Car review: Jaguar XF

11:18 28 November 2011

Jaguar XF

Jaguar XF

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Jaguar aims to finesse the XF saloon still further with the latest round of revisions. Andy Enright reports.

Jaguar aims to finesse the XF saloon still further with the latest round of revisions. Andy Enright reports.

Background

The Jaguar XF was a great car when it was first launched in 2008 and the addition of a 2.2-litre diesel, improved refinement across the board, some sympathetic styling revisions and a boost in interior quality have only underscored that message. Flies the flag and does so unapologetically.

Driving Experience

Even when bankrolled by the financial might of Ford, it took Jaguar a few bites at the cherry before it hit on the XF. There was the original, rather disappointing S-TYPE, which then developed into an excellent car; a fact that was missed on many potential buyers who instead ignored it in favour of the usual BMW, Audi and Mercedes models. The XF was Ford’s dollars finally come good, a car that, when launched in 2008, stuck it firmly to the opposition.

Perhaps the XF was a step too far for its market though. As talented as it was, it didn’t look like a Jaguar and this fact alienated as many traditional buyers as it attracted newer buyers. It was a pill Jaguar needed to take if it was to move with the times though. The subsequent XJ reinforced ‘new Jaguar’ look and feel and the XF no longer seems quite such a singularity in the range. It’s now been revised and this, as much as anything, is a key test of the stewardship of company owners Tata Motors. Hit, miss or maybe?

When it was launched, the Jaguar XF set new class standards in ride and handling. Since then, its rivals have closed the gap slightly but the tactility of the Jaguar still has the capacity to surprise and delight. What was lacking was a tempting selection of diesel engines, and since its introduction we’ve seen a cleaner 3.0-litre diesel in 238 and 272bhp flavours and now there’s a four-cylinder 2.2-litre, good for 188bhp. The focus is strongly on diesel power, with the 385bhp 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine continuing on the halo models, and the 510bhp supercharged version of this powerplant fitted to the fiery XFR sports saloon. This thumps its way to 60mph in 4.7s and hits an electronically limited 155mph maximum.

For most, however, there’s more relevance in the performance of that 2.2-litre diesel. Hardly a sluggard, the entry-level XF will stop the watch at 8.2 seconds en route to 60mph and hit 142mph. With 450Nm of torque available from only 2,000rpm, there’s no shortage of muscle, and the XF eight-speed auto transmission means you’re always plugged into the meat of it. Across the new XF range advances have been made in refinement with active engine mounts (diesels) and new sound deadening material featuring on the car as well as redesigned wing mirrors to reduce wind noise.

Design and Build

The most obvious change to the XF is the adoption of a sleeker front end, drawing on the look of the XJ with slim headlight units with LED running lighting strips sitting either side of a larger, more upright grille. The bonnet line is now lower with a heftier bulge in the middle. The lower bumper section gets a trio of air dams, the outside pair of which are now intersected by twisted chrome fins. LED rear lights and some revised chrome finishes complete the look.

The interior of the XF was always one of its strong points and with not a lot being wrong, there isn’t a great deal to fix. You’ll find a restyled steering wheel, a new infotainment system, better quality air vents and uprated seats. Jaguar hasn’t been able to do anything about the XF’s slightly compromised rear headroom, although legroom remains better than you’d expect. The boot measures 500 litres which is less than the class standard albeit not by too much. Cabin quality is extremely good with a feel that’s modern British in all the best ways without lapsing into cheesiness or caricature.

Market and Model

Before we measure the XF against its key rivals, consider this. The entry level XF is now £5,000 less expensive than in 2008, is just as quick and is significantly cheaper to run. Think of it as Jaguar spreading the good news. Of the Jaguar’s rivals, the latest Audi A6 offers probably the most aggressive value proposition and when the entry-level diesel are compared, it’s the Audi that’s packing a smaller, less powerful engine and charging you a couple of thousand pounds more for the privilege. Small wonder that Jaguar seems so confident about this car’s chances.

The XF offers five trim levels: SE, Luxury, Premium Luxury and Portfolio and range-topping R derivative. The mid-level Premium Luxury version has proven popular and is fitted as standard with soft grain leather seats, a 600w stereo, Bluetooth, cruise control with speed limiter, hard disk satellite navigation, a heated front window, heated, electrically adjustable front seats and 18-inch alloy wheels for the diesel cars and 20-inch rims for the 5.0-litre V8. Go for the entry-level SE version and you’ll still find a 400W stereo, leather and Suedecloth seats, keyless entry and the excellent ride comfort afforded by 17-inch wheels.

Cost of Ownership

No apologies here for concentrating on that 2.2-litre diesel engine again because it’s set to grab the lion’s share of XF sales. It’s a modified Ford unit, mounted longitudinally and featuring a host of new parts, including a water-cooled turbocharger and low-friction pistons. Crucially, it also drives emissions down to just under 150g/km which nevertheless remains a little way off the figures of the best Germans. Fuel economy is respectable, with a 52.3mpg average, which needs to be set against the 44.8mpg of the 3.0-litre diesel XF models. The 5.0-litre V8 manages 25.4mpg.

Residual figures have stood up well due to a strong reliability record and Jaguar’s sensible decisions concerning supply and discounting. Insurance isn’t cheap, though, with a 3.0 D Luxury being rated at Group 43.

Summary

The Jaguar XF was a revelation in 2008 but in the intervening years, its rivals have come back with ever stronger offerings. In certain respects, the Jaguar still feels like the top pick in its class. Its ride and handling are brilliant, its steering superb, and its sense of occasion is second to none. Other rivals offer more space and, if reducing carbon dioxide emissions is an overwhelming priority, the XF still comes up a little short.

Otherwise it remains a formidable contender. Mid-life facelifts can be tricky things to pull off, but this time round the XF looks sharper and more modern yet won’t punch big holes in the residual values of the outgoing model. The 2.2-litre diesel is a smart and pragmatic move too. Tata Motors are clearly guiding Jaguar in a sympathetic and sensitive manner yet which isn’t shying away from the bigger challenges. That can only be good news.

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