Car reviews - Jaguar - XF - 25t Portfolio
Brilliant steering and handling, plush seating, very spacious rear quarters, feels premium when optioned
Room for improvement
Coarse engine not befitting of a $100,000 vehicle, lacks equipment for the price, dashboard takes a backwards step on original
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4 Apr 2016
Price and equipment
AS MENTIONED the second-generation Jaguar XF is more expensive than the original.
In this high Portfolio model grade, highlights include full LED headlights with swivelling function and automatic high-beam, electric bootlid and steering column adjustment, a head-up display, digital radio tuner, automatic park assist, surround-view camera, lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
Other equipment expected of a premium full-sized sedan includes Windsor full leather trim, electrically adjustable front seats and dual-zone climate control air-conditioning with rear vents.
However, Jaguar has in other ways fallen short with its latest offering, particularly at a time when BMW and Benz are increasing specification with each model update. Even this high model grade only includes an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with 380-watt Meridian sound system, for example.
A $5020 option package is required to add a 10.2-inch touchscreen with 12.3-inch TFT speedometer/tachometer and 825-watt Meridian sound system. By comparison, a 528i includes a 10.25-inch display, 600-watt Harman Kardon sound system and internet app connectivity unavailable in the Jaguar.
A $4150 option package adds adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assistance, blind-spot monitor and reverse traffic detection. By comparison, a soon-to-be-replaced Benz E250 includes those features as standard.
BMW bundles active cruise control, lane-keep assistance and a blind-spot monitor with heated front seats for $900 extra, where Jaguar asks $800 for heated front seats alone.
The Jaguar XF finally boasts the sprawling space to reflect its positioning in the premium full-sized sedan segment.
Its front seats are plush, but the biggest cat-leap forward is with rear-seat accommodation in terms of bench squab depth, legroom and shoulder space. It is now a proper five seater.
Further behind, the boot is large and a 40:20:40 split-fold rear backrest liberates extra versatility in what is typically not a practical bodystyle – it is literally hard to get around a sedan’s narrow boot opening.
Jaguar in 2007 needed to be daring with a standout dashboard design.
Fast-forward nine years and the British brand hasn’t moved the game forward to the same extent.
The outer front airvents still electrically revolve from sitting flush with the aluminium trim strip when the air-conditioning is switched off, as a nod to the original XF, but the centre airvents appear generic. Likewise the 8.0-inch display is too small, its graphics low-resolution and the infotainment system slow to operate.
There are some quality issues, such as a flimsy centre console lid noted by a passenger travelling in the Jaguar at the time of testing. The cabin of a five-year-old 528i is more impressive, and with a new E-Class arriving mid-year, that the XF already feels dated is not a good sign.
Our test car was optioned with heated and ventilated front seats, which was a nice touch, but at $2300 it is almost as expensive to add as an electric sunroof ($3200).
Engine and transmission
Jaguar has not yet switched its petrol engines over to its new Ingenium engine family. The diesels have crawled across, but this 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder remains a Ford-derived unit.
With 177kW of power at 5500rpm and 340Nm of torque from 1750rpm until 4000rpm, the numbers are unchanged from the previous generation. The brand clearly refuses to invest in an engine that will soon be extinct.
The Portfolio 25t boasts a relatively light kerb weight of 1590kg, undercutting a 528i by 30kg. However the BMW also delivers 180kW/350Nm and claims 0-100km/h in 6.2 seconds, faster than Jaguar’s 7.0s claim.
Eight-tenths is a believable difference. At idle the XF’s engine thrums through the centre console leading a passenger to ask if it was powered by a diesel engine. The power delivery of the 2.0-litre is laggy then boosty, which does not fit the nature of a premium full-sized sedan.
The eight-speed automatic second-guesses its engine partner, often falling into a tall gear before slurring back again. The automatic is generally impressive, even intuitive in ‘S’ mode, but the engine is no help. It also makes a coarse note when pressed and whines when the throttle is lifted and the automatic leaves revs to hang momentarily.
In a straight line the Portfolio 25t feels reasonably quick. However its claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres blew out to 12.3L/100km on test in mixed conditions.
The previous-generation XF could be had with a 600Nm twin-turbo V6 diesel for a sub-six-figure pricetag, however the equivalent new version costs $121,000 and adds another 100Nm of torque.
Ride and handling
Jaguar wants to be known for creating the driver’s car of each segment it competes in, and the low driving position of the second-generation XF presents a fine pathway to proceedings.
The Portfolio 25t comes with a 19-inch alloy wheel and tyre package that with a lesser suspension design could contribute to uncomfortable ride quality.
Instead, with only a single suspension setting, this British sedan delivers pleasantly absorbent ride quality that errs on the side of soft in terms of body float, and only thumps over really large potholes.
It is a terrific compromise considering the handling on offer, though.
The XF delivers fluent, light and relaxed steering that always feels connected.
Even around town this premium full-sized sedan feels light on its feet, and never cumbersome or unwieldy. On the freeway it is smooth and quiet.
Through corners the Jaguar is surely the sharpest and most agile vehicle in its segment. Engineers have certainly driven a current 5 Series, given the way the front-end feels pointy when turning into corners before the whole car subtly shifts weight onto its outside rear wheel. It is beautifully balanced and able to be powered away from corners feeling decidedly rear-wheel driven without intrusion from the stability control.
Where the BMW can match the Jaguar’s handling, it needs adaptive suspension and other active chassis aids to fulfill its potential. Our XF Portfolio 25t proved itself brilliant straight out of the box, without ticking options.
Safety and servicing
Every XF includes switchable electronic stability control, switchable traction control and dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags, front and rear parking sensors, surround-view camera, lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
Jaguar’s servicing schedule is outstanding, offering buyers annual or 16,000km intervals at a fixed cost of $1380 for up to six services in five years, making it the benchmark for servicing costs in the class.
The Jaguar XF has the potential to be a brilliant premium full-sized sedan option. However, it needs just that – options – if it is to achieve true greatness, including the more expensive infotainment system, active safety technology and particularly a better engine.
It strives to match the 528i and E250 without needing to offer lower pricing, but for $100,000 the Portfolio 25t struggles to capitalise on the superbly spacious and deliciously dynamic second-generation model.
As a highly specified V6 diesel, for example, the XF could become the class leader.
BMW 528i from $99,200 plus on-road costs
Superb drivetrain and premium cabin the highlights, but needs adaptive suspension to shine dynamicallyMercedes-Benz E350 from $101,005 plus on-road costs
Due to be replaced mid-year, the E350 still delivers the active safety tech and soothing ride befitting of a pointed-star sedan
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