What is it?
The Jaguar XF 2.2-litre diesel in its lower-powered, 163PS form. In SE trim it slides under the £30,000 buffer (by just £60, admittedly) while the more lavishly equipped Luxury version costs £32,940.
Powering the XF’s rear wheels is a detuned version of the 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that’s been familiar in the XF for a couple of years. Here it possesses 161bhp and 295lb ft of torque – 36bhp and 37lb ft down on the more potent 200PS version – though it's still mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and dripping in safety and stability technology, as well as cruise control and a winter mode for the traction control.
Standard equipment in SE spec includes rear parking sensors, part-leather seats, a touchscreen media system (including DAB digital radio) and Bluetooth, while Luxury trim provides full leather seats, xenon headlights and satnav.
What’s it like to drive?
Given its sizeable power and torque deficits (and those peaks arriving at identical points in the rev-range), this 163PS does an admirable impression of its more powerful sibling. It’s only when really wringing out its engine that you might crave the extra horsepower, but under these circumstances the XF’s 2.2-litre engine sounds so loud and strained you’ll likely have already flicked the upshift paddle or allowed the automatic gearbox to shuffle forward a few ratios. The chasm between the two models' claimed 0-60mph times – the 163PS car’s 9.8sec lagging behind the 200PS’s 8sec – doesn’t reflect their similar real-world performance.
As such, the XF 2.2 remains as sharp to drive as before. Its steering is as overly light as we’re accustomed to in modern Jaguars, but this is less of an issue when the XF rides so eloquently, handles deftly and exudes such good balance. It’s just the grumbly engine – which lacks the more accessible torque and refined nature of rival German units – that stops this from being a truly satisfying sports saloon. For a family or company car with low running costs in mind, however, it’s a luxurious and enjoyable compromise.
How does it compare?
The base Jaguar XF’s big three rivals are the SE versions of the Audi A6 2.0 TDI (175bhp, £30,810), BMW 520d (181bhp, £30,430) and Mercedes E220 CDI (168bhp, £30,120). All come with six-speed manual gearboxes and will need another £1500 or so to match the Jag’s standard auto, though all possess thriftier economy figures than the XF. The Jag fights back with a more comfortable ride and patriotic British appeal.
Anything else I need to know?
With like-for-like specs, the 163PS XF is £1000 cheaper than the 200PS version. Only the lower-powered car can be bought as an SE though, creating a £4000 gap between the cheapest versions of each engine. Their claimed mpg and CO2 figures are identical, however – 55.4mpg and 139g/km respectively – so you’ll only be picking the less potent car for its list price and lower insurance group (33 compared to 38).