The claws are out as Jaguar pitches a $60,400 starting price for its high-spec XE sedan to gain traction in the ultra-competitive prestige small car segment.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol will land in Australian showrooms on September 1 in Prestige trim level. Jaguar Australia opted not to take the base Pure specification.
Buyers will get an eight-speed automatic to handle the 147kW/280Nm from the Ford-built engine, reversing camera, automated parking, blind spot and lane departure warning with autonomous emergency braking, a eight-inch infotainment screen with satnav, high-intensity xenon headlamps, leather upholstery, electric seats and 11-speaker audio, though digital audio is an option.
The same engine in a higher "25t" tune develops 177kW/340Nm. The sticker: $64,900.
The single diesel model is a 2.0-litre turbo priced from $62,800. The Jaguar-developed engine is good for 132kW/430Nm and class-leading fuel economy of 4.2L/100km.
Prices undercut the rival BMW 3 Series and Benz C-Class but are about $3000 dearer than Audi's ageing but still more than competent A4.
The three XE variants also come in R-Sport trim that adds $4000 and includes distinctive 18-inch alloy wheels, sports seats with grippy mesh inserts, sportier suspension tune and body kit.
A Portfolio edition, exclusive to the 25t at $70,400, adds luxury touches such as premium perforated leather, instrument panel topped with faux-leather and electric rear window blind.
At the peak of the range is the $104,200 XE S, sharing the 250kW/450Nm supercharged V6 from the F-Type coupe. It rolls on 19-inch alloys and includes sports leather seats with suede inserts, adaptive dampers, unique body kit and blacked-out window surrounds and rear valance.
That pitches it directly at the Audi S4 sedan; neither BMW or Benz has a comparable model. Then again, Jaguar doesn't have a rival — for now — for the M3 or C63 AMG S.
Notable options include the Highway Technology Pack, which for $3420 bundles adaptive cruise control with a head-up display and a "solar attenuating" windscreen. The adaptive dampers from the XE S can be ordered as an $1850 option on the rest of the range.
Jaguar Land Rover Australia managing director Matt Weisner admits it was an arm-wrestle with head office to secure the price and specification needed to give Jaguar impetus in the segment.
"This is the most hotly contested field in the premium market, we're the new kids on the block and we needed to make sure we could make a statement from a value point of view as well as with the product itself," Weisner says.
"The XE is important to give us volume. The XE, like all Jaguars, at its core is and must be a drivers' car."
The September rollout is the start of a frantic 10 months for Jag. The facelifted XJ is due in November, followed by the XF about February and the F-Pace arriving mid-2016.