To be honest, until recently, I hadn’t really taken much notice of the new Jaguar XF, thinking that it was just another variation on a theme. The photographs offer an impression but nothing prepares you for the ‘Wow’ factor, and it is not very often that I’m prompted to say it out loud.
Clearly, I’m not the only one as the XF was not only voted the ‘Most exciting car of 2007’, at the What Car?, awards and took the top title, ‘Car of the Year’, at this year’s ceremony.
The order book is bulging with over 3,000 customers eagerly awaiting delivery of their cars in time for the March 1st registration.
The XF replaces the somewhat staid S-Type in revolutionary fashion, but remains accessible to the Company Executives of this world, with prices starting at a very businesslike, £33,000 for the 2.7 V6, diesel engined car.
When reading this Jaguar XF Review please keep in mind I was lucky enough to test the top-of-the-range, 4.2-litre V8, which bears a price tag of £54,900 and is worth every penny. The SV8 is a standalone vehicle and trim level, the others being the Luxury and Premium Luxury but, and here’s that word again, it is businesslike luxury. To my mind, the XF is not a car, in which you would expect to find children.
Although the XF is a four-door saloon, it has more in common with a coupe. Forget the traditional layout of bonnet, cabin, and boot; the XF is sleek and slippery. Focus on the angled, almost chamfered shape of the front end, which has a hint of Aston Martin. The sporty, chromed, mesh grille dominates over the lower air intake, which also has its share of chrome in the form of propeller-like blades. The bonnet contours are pure Jaguar and will make the traditionalists feel at home.
The side view is where the coupe effect is most visible. The shallow windows are surrounded by aluminium brightwork and taper to form small, rounded quarter-lights at the rear. In case there is any doubt, the Jaguar name is embossed on a bar across the side ‘power vents’, situated behind the front wheels, and a on a ‘signature blade’ at the back, as well as the badge on the front.
The rear end of the XF has more than a hint of ‘Euro’ styling. It looks wide with muscular haunches and a Venturi style diffuser showing off the twin, chrome tailpipes to perfection.
As for the interior, despite the coupe styling, there is plenty of headroom in the rear of the cabin, which easily seats three adults in comfort. The seats are leather-clad: non-perforated Bond Grain for the Luxury trim and Soft Grain for the Premium Luxury and SV8. The leather also covers the fascia and door-top rolls and, where the XF is fitted with the heated/cooling facility, the seats covers are perforated.
The driver of the SV8 has the benefit of 16-way, electronic seat adjustment and their front passenger has 12 ways to find a comfortable seating position; the other models in the range have a minimum of 8-way adjustment. This is just one example of Jaguar’s love of electronic gadgetry, which declares itself fully in the XF, although it isn’t always evident.
This is where the so-called ‘surprise and delight’ experience comes in. First of all, there’s the smart entry and start key, the variety that stays in your pocket where its mere presence opens doors. On entry to the Jaguar, there is not much to see. The leather fascia top is of a simple design with a pronounced but concise instrument nacelle housing white-faced dials, separated by a small information screen.
Below this is a deep, brushed metallic panel that runs the full width of the car, punctuated only by the multi-functional steering column and a 7-inch information screen. The tunnel between the driver and front passenger contains storage compartments topped off with real wood veneer, next to which is a flat control panel, on the driver’s side.
It is all very discrete and stylish, however, take a closer look and it is just a bit too tidy; the gear selector and parking brake are missing and so are the face-level air vents. But when the pulsating, red, ‘start’ button is pressed, the air vents magically rotate into view and a puck-like, aluminium dial rises out of the tunnel control panel, ahead of the electronic parking brake, presenting itself as the Jaguar Drive Selector. In the list of electronic systems a mention should also be given to JaguarSense; a touch or proximity-sensing control for the glovebox and overhead lights. Surprise and delight, indeed.
The dial is connected to the non-optional 6-speed automatic transmission. Rotating the selector is a strange mix of tactile pleasure and alien action but you soon get used to it and there are selector paddles behind the steering wheel, if preferred. There is also a Jaguar DriveControl with different settings for Dynamic and Winter driving, depending upon the model.
The Bluetooth telephony system (with hands-free and voice control), the audio controls (optional Bowers & Wilkins Surround Sound system in the test car), including attached iPods, are all controlled via the central, touch screen and USB or memory sticks are also accommodated within the XF. As well as the above functions and the Satellite Navigation system, the screen provides a display for the rear parking camera, where fitted.
The goodies are not confined to the top-notch SV8; the Luxury specification includes the Drive Selector, navigation via the touch-screen, Bluetooth, an integrated 6CD autochanger, rear parking sensors, electric/heated mirrors, 17-inch alloys, automatic climate control and cruise control with Automatic Speed Limiter.
The next step up adds lumbar support, 18-inch alloys, Jaguar’s 320W Premium sound system, driver’s seat memory and heated windscreen.
The SV8 has the heated/cooled seats, 20-inch alloys, Bi-xenon headlamps with powerwash and the excellent Computer Active Technology Suspension or CATS amongst other things. The test car also had a few of the optional extras – apart from the audio system there was a DAB radio, a multi-media TV system, a blind-spot monitor, electric, glass sunroof, heated steering wheel, electric rear sunblind and the rear camera parking aid. So there are plenty of ways to spend your money.
Before I move on to the power units, I should make mention of the enormous boot, which has a capacity of between 500- and 540-litres depending on whether the space-saver tyre or the tyre repair kit is installed. It seems a little vulgar but should extra space be needed, the rear seats fold to release a further 420-litres of load space.
The Jaguar XF comes with a choice of four engines. The 2.7 V6 turbo-diesel and 3.0 V6, petrol are both available in Luxury and Premium Luxury trims. The 4.2 V8, petrol unit in naturally aspirated form, comes in Premium trim only but the supercharged version of the same engine is the SV8.
Although the 2.7 diesel is no slouch with a 0-62mph time of 8.2 seconds (0-60mph in 7.7 seconds) and has a top speed of 143mph, the most grin-inducing drive comes, as you might expect, from the SV8. Its supercharged engine speeds the car from 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds (0-60mph in 5.1 seconds) and has a limited top speed of 155mph. You can add around 1 second to the sprint time for naturally aspirated version but it has the same top speed.
The SV8 unit produces 416PS (420bhp, 306kW) at 6,250rpm and 560Nm (413lb ft) of torque at 3,500rpm, with 86 per cent of that available between 2,000rpm and the red line. The figures, however, cannot convey the feeling of exhilaration when the accelerator is pressed. Once moving, a mere a scrunch of the toes on the pedal is rewarded by a delightful power surge.
Through country lanes the CATS active suspension system allows for a huge amount of feedback, while showing off the car’s agility, dynamics and handling, with a good bit of help from the underlying, ultra-stiff body.
Serious playtime comes at a price, which is payable at the pumps. Under ‘normal’ driving conditions an XF SV8 driver might get somewhere near the official fuel consumption figures of 15.1mpg, 31.0mpg and 22.4mpg for the urban, extra-urban and combined cycles, but don’t bank on it. Furthermore, with CO2 emissions of 299g/km, come October the SV8 will force you to dig even deeper into your pockets, if you want to take the car into the Capital.
The array of electronic gizmos continues unseen in the form of ‘Driver Aids’. Of course, there are the usual suspects; ABS with EBD and EBA but in the XF, Dynamic Stability Control, Cornering Brake Control and Engine Drag Torque Control, plus Understeer Logic are also on the list. A list hat might be pleasing to technophiles but it does make you wonder who is actually in control.
That said, none of it is absolutely foolproof, so every XF is fitted with dual stage front airbags, side and curtain airbags and seat occupancy sensors as well as seatbelt retractors to soften the contact with the airbags, should they be deployed. Pedestrians on the wrong side of a collision with an XF might be pleased to know that it has a Pedestrian Contact Sensing System. It is an improvement upon the system used in the XK, which fires actuators that ‘ping’ the bonnet, forming a cushion between it and the engine’s hard-points.
There is much more to the Jaguar XF than I have space for. Suffice to say that it has made a big impression on the motoring world and, if this is the shape of things to come, it is about to change the face of Jaguar for the better.