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Car reviews - Jaguar - XF - 2.2D Premium Luxury sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Design inside and out, incredible diesel, dynamic poise, inviting character, solid quality feel, value proposition, sheer feel-good factor
Room for improvement
Slightly firm ride, poor rear vision, 4-star ENCAP rating

Jaguar logo27 Jan 2012

By MIKE COSTELLO

WELCOME TO the most competitive and convincing Jaguar since the original XJ6 of 1968.

The XF Series II – unveiled at the New York motor show in April last year – not only rights most of the annoying little wrongs of its pretty predecessor – but also expands the range to a $79K kick-off point that ought to send the German competition scattering for cover.

And there’s more, for an enticing Sportbrake wagon is waiting in the wings to really round out an impressive alternative to the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS and Mercedes-Benz E-class.

To recap, the 2011 makeover brought in a sleeker new nose featuring slimmer headlights (apparently it was meant for the 2007 original but French lighting regulations forced a quick redesign), fresh alloy wheel and colour applications, LED tail-lights, reshaped seats and revised instrumentation, along with an eight-speed transmission and the first four-cylinder engine to Jaguar’s top-selling model.

A new 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel dubbed AJ-i4D, the latter also ushers in Stop/Start tech to the series, making it the brand’s most economical vehicle ever.

On the other hand, despite improvements, the shocking four-star ENCAP rating still stands (all other rivals score five), thus casting what must be the only pall over an otherwise enticing proposition.

When we last drove the pre-facelift XF, we loved the sensuous coupe-like styling, novel interior detailing such as the rising transmission selector and retractable air vents, strong performance, and driver-orientated dynamics.

But loose interior trim, a tiny speedometer, outmoded sat-nav display and interface, a stiff ride, and high prices let the side down. Now none of these apply to the $86,100 2.2D Premium Luxury model highlighted here.

Still oozing sexiness and class, the XF looks much more expensive than it is. Line one up against its entry-level competitors and that fact becomes even more obvious, particularly when assessing the sporty, modernist cockpit interior.

Our car featured seating for five with suede-like inserts, which might sound cheap but actually looks and feels fine. Stitched leather lines the dash top, doors, steering wheel, armrests and seat sides while wood is used sparingly and to tasteful effect to break up areas of the console, fascia and door cards – meaning the XF whispers its English heritage.

The front seats themselves are mildly bolstered for some added support and comfy as a result, though the lack of a lumbar adjuster may annoy some. But it’s easy to reposition the steering wheel for the correct driving position, while all switches and controls bar the boot release, instrument dimmer and fog light buttons are within easy sight and reach.

While Jaguar has retained the touch-sensitive ceiling lighting up front, the glovebox solenoid now has a chromed button to ensure the flock-lined item opens. That’s progress.

There’s a small digital speedo flanking the now clearer analogue instruments, as well as a comprehensive trip computer and sat-nav direction display within a reorganised LED screen.

Fresh and functional – rather than frustrating (like before) – spring to mind.

The XF should be viewed as a roomy four-door five-seater coupe rather than a practical sedan, but even then there is ample space for two people of about 185cm in height out back.

Helping out is a low-set rear cushion, a well-angled backrest, room below the front chair for larger feet, and considerable cabin width, while Jaguar is kind enough to fit central air vents, (non touch-sensitive) overhead lights, a 12V outlet and some storage slots.

Just watch your head entering and exiting the vehicle, don’t be too alarmed by the cheapo centre armrest, and be sure to relegate the smallest and lightest child into the cramped rear-centre position – though that’s actually OK too for short-haul adult transportation.

The long and wide boot is enhanced by a split-fold backrest, giving easy cabin access, but the floor itself suffers from being shallow as a result of a space-saver spare wheel and battery hiding underneath. Never mind, though it ought to be enough for most family outings.

Jaguar has achieved a fine job insulating the cabin from external road and mechanical noises. However, while you might struggle to realise there is a diesel beating beneath that considerable snout from behind the wheel (unless it’s under hard acceleration), Dr Rudolph’s familiar din gives the game away the moment you step outside of an idling XF.

Not that the 2.2D doesn’t feel like a diesel to drive, for the characteristic moment’s hesitation at launch coupled by a considerable whoosh of forward thrust, is certainly present.

Taking off up a steep hill, or standing still waiting to join a fast-travelling convoy of traffic, does reveal an inertia that may be annoying to some. But in every other scenario the XF diesel is deliciously torquey, for smooth, powerful and effortless performance, and an excellent companion to the equally slick eight-speed auto.

Be careful though: 120km/h feels like 90km/h, and there is still plenty of oomph in reserve, so familiarity with the cruise (or speed limiter) control is essential, particularly as the Jag seems to cleave through the air more quietly than before.

Additionally, the Stop/Start tech is one of the quickest and least intrusive we have experienced, although it appears to have a smaller window of operation than some rival applications.

We averaged 8.5L/100km, and that included some high-performance runs along our straight road and handling routes, so the 2.2D can deliver impressive economy (and lower emissions) if you so desire.

Driven with sporty intent, the XF corners brilliantly, thanks to beautifully weighted steering and a superbly balanced chassis for taut, controlled dynamics.

Jaguar’s engineers have hit a real sweet spot between sharp and relaxed. Just point and shoot, without drama or fuss. Maybe a better weight distribution has resulted from having a four-cylinder engine up front instead of a heavier V6 or V8.

We have commented that previous versions have been too firmly sprung, but there is a surprising degree of pliancy on the Pirelli P-Zero 245/45 ZR18 tyres fitted to our car. It is really only on urban roads where the suspension’s firmness becomes quite noticeable.

If you look at the pure facts, the XF shouldn’t even be in consideration against the much-newer A6, 5 Series, GS and E-class. The underpinnings date back to the hideous S-Type of 1999, the engine is a Ford/Peugeot co-op four-pot diesel, and the initial versions were quite flawed in many minor yet irritating ways.

But as the advanced new turbo-diesel 2.2D proves, that’s all mostly in the past. The quality is up, prices are down, and the design has remained timeless. No rival is as striking, even now.

There is no longer a deal breaker for luxury sedan buyers to use as an excuse. For the money, with the equipment levels on offer, in a vehicle as dynamically accomplished and beautiful as the XF, you would be ignorant not to at least test-drive the 2.2D.

Jaguar has at last arrived.

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