Review: Jaguar’s 2017 XE 20d gives diesel a good name

It's a luxury car that gets 42 miles per gallon.

YES, IT’S A JAG: The aggressive front end, long hood, and overall styling give the XE a performance-oriented look.
YES, IT’S A JAG: The aggressive front end, long hood, and overall styling give the XE a performance-oriented look. –Bill Griffith

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Today’s test vehicle is the 2017 Jaguar XE 20d, the diesel-powered version of Jaguar’s hot-selling new small luxury sports sedan.

We drove the 3-liter supercharged V-6 version last month and liked it.

So, what about the diesel?

The condensed version is that it’s surprisingly peppy. This car buttressed our opinion that the XE models handle like true sports sedans. So what can I say about this diesel after reviewing the gasoline version back in October?

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For starters, at a time when VW has given diesels a bad name, Jag has introduced a nice one.

The diesel is significantly different from the gas-powered version. Seeing a long-term figure of 42.4 miles per gallon on the driver information display is a positive. So is the quick throttle response. The 2.0-liter turbo diesel puts out 180 horsepower and a solid 318 lb.-ft. of torque.  

It may not sound like a lot of power, but it does the job effortlessly.

That power goes to the rear wheels via a smooth 8-speed transmission. The available AWD system can send up to 90 percent of the power to the front wheels as needed—the reverse of most systems on the market that are FWD-oriented and transfer power to the rear on demand. AWD adds $2,500 to the base price.

Did we mention before that Jaguar has kept the correct design proportions in building this small luxury sports sedan? Of course, because they have.

The car has an aggressive front fascia, a long-ish hood, and muscular haunches—definitely a sporty overall look. Space was saved in the trunk and with rear-seat legroom.

Moving the driver’s seat as far forward as is comfortable for this driver created enough rear legroom for a 6-foot driver and 6-foot rear passenger, but it’s on the snug side.

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The interior is good quality but the dash isn’t up to the Jaguar standards we’ve experienced in the past. The instrument arrangement and the interior trim line that runs from the dash alongside the doors gives a cockpit-like look without being confining.

STEP INSIDE: The XE has a first-quality look and a large touch screen, but some switches and dashboard materials aren’t standard Jaguar quality. —Bill Griffith

Mrs. G always uses the ride of a Jaguar as a baseline. Thus, “it rides like a Jaguar” is her seal of approval.

The XE gets that approval, but a driver also will find that the steering is quick and tight, and that Jag still can find that sweet spot of tuning a suspension for both comfort and performance. Translation: Drivers will find the XE handles like a sports sedan.

Our test vehicle was the XE 20d Prestige, the highest trim level without going to the top-of-the-line R-Type.

Base price was $43,895 (including destination). A Comfort and Convenience package ($2,100) adds heated and cooled front seats, power trunk lid, and power rear sunblind. The Tech Package ($2,700) adds a 10.2-inch touch screen, SSD-based navigation, upgraded audio system, and Jaguar’s InControl Pro infotainment system. The Vision Package ($2,400) adds Xenon headlights with LED signature lights, high beam assist, headlight power washer, front and rear parking aids, blind spot monitoring, and reverse traffic detection.

A head-up display ($990), Satellite radio receiver ($350), 18-inch matrix black wheels ($500), and ammonite grey metallic paint ($550) brought the as-tested price to $53,485.

The 10.2-inch screen reinforced our original impressions. It worked as well as any we’ve used, but it still means having to make several touch selections—either via steering wheel controls or by touching the screen—instead of one simple command to make basic changes.

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We’d have loved the option of being able to mix satellite radio pre-sets in with radio favorites on a screen instead of having to go to source and then favorites and then our station.

Because so much can be done on the screen, the number of buttons on the dash was pleasantly small; however, they weren’t done in normal Jag style and quality—a significant disappointment.

But maybe the only one.

THE BASICS

Price, base/as tested (with destination): $43,895/$53,485. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 32 city/42 highway/36 combined. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 42.4 mpg. Drivetrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. Body: 4-door sports sedan.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 180. Torque: 318 lb.-ft. Overall length: 183.9 in. Wheelbase: 111.6 in. Height: 55.7 in. Width: 77.4 in. Curb weight: 3,320 lbs.

THE GOOD

Styling, ride, performance, fuel economy.

THE BAD

Snug rear seat, lesser quality dashboard materials, unrefined auto start-stop feature.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A quality diesel option in a sports sedan.

ALSO CONSIDER

Acura TLX, Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, Mercedes C-Class, Volvo S60.

Bill Griffith can be reached at wgriff@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrAutoWriter.

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