Oh, the difference a handful of digits makes with the 2018 Jaguar XE 30t Portfolio.
In the three years since Jaguar returned to the medium passenger car segment – dominated by the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class – the XE has proven itself to be at once hamstrung and underrated. On the one hand it lobbed into a dwindling sedan class with high pricing and pricey options, yet it also absolutely proved its worth in the driving stakes.
The single exception was its engine range, which was far from bad but far from brilliant. The 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder ‘20d’ diesel and ‘20t/25t’ petrol range continue as refined though lacking punch, with even the fastest being a half-second off the 0-100km/h claim of a BMW 330i. Conversely, the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 ‘S’ petrol is fast, but thirsty and expensive.
The difference now is that the XE gets what appears to be its on-paper sweet spot. This ‘30t’ petrol is an XE with a powered-up version of the 25t four-cylinder, now with power and performance that edges closer to the S … and finally edges out the 330i and German rivals.
While the Jaguar XE can be purchased from $60,500 plus on-road costs in entry-level 20t specification with 147kW of power, 320Nm of torque and a claimed 7.1-second 0-100km/h, spending $4500 extra upgrades to the 25t with 185kW, 365Nm and 6.3sec respectively. Then, there’s a $5200 step to this 30t with 221kW, 400Nm and a 5.7sec claim. Now we’re talking.
All of the above 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine tunes drive the rear wheels only via an eight-speed automatic transmission, with fuel consumption ranging between 6.3 and 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres leaving the trio as among the most efficient in the segment.
The above pricetags are all for the XE Prestige trim line, however, where this XE Portfolio moves up another $5500 for a $75,700 (plus orc) total, adding Windsor perforated-leather seats and dashboard surfaces, aluminium interior trim, an electric rear sunblind and more.
Although that price still sits well below the six-cylinder, $92,700 (plus orc) XE S flagship – with 280kW, 450Nm, a 5.0sec 0-100km/h and 8.1L/100km – there are still too many options that should be standard, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assistance and a digital radio (see Options Fitted, below). Once again, value may prove to be Jaguar’s Achilles heel...
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 3.5/5
Load in the above options, and the price of an XE 30t Portfolio soars by a staggering $17,580 to $93,350 (plus orc). Far from pardoning Jaguar’s continued refusal to make equipment standard that already should be, and its determination to price such options absurdly high ($2060 for a head-up display, really?), there are a couple of initial points worth making here.
Firstly, few should pay retail for this medium car, as it doesn’t have popularity on its side and therefore becomes ripe for a bargain. And secondly, with such a level of equipment loaded in, this British sedan moves from a tail-ender to a front-runner position among its rivals inside.
The as-tested Portfolio’s cabin, with swathes of black leather-topped dashboard melding with high-resolution colour screens and licks of piano-black and silver trim around it, evokes class without shouting about it and being unnecessarily complicated. At least up front, there are clear design highlights inherent to every model grade – a terrifically adjustable driver’s seat, benchmark ergonomics thanks to clear and intuitive switchgear, and quality attention to detail.
Perhaps at first glance ‘big picture’ elements are missing, but the XE thrives on the small stuff. For example, storage spaces are limited, rear legroom is average and back headroom rather crimped even for this 178cm-tall tester. Yet the glovebox and centre console bin are flock-lined in furry velour, the latter complete with illuminated USB ports, while the legroom issue is only such because the bench itself is so wonderfully deep, plush and accommodating. An A4, 3 Series or C-Class might offer more space, but none deliver such a comforting seat.
The 417-litre boot volume is similarly among the smallest in the class, but it’s beautifully trimmed and offers the flexibility of 40:20:40 split-fold rear-seat practicality.
Okay, certainly, the Jaguar is far from perfect inside, and there really should be more room and greater specification overall. But when it is equipped with a strong level of equipment, especially the driver can best appreciate how well this traditional medium sedan blends often competing elements of devilish detail, comfort at-large and ergonomic excellence. Where some rivals are glamorous and tech-obsessed, the XE feels the most assured and harmonious.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 4.5/5
The problem with the flagship XE S is that while it adds 59kW of power and 50Nm of torque to the $17,000-cheaper XE 30t Portfolio tested here, it is only seven-tenths faster from standstill to 100km/h while drinking an extra 1.5 litres for every 100 kilometres travelled. Moreover, the supercharged V6 model has a 1655kg kerb weight, 90kg up on this turbo four.
Essentially with the 2.0-litre tested here, a buyer scores the best combination of abilities, because this Jaguar feels energetic and enjoyable at all times, lighter on its feet than the flagship model grade yet without the slightly huffing nature of the lesser-powered ‘fours’.
Thanks to a short first gear, the eight-speed automatic helps the frisky four leap off the line and maintain a willingness to rev to redline that is so obviously unimpeded by any sort of portly kerb weight – which certainly does affect the 3.0-litre S. That 5.7sec 0-100km/h certainly feels realistic, no doubt.
And, finally, the rest of the dynamic package can shine brightly here.
Even with optional 19-inch alloy wheels, which adds yet another $1270 to the pricetag and replaces 18s, the 30t’s single-setting suspension glides astonishingly adeptly over larger bumps, it ignores minor ones, and maintains immaculately-level body control everywhere.
Not by a small margin, the XE’s suspension is the benchmark inside and outside of the segment. Indeed, there isn’t a more sophisticated chassis to be found unless a buyer moves to the large car segment … and buys a Jaguar XF.
Okay, so a 330i has a slight edge for overall handling.
It’s another 120kg lighter again than this Portfolio, and feels it every time the front massages into a corner and the rear is delicately balanced out of it. The BMW loves to be thrown around, albeit without an ideally finessed level of control, whereas the Jaguar prefers are more deft touch. Steer it with fingertips, let it flow between bends as it breathes with even the bumpiest surface, and rewarding sportscar genes ripple to the surface here to delight drivers.
Speaking of which, the electro-mechanical steering is another best-in-class performance, with light and incisive yet masterfully consistent and linear response cementing its stellar run.
Looking for a swift yet soothing part-GT, part-sports sedan? Then look no further.
ANCAP rating: 5 stars – this model scored 35.3 out of 38 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2015.
Safety Features: Six airbags, ABS and ESC, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), 360-degree camera with front and rear parking sensors, and lane-departure warning.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: A five-year/96,000km servicing package costs just $1700 – superb value.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The A4 2.0T Sport quattro is the absolute all-rounder of the segment, with space, class, technology and a strong performance and dynamic blend – though it lacks the natural grace, fluency and harmony of this Jaguar.
The same goes for the 330i Luxury Line, which is a bit rougher around the edges and more ragged towards the handling limit, though it absolutely thrives during hard driving right up there – just don’t look for cabin class, at least until the new-generation lobs next year.
Also awaiting a facelift is the C300, which in pre-facelift form has really needed optional air suspension and luxury kit to shine, but it excels with outstanding active safety standards.
- Audi A4 2.0T Sport quattro
- BMW 330i Luxury Line
- Mercedes-Benz C300
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 4.0/5
The Jaguar XE 30t Portfolio is not the obvious choice within a dwindling medium car class, and along with a high pricetag and expensive options, it will likely remain rather unpopular.
However, as other buyers flock to usual German suspects – or, more likely, a medium SUV – this British sedan is now close to ideal for those for whom attention to detail and depth of engineering rates higher than tick-a-box equipment and show-off status-symbol demands.
The XE is not for an Instagrammer who dangles a Mercedes-Benz key off the side of every café table. Instead, this Jaguar clearly doesn’t need ‘likes’ to have self-confidence and understand its self-worth – it’s #allclass.
Gently crank up the superb Meridian audio, enjoy the masterful ergonomics, relax in the soothing seats, grasp the lovely steering, balance the gorgeous chassis … and, finally, use up all that the great new 30t Portfolio’s engine has to offer. Without question, it becomes the sweet spot of the underrated XE range.
- Interested in buying Jaguar XE? Visit our Jaguar XE showroom for more information.