What is it?
This new lower-powered Jaguar XF diesel is all about carving out sales in the tough fleet market. Priced at its keenest point below £30k for this 161bhp 2.2-litre XF, the sales strategy is the brainchild of new Jaguar UK boss Jeremy Hicks, ex-Audi, whose team has negotiated keen leasing rates to maximise the sales potential of Jag’s excellent new four-cylinder diesel. Sales of four-pot oil-burners now dominate the executive saloon market like never before with a 65 per cent share and growing.
This entry-level engine makes 295lb ft of torque alongside its 161bhp — that’s 27bhp and 37lb ft less than the more powerful 188bhp. Spec-for-spec it’s £1000 cheaper than the higher-powered version, insurance groupings are lower and the annual company car tax is claimed to be £880 cheaper, too.
The main targets are the entry-level versions of the Audi A6 2.0d, BMW 520d and Merc E220CDi, particularly the latter, which in Executive SE trim is being marketed at an aggressive £359 per month on a typical 3+35 company rental. Jaguar has got the rental on the £31,500 Business SE version (includes touch-screen sat-nav) down to £399 per month.
Like so many well-priced entry-level versions, there’s plenty of value in this 161bhp XF. Particularly the engine, which is an electronically-tweaked version of the 188bhp.
What’s it like?
Very driveable and strong around the mid-range from just below 2000rpm, it delivers an elastic shove of torque right up to the red line. An eight-speed ZF auto is standard-fit and the engine/box tune is set-up to maximise performance in the mid-range.
So as soon as you demand performance to speed up the exit from a corner or to push past a slower vehicle, it steps down a gear. Together with keen throttle response, this XF feels eager on-the-move, and because the ZF box is so smooth in operation, it’s done without that ‘hunt-the-gear’ feeling of some autos.
As a result in give-and-take, everyday driving, rather than a test track evaluation, it would be hard to distinguish the 161bhp from the 188bhp, which makes it something of a bargain. The disappointment though is that the lower power output doesn’t translate into a lower CO2 rating — 149g/km is 17g/km higher than the E220CDi — which means three bands higher in the Benefit-In-Kind ratings.