James Cleary road tests and reviews the Jaguar XE Prestige 20t with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Sometimes success can become your greatest weakness. In the late 1960s, Jaguar stood as a post-WW2 British icon. Founder William Lyons’ instinctively curvaceous eye had influenced an amazing portfolio of all-time classics.
But following Sir William’s retirement in the early ‘70s, Jaguar was left in a quandary, and the question of how far to stray from a winning formula plagued it for close to 40 years.
While German prestige brands were attracting younger buyers with cool compact and mid-size models, Jaguar was stuck in a traditional, leather and walnut rut, producing large cars consistently referring back to its ‘history and heritage.’
The target audience was overwhelmingly men of a certain age, and in the ‘90s when the company finally took a deep breath and expanded its line-up with smaller models like the ‘reborn’ S-Type, and 3 Series-sized X-Type, they retained the old school Jaguar look. Turns out each simply offered a cheaper way into the brand for traditional buyers – old dudes, in little Jags.
You can point to British Leyland’s inept management of the brand in the 1970s and ‘80s, or subsequent owner Ford’s questionable empathy and understanding through the ‘90s and noughties, but it’s only over the last 10 years, under the control of automotive giant Tata, that Jaguar has really bitten the bullet and taken a genuinely fresh approach.
Jaguar’s line-up now ranges from the ground-breaking XF, through a fourth-gen XJ, to the stunning F-Type, compact XE and F-Pace SUV. What a glorious transformation.
And the entry level XE we’re testing here is a perfect representative of that change. Beautiful in a contemporary, ‘Cool Britannia’ kind of way, much closer to gender-neutral in its appeal, and pitched at a price point calculated to give its German competition something to think about.
Jaguar XE 2017: 20T Prestige
Premium Unleaded Petrol
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
Design guru Ian Callum has bridged the Ford and Tata eras as Jaguar’s director of design, and masterminded the style of everything in the current catalogue.
He’s managed to create an entirely new and distinctive design language, with just a hint of Jag-ness in exactly the right places.
The XE’s exterior is smooth, clean and perfectly proportioned. Although only 4.7m long, 1.8m wide, and 1.4m high it looks like a much larger car; a testament to Callum’s expert eye. It’s also the most aerodynamically efficient Jaguar ever, with a Cd figure of 0.26.
The sleek, feline headlights have become a signature Jaguar element, as has the subtle curve contained in the brake lights as a tip of the hat to the Series I E-Type’s tail-light cluster.
Inside, the personality is dialled down somewhat. Yes, the bold, upright boarder curving gently around the back of the dashtop looks like the boundary fence on a village cricket oval, and the handsome colour-stitched seats look and feel the business. But take away the Jaguar badges and this could be mistaken for any number of other prestige/premium offerings. The instrument cluster and main console set-up are borderline generic.
That said, there are some recognisable JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) touches on board. For example, the colour multimedia screen, TFT info screen in the main instrument cluster, cupholders between the front seats, and rotary transmission controller, even the key, are likely to look familiar to Range Rover Evoque owners.
Despite the move away from tradition in terms of visual design, Jaguar maintains its long held links with the British monarchy, providing vehicles by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen (as well as her troublesome husband and difficult eldest son).
And one thinks one might not be amused by some build quality shortcomings ‘we’ discovered during our week with the XE.
For example, panel gaps and alignment at various points around the car, especially the base of the A-pillars was iffy, with some external rubber panel join pieces also out of shape.
And no matter that this is the entry point to the entire Jaguar range, it’s still a $60k car, and one would expect some trim and sound deadening around the roof of the boot aperture (under the parcel shelf), rather than exposed, lightly painted metal. Likewise, rough cut-outs in the carpet-like boot liner to accommodate the bootlid’s support arms would not go down well in the House of Windsor.
Having had the dubious honour of riding in the rear seat of an X-type, between two boofy blokes, the prospect of sliding into the back of the XE brought on claustrophobic flashbacks.
And sure enough, while there’s plenty of room in the front, and a surprising amount of legroom in the back, rear headroom is a different matter. I’m 183cm tall, and sitting behind the driver’s seat (set to my position), there’s a reasonable gap between my knees and the backrest, but the bonce makes solid contact with the headliner.
There are individual air vents, reading lights and a 12 volt outlet for back seaters, as well as two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, nets on the front seat backs, and decent door bins, although they’re not specifically sculpted to accept bottles.
Up front there are two cupholders in the centre console, a 12 volt outlet and two USB ports in a lidded centre storage box, plus door bins (again, without bottle cavities) and a decent glove box.
Boot volume is healthy at 450 litres, but the CarsGuide pram wouldn’t fit in the car without folding part of the 40/20/40 split folding rear seat down. We had better luck with one large and one small hard shell suitcase.
The spare wheel is an 18-inch space saver under the boot floor.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
At $60,400 the Prestige 20t is the entry point of a four tier XE model range, stepping up through the R-Sport, and Portfolio to the top-spec S version ($104,200).
Standard spec includes, cruise control (with automatic speed limiter), keyless entry, electrically-adjustable steering column, leather seats with 10-way electric adjustment on the fronts (with memory on the driver’s side), dual zone climate control air, 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with navigation and voice control, 380W, 11-speaker Meridian sound system, auto headlights and wipers, interior mood lighting, bi-function HID xenon headlights with LED DRLs, plus front and rear parking aid and ‘Park Assist’ (parallel and perpendicular).
For the record, our test car was optioned with the ‘InControl Touch Pro Pack’ with 825W Meridian digital surround sound system and satellite navigation ($3760), sliding panoramic roof ($1850), head-up display ($1820), ‘Rhodium Silver’ metallic paint ($1340), 19-inch ‘Star’ alloy rims ($1240), ‘Cold Climate Pack’ with heated front windscreen with heated washer jets, heated steering wheel, and heated front seats ($1080), ‘Black Pack’ - gloss black radiator grille and surround, and side vents ($1070) and DAB+ digital radio ($560). The grand total then comes to $73,120 (plus on-road costs).
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
As the name implies the 20t is a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four cylinder engine. It’s an all-alloy, double overhead cam, direct-injection design delivering 147kW at 5500rpm and 280Nm between 1750-4000rpm.
And just to break the logic of that naming convention, the exact same engine is offered in a 177kW/340Nm tune for more premium 25t variants.
Power goes to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission (as used in the XF and XJ sedans), with sequential manual shift available via wheel-mounted paddles.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (urban/extra urban) cycle is 7.5L/100km, and during our week with the car that number stepped up to 10.4L/100km across a 250km mix of suburban, city and freeway running (according to the on-board computer).
Part of the gap is also down to me turning off the ‘Intelligent Stop/Start’ function. Not because it’s deficient in any way, rather a personal preference to keep the engine on. Sorry planet.
Fuel requirement is Premium Unleaded, and the tank holds 63 litres.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
The XE is built around a mainly aluminium monocoque which Jaguar says is stiff and light, and driving the car we have no issues with that claim. Even in this entry level trim the XE feels willing, nimble and responsive.
Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of 7.7sec is swift enough, and the XE 20t delivers healthy mid-range torque (with only a whiff of turbo lag). Five adults on-board failed to put a single bead of perspiration on its brow, and the electrically assisted steering delivers good road feel.
Front suspension is by double wishbones, with a multi-link set-up at the rear Jaguar calls ‘Integral Link.’ The latter’s claimed advantage over other multi-link designs is the separation of lateral and longitudinal forces from vertical movements.
This allows the use of softer suspension bushes, and the resulting ride quality is excellent (even on our car’s optional 19s), without compromise to body control when you’re having a crack.
Speaking of which, slipping the super smooth eight-speed auto into Sport and Manual modes transforms the car. Response is more urgent, changes are swift and the XE takes on a distinctly sporty feel.
The front seats are more than just a pretty face, offering heaps of lateral support, while the Dunlop Sport Maxx rubber (225/40 front, 255/35 rear) and standard torque vectoring (by braking) system keep the car planted and predictable even under the pressure of an enthusiastic backroad run.
Brakes are discs all around (316mm ventilated front, 300mm rear), and they slow the 1530kg XE progressively, consistently and rapidly.
But the big thing you have to get your head around is this is a four cylinder Jaguar, and the combined engine and exhaust sound is more sewing machine than Le Mans winner. Probably fine if you’re a first-timer to the brand, but even the X-Type ran a petrol V6, and this powertrain will take some getting used if you’re an old hand.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
In terms of active safety, all XE’s boast a healthy list of features, including anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, AEB, brake assist, dynamic stability control, traction control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic detection, a tyre pressure monitoring system, and a rear view camera.
On the passive side of the ledger there are dual front airbags, two front side airbags, and full length curtain airbags, as well as ISOFIX child restraint anchor points on the outside rear seating positions.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
The XE Prestige 20t is covered by Jaguar’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with Australia-wide roadside assistance provided for the duration.
A ‘Paint Surface Warranty’ applies for three years from purchase (regardless of distance travelled), and ‘Corrosion Protection Warranty’ cover applies for six years (regardless of distance and any change in vehicle ownership).
Servicing is recommended every 12 months/16,000km and pricing is capped at a total of $1350 over five years/96,000km.
With the XE, Jaguar has cracked the task of respectfully leaving the past behind and presenting a desirable, dynamic, compact sports sedan. For $60k it packs a heap of fruit and safety tech into a beautifully proportioned package. Just don’t expect a hairy chested engine note, and watch out for Queenie’s quality quibbles.
Does Jaguar's XE Prestige 20t have what it takes to take on the German competition. Tell us what you think in the comments below.