Car reviews - Jaguar - XF - range
Class-leading dynamics, no compromise engine options, silky ride quality, snappy transmission
Room for improvement
Muted S exhaust note, In Control Touch Pro not available from launch
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4 Feb 2016
JAGUAR is hitting what it calls the “business sedan” market hard with a broad range of XF options priced right on the nose of its key rivals from Germany.
Priced from $82,800 before on-road costs, the entry-level XF 20d is all over BMW 520d and the Mercedes-Benz E220 CDI but adds to the bargain with a 2.0-litre diesel engine that trumps both for economy.
But the Jag proves that frugality does not have to come at the cost of performance and the company’s new Ingenium four-cylinder is a serious bit of kit, thanks to unusual features such as variable camshaft timing and careful engineering that has kept weight to a minimum.
With 132kW and 430Nm, the most affordable XF packs a decent punch with strong acceleration off the mark (zero to 100km/h in 8.1 seconds, says Jaguar) but with a gentle foot, the big Jag can travel 100km and only use 4.3 litres of fuel in the process.
The four-cylinder sounds very unlike a diesel with just a murmur at idle and low speeds but settles to an imperceptible note when cruising. We managed a figure close to the manufacturers claimed fuel economy, which is commendable in itself.
Out test car was dressed up in the most affordable Prestige cut and colour, which brings a few chrome touches to the exterior and a two-tone grey leather interior. The light interior is bright and spacious and screwed together with finesse. We liked the top-quality materials and build quality throughout, which extends to the whole range regardless of specification.
Spending a little more and hopping in to a four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol 25t will set you back $89,800 when wearing R-Sport gear. For that cash you get 177kW/340Nm from the Ford-designed engine in lieu of the company’s first Ingenium petrol engine.
Despite its age, the 25t engine that harks back to Jaguar’s previous Ford ownership offers a good combination of refinement, performance and versatile performance across its rev range. A pleasant note accompanies a full-chat wring-out to the red line with tractive grunt at all engine speeds.
As the name suggest, the R-Sport package brings the sportiest range of kit with black and red leather interior in our test car and the muscular bodykit with its large airvents and subtle splitters.
Portfolio and Prestige trims add perhaps an edge of elegance, but for our money, the R-Sport kit makes the best use of the XF’s sharp and dynamic styling, especially when wearing white paint to show off the contrasting vents and trims.
Higher-specification cars have the option of Jaguar’s InControl Touch Pro information system which swaps out the more conventional analogue instruments for a full digital cluster, much like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.
The system also upgrades the 8.0-inch touchscreen to a 10.2-inch version, but the system has only just gone into production and the Pro version will not be arriving in Australia for a few months yet. The standard set up is intuitive and well presented but we think waiting for the Pro will be worth it.
We didn’t get a chance to test the middle-of-the-range 35t and the entry point to six-cylinder variants, but instead jumped straight to the flagship 3.0-litre S that is available in both turbocharged diesel and supercharged petrol.
The spark-ignition XF S 30sc borrows Jaguar’s tried and tested V6 that also features under the bonnet of the F-Type S. With 280kW and a mighty 450Nm of torque, acceleration is strong from both a standstill and in-gear.
We feel the Jaguar engineers could have made a little more of the silky six-pot bark that sounds muted from inside the cabin, but has a likeable report from outside the car.
But easily our favourite powerplant has to be the XF S 30d which has the same displacement as its petrol stablemate but thanks to its diesel diet puts out a respectable 220kW and 700Nm.
There is something about the delivery of 700Nm of torque that suits the XF so perfectly. It is subtle and inconspicuous but a sledgehammer blow of performance and acceleration.
Like the four-cylinder, the six-pot diesel makes very few diesely sounds other than a satisfying hum, but its performance is anything other than subtle.
We loved flicking into manual mode and preventing the big diesel from down-shifting when climbing hills. Its mammoth grunt is best appreciated in the mid range rather than allowing it to rev out of the sweet spot.
In all cases the eight-speed automatic transmission, as fitted to all variants as standard, is an exemplary piece of engineering, offering excellent intuitive gear selections when left to its own devices, or snappy fast shifting when given instructions through the steering wheel paddles.
Take your pick with the choice of engines because you really can’t go wrong, but just as accomplished as the drivetrains is the XF’s chassis.
Unfortunately we didn't encounter nearly enough twisty blacktop to fully test the XF’s outstanding road manners, with a majority of our time spent enjoying the Jag’s ability to eat up many kilometres with complete ease and comfort.
Ride comfort is excellent with significant imperfections ironed out of the road with very little passenger discomfort and a whisper-quiet cabin irrespective of the engine choice. Lower speeds seemed to allow more vibrations through from the road.
Both of our tested S variants had the optional adaptive damper suspension fitted, which is an impressive system especially when combined with optional 20-inch wheels. The adaptive system allows virtually negligible body roll but with commendable comfort levels too, despite the larger rims.
Customers opting for the standard passive dampeners will not be disappointed though, with only a little more body roll and a small difference in cabin comfort that is probably only noticeable when doing a direct comparison.
When we did find the rare winding section the Jaguar responded with class-leading levels of grip, poise and especially good steering feel and feedback.
With the advent of electric power assisted steering, many systems have proven a little numb but the Jaguar XF proves that exceptional levels of sensation are possible while maintaining the efficiency benefits of EPAS.
The XF chassis shares the same XE Integral Link suspension at the rear (Jaguar’s interpretation of multi link layout) and double-wishbone front end used by both the XE and F-Type and the result is superb.
While the XE goes out to be the sportiest of the two Jaguar sedans, our pick is the larger XF. Yes it carries a premium over the smaller sedan but it offers a blend of the same excellent driving experience in a larger, more practical body with a familiar look.
In a segment where comfort and driving enjoyment are regarded as equally important, the Jaguar XF is well positioned. It offers a superb blend of luxury, comfort and features, with a taught sports chassis, and steering feel that cannot be beaten.
Add to that a different aesthetic quality and British-branded unique selling proposition and the new XF has the potential to upset the competition’s largely unchallenged dominance.
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