Despite Jaguar’s rich history, the brand might be best known for its portrayal in the film “Austin Powers”. It may not be the most flattering of associations, but it’s one that I heard again and again when I told people that I was test driving a Jaguar. However, the Jaguar of today is anything but the Jag of the 1960s, let alone the late 1990s when the spy parody film was released.
In 2000 Jag was sold to Tata motors, releasing it from Ford and perhaps inspiring a new and much more appealing design language, which can be seen in the relatively new XJ, Jaguar’s full-sized luxury saloon, and the Jaguar XF, a car I drove last week.
The XF exudes a youthful sensibility that has long alluded the company. Its lines are simple, yet aggressive enough to not dissuade one seeking a more moderate vehicle. However, the car still embodies the Jaguar ethos, which is one of class, reservation, and practicality. Under the hood is Ford’s 2.0 L EcoBoost I-4, the same engine found in the Range Rover Evoque, a car I reviewed late last year and took a liking to.
That said, the 2.0 L EcoBoost I-4 is arguably too small of an engine for this car. But it’s not as simple as speed or the car’s curb weight. The XF brandishes an aesthetic appeal that exudes a sense of speed. But with 240 ponies under the hood, the XF feels slightly sluggish and suffers from enough turbo lag and power, so much so that it feels less opulent and more analogous to a lesser car. So that begs the question: why not upgrade to the larger V6 powertrain? It adds 100 horses and shaves, according to Jag’s website, its 0-60 run of 7.5 seconds to 5.7. With that comes a slightly lower MPG rating, dropping city from 19 to 17, and highway from 30 to 28mpg. Nevertheless, it’s a worthy caveat and one sure to not bother those considering a car of this class and a starting price north of $46,000.
The XF’s interior cabin can probably be best described as simple, yet elegant. Motorized vents open and close upon start of the vehicle. It’s a nice touch, but one that could quickly become a nuisance when and if it breaks. Drawing from the Range Rover parts bin, is the same rotary dial found on the Evoque, that rises from the center stack when the car is powered on. While it helps to retain the clean asethetic that Jaguar has adorned the XF with, it for some reason doesn’t feel like a fit and more a contrast to the Jaguar brand. Leather lines the dash, the seats and much of the interior trim. Wood inlays stretch across the dash and center stack, and where they’re not found Jaguar has filled the gap with a nicely texture plastic.
Turning the rotary dial to the far right engages the XF’s sport mode, instituting a more agressive shift pattern and seemingly additional engine power. Unlike the Evoque though, which sports a MagneRide suspension system that adjusts the chassis to the road’s condidtions, the XF’s is a one ride fits all. Which is fine when you’re driving spiritedly through the canyon’s of the Palisades, but is a bit too harsh for my liking, especially given the ethos of the car.
My test vehicle was outfitted with a relatively standard nav system, the same one found in the Evoque. What wasn’t standard was the vehicle’s 825-Watt Surround Sound system from Meridian. Included is a dedicated subwoofer, a huge array of speakers, and with it a sound stage that out performs both Audi’s B&W system found in the A8L, and BMW’s mutlispeaker system in the 750Li.
Standard to the XF is Bluetooth connectivity for handsfree calling and audio streaming. A USB input plays complement to smartphones (for charging), while a set of jog wheel controls located on the steering wheel allow you to manipulate volume and track playback at the flick of a finger. I would have preferred a mix of buttons and switches, since tactually it’s impossible to discern between the volume and track skip option – I often found myself glancing down at the steering wheel.
Much like Audi, in Drive or Sport mode the car’s paddle shifters are always active. Just tap them and the car switches into a manumatic mode allowing you to cycle through the 8 gears as you see fit. Since the XF lacks a traditional gate, you simply need hold down the + or right paddle shifter for a few seconds to exit the manual mode. Gear shifts are relatively snappy, but not as fluid as I had hoped for a car of this ilk. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a sore spot for me and nor was it a feature I took much notice of.
Zooming down Sunset Ave here in Los Angeles, it’s pretty evident that the XF’s suspension and chassis are destined for spirited driving. The steering, however, isn’t. It’s not speed variable, and leaves much to be desired in terms of feedback and ultimately control of the vehicle at higher rates of speed. So much so that it wasn’t confident building and caused me to hesitate through the corners for fear of the car not gripping the road. Fortunately, it did, but disconcerting no less.
So, I’m a bit confused. The XF was a car I looked forward to test driving. It’s a bit reminiscent of Audi’s A5. Like that car’s engine, the XF’s is too weak, and while they both sport enough power for every day driving, it just feels too stark of a contrast in terms of opulence to the XF’s interior and exterior stylings. That all being said, the XF 3.0 is mere an additional $3,025, less than many of the XF’s optional amenities, such as the 825-watt stereo system. However, that still doesn’t solve the steering quandary I was faced with, which may or may not resolved by jumping to the XFR, an $83,000 sedan with over 500hp.
Bottom Line: A fairly well-balanced sedan that suffers from disconnected steering and an always sporty ride. Nevertheless, aesthetically it’s quite appealing from every angle and a reasonably fun drive.
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