Car reviews - Jaguar - XE - 25t Portfolio
Benchmark ride and handling, energetic new petrol engine, superb seats and driving position, perfect ergonomics trumps glitz
Room for improvement
Ultimately not as light or agile as 3 Series, options should be standard, lacks rear legroom, showroom glamour missing
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13 Mar 2018
SOMETIMES a change in power happens in the blink of an eye. Travelling in an UberX – that overthrower of the traditional taxi monopoly – to collect this Jaguar XE 25t Portfolio, the driver noted the dealership destination and then proceeded to show interest only in the car-maker’s F-Pace.
That medium SUV – Jaguar’s first – has only been on sale for a couple of years, and it still sells in relatively small numbers, but last year it outsold the XE by about 60 per cent. The F-Pace will be joined by an E-Pace sibling in March too, pumping up the brand’s SUV line-up further. The people, including this UberX driver, have spoken.
Yet there has also been a change of power under the bonnet of the XE sedan. It is a case of Ford EcoBoost petrol out, and Jaguar’s new Ingenium engine family – the diesel arriving from launch in 2015 and the petrol following in 2017 – in. Is there now a reason to choose this 25t Portfolio not only over competitors, but over a populist medium SUV as well?
Price and equipment
Jaguar has given its new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine three states of tune –priced from $60,500 plus on-road costs with 147kW of power called the 20t, from $65,000 with 184kW and dubbed the 25t, and from $70,200 with 221kW and tagged the 30t. Those prices are for the Prestige trim, while the Portfolio adds $5500 to the 25t as tested here, and $5300 for the 30t.
Choosing Portfolio over Prestige adds Windsor perforated leather seats, aluminium interior trim, Xenon headlights, a chrome radiator grille and an electric rear sunblind, on top of a decent list of standard equipment. This includes 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, electrically adjustable steering column and front seats, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and 380-watt Meridian audio, dual-zone climate control, front/rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, rearview camera, blind-spot monitor and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
However, although the XE is significantly better equipped than an equivalent F-Pace, for example, there are still far too many options that really should be standard, particularly given the luxury focus of the Portfolio trim and its additional cost.
Adding adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist requires $2510 extra, while a 360-degree camera adds $2160 and a head-up display needs $2060 alone. Heated front/rear seats and ventilated front seats needs a further $1860 and ticking a more expansive touchscreen with 12.3-inch full colour driver display demands $1710 extra.
Even adaptive headlights with automatic up/down high-beam form an $810 bundle, and digital radio is a $580 option. Add all of the above and the Portfolio would feel properly luxurious, but the combined $8950 worth of options leaves an $84,650 total.
The XE has never been about showroom glitz and glamour. View an interior photograph or poke a head through an open door window in the dealership and this medium sedan will appear plain, especially with the small standard touchscreen that appears at least a decade old.
Best not count screen size inches, because this cabin also prioritises old-school virtues of intrinsic quality and ergonomic polish more than several fancier rivals do, such as the showy but underdone Mercedes-Benz C-Class with its thin veneer of polish.
The leather-topped dashboard is complemented by flock-lined storage compartments, while accessing touchscreen functions on the move is picture-book straightforward, and likewise there is not a plethora of needless switchgear.
The driving position is also perfect and comfortably best-in-class, supported by fabulous front chairs and a plush rear seat – although its squab length eats into rear legroom space, while headroom is limited and there is little middle-rider shoulder room, the bench itself is incredibly accommodating. There is also a 40:20:40 split-fold backrest, although a limited 415-litre boot volume lies behind.
Long term, however, owners will likely love this cabin because it is instantly familiar and deeply soothing, a classic – or old-school, or traditional – case of not judging a book by its cover.
Engine and transmission
Gone is the Ford EcoBoost turbo-petrol shared with a Mondeo, and which topped out with 177kW/340Nm in XE 25t guise. This replacement with the same badge and 2.0-litre capacity makes 184kW/365Nm, and although it is still mated with an eight-speed automatic and drives the rear wheels, the 0-100km/h claim has fallen by a half-second to 6.3 seconds with this new engine.
From the off, though, it might be tempting to spend another $5000 on the XE 30t, which buys 221kW/400Nm and a 5.7s 0-100km/h claim. That view was only further reinforced after driving this XE 25t, which proved to be a huge upgrade over the old engine yet still missing something.
Specifically, it is missing that last bit of eagerness that the extra 37kW/35Nm would surely buy, because the new Ingenium petrol is otherwise a beauty. It revs keenly, displays excellent refinement and yet is backed by a raunchy note when pressed. Tellingly, and owing to a 1540kg kerb weight, we then swapped into an F-Pace 25t with this engine, but which is a staggering 220kg heavier.
Suddenly the XE 25t seemed speedy and unburdened, whereas the medium SUV felt shackled.
This medium sedan also displayed excellent economy, aided by a near-flawless auto with terrific intuition, immediacy and slickness through its eight gears.
Although the combined-cycle fuel consumption claim of 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres was unable to be matched, 8.0L/100km with significant urban running still proved excellent given the performance available.
Ride and handling
Now that the Australian car industry is dead, it can confidently be said that the XE and its larger XF stablemate are the sedans that most closely drive like the outgoing Holden VF Series II Calais – that is innately in harmony with local conditions. Not a C-Class, nor a BMW 3 Series, can smother surface irregularities large and small quite like this Jaguar can.
As with the simple touchscreen, there is no superfluous multi-mode suspension settings here. The fixed dampers do a fantastic job of quelling everything that rolls under the tyres while providing immaculate control in all circumstances.
Teamed with fabulous steering feel and mid-weighted consistency throughout the ratio, and the XE really does offer a best-in-class chassis overall.
Switch to the single alternate driving mode, dubbed Dynamic that sharpens throttle and transmission response only, and in handling terms the Jaguar is indulgent. It has brilliant turn-in to a corner that could be likened to a Mazda MX-5 sedan, encouraging the driver to apply the throttle early on exit and revel in the obvious rear-wheel driven balance.
Again, though, there is not quite enough engine to capitalise on its best, and a 45kg-lighter BMW 330i can ultimately be driven in a more spirited fashion, even if it never rides quite as well.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual-front, front-side and curtain), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), front and rear parking sensors with rearview camera, blind-spot monitor and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are all standard.
The Jaguar XE received a score of five stars and 35.3 out of 38 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2015.
Jaguar charges a superbly affordable $1700 combined for all servicing over five years or 96,000km.
Forget the options list and the Jaguar XE 25t Prestige can be purchased for not much more than, for example, a Kia Stinger GT that would seem to be more of a driver’s car given how much faster it is. Quite literally, though, it is a case of ‘not so fast’.
The XE radiates engineering integrity without relying on equipment to do so. It offers brilliant steering, ride and handling, and polished refinement, without spruiking ultra-quick acceleration. And it proves that this poor sales performer deserves more, but it seems to exist in a world that seemingly prefers the inefficiency of a bloated SUV and the glamour of sparkly cabin finish.
Really, though, this Jaguar should have more kit for the cost, and further, the XE 25t should deliver more of the performance of the even more expensive XE 30t that would seem the pick of the revitalised medium sedan line-up.
A fully loaded version of this Jaguar would absolutely be worth the extra outlay, but the question is how many buyers will fork out for it? And, ultimately, how many really care?
Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce from $71,985 plus on-road costs
Faster than the XE 25t, and equally spirited through corners, but lacks cabin quality.
BMW 330i from $70,900 plus on-road costs
Superb performance and handling makes it the driver’s pick, even if cabin is ageing.
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