2017 Jaguar XF Portfolio 25t review

Rating: 7.0
$97,515 Mrlp
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The Jaguar XF Portfolio 25t aims high on luxury and low on engine outputs. But is this a compelling enough combination to make for an attractive premium limo experience?
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Some cars elicit an immediate and emphatic response, while others change your view given seat time and familiarisation. Others, such as the 2017 Jaguar XF Portfolio 25t, seems to morph from seductress to charlatan and back, depending on the day and mood.

So, just as personal regard for the Leaping Cat’s plus-sized ‘Saloon’ swings from admiration to ambivalence one moment, I’ve discovered before long I’ll warm to it again… until the point where I discover another frustration or dislike. And back again. It’s tough to pin down this feline’s true colours.

Why? For one thing, I’m not entirely convinced elements this Portfolio 25T variant melds together are all that incongruous. Here’s a smidge under five metres of large prestige limousine powered by a small, two-litre turbocharged petrol engine that’s lumbered with hauling ‘Portfolio’ excess, which sits above Prestige and R-Sport in range hierarchy, and shares a great many features with the range-topping S.

Then there’s pricing. At $97,515 list, the Portfolio 25t is $15k pricier than the entry diesel-powered 20d Prestige and $15k more affordable than a Portfolio-equipped XF sporting the larger ‘35t’ 3.0-litre V6 engine.

How does it ‘sit’? Well, price wise, it sits about right. Contextually, though, initial impressions are the Portfolio 25t looks the luxury-laden sports sedan, if one clearly leaning much more towards the luxury than the sports department.

Our four-cylinder, though, asks for prettier pennies than an honest-spec sixer given the stack of options lifting our 25t to $118,035 before on-roads. Yes, that’s over $20k of goodies, most of which bolster the luxury and comfort credentials that are XF’s stock in trade.

Those upgrades? It starts with 14-way electric-adjustable ‘luxury’ seats ($820, in lieu of standard 10-way), driver and passenger front memory functionality ($640) and Rear Comfort Pack (a hefty $4210), which adds seat heating front and rear, four-zone climate control and electric rear blinds.

Other upmarket cabin touches include an electric sunroof ($3300), soft door closing ($1340), the curious Air Quality Sensor with Cooled Globe Box ($1030), privacy glass ($930) and premium carpet mats ($310).

Infotainment wise, the InControl Touch Pro SS Nav Pack ($2630) adds digital driver’s instrumentation, a 10.2-inch central touchscreen (up from eight inches), 380-watt Meridian sound (standard across the XF range), digital radio and head-up display, though there’s a further sting for InControl Apps ($590, for media streaming, et cetera) and a formidable charge for the digital TV tuner ($2160).

Bar the extra sting for metallic paint ($2060), there’s a further nominal cost of $500 for sport suspension. While we’re at it, body colour choice is dizzying: two standard colours, 11 metallics ($2060) including British Racing Green and the curious Italian Racing Red, plus six ‘premium metallics’ ($4120).

What’s a little surprising is the fruity Portfolio spec actually needs the added berries. Perhaps it’s not really that fruity at all. Fully adaptive LED headlights with signature J-Blade curved DLRs are pretty cool, and gloss figured ebony wood inlays, Windsor leather faced seats, and infrared reflective windscreen – how’d we ever live without that? – and powered tailgate are all suitably upmarket.

Beyond those, the standard equipment list isn’t exactly burgeoning with highlights. Cruise control of an unadaptive design, rain sensing wipers, electric folding mirrors, electric power steering, stop-start and "Headlight Powerwash” are notable mentions. Underneath, torque-vectoring-by-braking is a notable inclusion, and the JaguarDrive Control suite of drive modes number four (Eco, Dynamic, Normal and Winter).

For safety and convenience, the Portfolio, like all XFs, gets autonomous emergency braking, front and rear sensors, a rear-view camera, lane departure warning, though this trim gets a surround camera feature. Not fitted, but optional, are lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic detection… all of which should really be standard in a plus-sized, luxury, near-$120k limousine. Adaptive suspension? That’s $1960 extra. Want radar-based cruise? That’s a further $2780…

Even with the benefit of healthy options adding lustre to the gleam of the cat’s coat, impressions can sway markedly. From 100 metres, the taut curves, coupe-esque profile and commanding overhangs of this second-generation XF’s body impress and evoke strong on-road presence, though some areas of the design – the plain silver-painted wheels, the subdued extent of exterior jewellery – don’t quite beam ‘premium’ under scrutiny up close and personal.

To be fair, optionally, there are five 19-inch and six 20-inch wheel styles choose from to tweak the desired appearance, adding up to $4790 to your XF’s bottom line.

Jaguar interiors typically cop mixed appraisal at CarAdvice: positivity for the sheer sense of occasion, negativity for lacking the depth to back the positive up. I personally like this XF treatment – the arcing curve linking doors with dash top; the earth tone colourisation; the complexity of the material mix; the fanfare that’s a dramatic departure from, say, Benz or Lexus. Style for style’s sake, perhaps, but there’s ample feel-good factor in sheer presentation.

There are a number of details that are, for lack of better description, delightful. What’s not to like about the rotary transmission controller that sinks into the centre console at shut down, or the air vents the rotate closed at the same time, or the automatic handbrake, the clever ‘light shading’ effect in the driver’s instrumentation or the so-called ‘phosphor blue’ ambient lighting?

There’s a lot to admire if you’re not too discerning about the tactility of some of the plastics or how well one trim panel lines up with another. As we noted in the XF S review, the cheap plastic paddleshifters and old Volvo switchgear is almost inexcusable…

Despite the larger screen, the InControl Touch Pro infotainment has a whiff of old tech and is hardly slick in operation: you have to prod the touchscreen hard oftentimes to activate functions and there’s no separate controller otherwise standard in any segment rival you can name. You’d really want to like the digital driver’s screen to justify forking out $2630 extra for the Touch Pro upgrade bundle…

Those upgraded front seats, too, are more form over function. They look fantastic, though even with 14 different ‘ways’ of adjustment there’s much fiddling required to balance support and comfort. The second row accommodation is more convincing: despite some compromise of headroom due to the coupe-like roofline, it’s exceptionally roomy, feels upper class and that four-zone climate control is a real boon to the luxo-dipped experience.

The XF converts much of its near five-metre length into sheer cabin length very well, while still allowing for what’s an enormously deep – if, at 505 litres, hardly gob-smackingly large – boot space.

A good 1500 kays of wheel time provide ample opportunity to settle into the XF experience and though initially the gripes stacked up I found myself warming to the big Jag the more asphalt its tyres covered.

Yes, aluminium-rich construction has left the sedan reasonably lightweight for its size, but around town at least, the 177kW and 340Nm from the turbocharged two-litre four barely cuts it. Seven seconds neat to triple figures isn’t anything to write home about.

That said, forward progress is far from lethargic, though that’s not really the issue. The problem is the engine audibly strains hard under decent acceleration, and it’s simply at odds with the luxo-sports vibe the large leaping cat is otherwise trying to characterise. That effortless progress indicative of prestige motoring is patently lacking.

The eight-speed auto is a smooth enough shifter but where the powertrain really gets caught out is that sudden call to arms when merging to traffic or overtaking. It does get a head of steam, but only after a numb pause between sinking the foot and getting a move on, and the duration between is an absolute crapshoot.

It’s a much quieter and more responsive operator on the highway where little heavy lifting is required by the engine. So there’s some consolation if every A to B trip you make dials up 110km/h cruise, which is great for regional ownership, but patently the small-engined XF satisfies during some driving conditions, and merely makes do in others.

That optional sports suspension doesn’t bring much to the party. Hook the XF through a sweeping curve and it grips and tracks impressively well, which was fine for the two corners I encountered during 1500 kilometres of travel.

The trade off is in ride comfort. Generally speaking, the XF’s ride is certainly above average, but the suspension tune really doesn’t deal with ironing out the small bumps and isolating the sharp hits quite as empathetically as an overtly luxo-themed seat should.

The ride situation improves noticeably the more passengers you load in, and four-up across Old Sydney Town, with its third-world roadways, made for a more settled and compliant experience. Across speed humps, the XF is clearly more softly set in the rear suspension tuning than in the front, and those in the second row described comfort as quite impressive. Against the high water marks of ride comfort in segment, though, the large Jag is closer to on, or slightly, below par.

Ditching the ($500) sports suspension and splurging a little extra on the ($1960) adaptive suspension is perhaps, at this pricepoint, added outlay wisely spent.

If there’s one aspect of the XF that’s less a criticism and more a statement of reality is that the five-metre behemoth – or any five-metre behemoth, for that matter – demands extra care and more planned forethought when attempting to park in the increasingly shrinking urban jungle. Despite the 360-degree camera and sensors, it’s still tricky to judge its extremities during pretty much any parking manoeuvre. Inner city friendly, it’s not.

Who might opt for the Portfolio 25t when shopping in the XF range? Again, it's regional buyers who come most obviously to mind, not merely due to generally easier demands of parking.

The powertrain is not merely happier, but quite satisfying on the open road. And it’s quite frugal – at times matching its 7.5L/km combined consumption claim – treated to a leisurely right foot. Sure, the diesel might save a few bucks at the bowser, but the petrol four offers a refinement and quietness lacking in 132kW diesel four, which can’t be had in high-spec Portfolio trim anyway.

That said, perhaps the nicer option is to foot the extra $5000 for the 3.0-litre 250kW V6-powered Portfolio 35t with the adaptive suspension option box ticked. It might be a little thirstier on fuel, but the return of a more comprehensively premium experience through effortlessness and refinement is a trade many buyers might surely take. And it'd still land under our near $120k as-tested price.

In past reviews, both the entry, diesel-powered Prestige 20d and top-dog XF S 35t have scored 7.5 overall ratings, which tells you where the holistic XF range sits in the primo motoring plot.

While the notion of low-powered, big-luxury Portfolio 25t variant might seem a sweet spot within its range in theory, in practice the combination proves pricey and light on for standard spec, and not really as convincing as other of its kin in providing unflustered and polished High Street motoring.

A seven from 10 overall rating, then, is the fair and logical result.

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