The XE is sporty by nature and, in 177bhp trim at least, the 2.0-litre diesel doesn’t let the side down. It is possible in the manual version, with six rather than eight forward gears, to get caught out by the lack of torque below 1900rpm. This lack of low-down oomph makes it tricky to pull away and it’s difficult to judge just how many revs to use. The auto, that requires no input other than pressing the accelerator to pull away, is far easier, naturally. This isn’t reflected in the diesel’s 0-60mph time though; the manual and auto both achieve the standard dash in 7.4sec.
Once things are spinning and you’re on the move, though, the diesel is capable of a refined push – plenty to enjoy the well-balanced chassis and enough to make overtaking relatively effortless. It's a shame refinement lags behind that of several rivals though; this isn't a diesel you'll feel inclined to extend beyond its punchy mid-range.
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Obviously swifter is the 236bhp four-cylinder petrol. However, when you start to push on and extend the 2-litre’s performance the drivetrain begins to unravel. The engine note takes on a coarseness that’s totally unexpected after what has been experienced at lower speeds and not typical of a Jaguar.
As the revs increase to the there’s very little in the way of turbocharged surge, the power delivery is very linear but it isn’t especially memorable. The claimed 0-60mph time of 6.0secs certainly seems plausible, though.
The 296bhp petrol is the current pick. Further fettling seems to have smoothed out the Ingenium engine and more insulation has quietened its harssher tones, and there's even a cultured background warble under acceleration. It's still not an engine that revels in high revs, but it's no longer unpleasant, and at 5.7sec to 62mph it's quick too.
What it isn't is a particularly compelling alternative to the now-departed supercharged V6. While that engine wasn't perfect it at least had some character and the growling exhaust note added an extra dimension that none of the four-cylinders can match.