germans?

The same thing that all XEs do better than Audis and Mercs – it steers, rides and handles with such beautiful balance. Compared to an Alfa Giulia, the steering’s slower, but the weighting, the feel – it’s peerless for this size of car. It rides spectacularly well on optional 20-inch wheels. It feels smaller than it actually is, agile, and purposeful on a flowing, winding road. It rewards its driver with genuine handling ability, not by pretending it’s sporty with a crashy ride, heavy steering and some red ambient lighting.

Is that enough?

For a die-hard Jag-u-phile, sure. Modern Jags tend to handle well, it’s something the range can mostly pride itself on.

However, there’s no getting away from the fact that what Jaguar’s done here is taken a niche interest fast XE and replaced it with another niche interest, not-quite as-fast-or-pleasant-sounding XE. The 300 Sport’s powertrain ultimately isn’t special enough to justify a standalone model, or spending the extra over a less thirsty variant.

The sub-£40k, 276bhp Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce is TG’s choice for a quick-ish four-cyl small saloon. And if you want a brisk Jag and aren’t worried about cabin space, how about an entry-level F-Type…

6/10

£45,640
1997cc turbo 4cyl, 296bhp, 295lb ft
0-62mph in 5.7sec, 155mph
36.7mpg, 171g/km CO2
1620kg

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