Jaguar XF – raising the luxury bar

By Ted Biederman and Jim Meachen

Slide into the plush driver’s seat of the all-new Jaguar XF sedan and push the pulsating red starter button. Magical things occur.

A large gear selector knob rises from a flush position in the center console. It's called the JaguarDrive Selector. As you marvel at this bit of trickery, you notice that hidden air vents for the climate control system are rotating into an open position.

You almost expect Q, the gadget guy from the James Bond movies, to appear and say, “…here’s what we have for you today.”

You sit in wonderment surveying the cabin and your hand approaches the overhead driver’s side interior reading light. It comes on before your finger can touch it. This approach-sensing phenomenon is called JaguarSense. Likewise, just a touch of a bullseye symbol embedded into the wood on the passenger side opens the glovebox.

Cool blue lighting is everywhere, looking particularly inviting on the dashboard gauges. The center stack controls look breathtaking at night bathed and illuminated in the blue hue.

A touch screen interface operates audio, navigation, climate and driver settings taking the place of the irksome joystick controller knobs found on most high-end German cars. And like the best of the bunch, interior temperature, fan speed, radio volume and station selection can be regulated by center stack controls outside the touch screen. 

We were surprised at how well it all works, how the touch screen takes you with easy-to-decipher prompts from one point to the next. The owner’s manual can remain unopened behind the fingertip-operated glovebox door. Although it is a good read.

As we drove the first few blocks we noticed the clock was three or four minutes slow. That’s an aggravation. We made a quick stop, went to the screen, found the settings section and in about 30 seconds had the right time displayed. Try that your first time out with the BMW iDrive.

The XF, which replaces the long-running mid-sized S-Type, is quiet, comfortable and relaxing in any of the four outboard seating positions.

We’re sure the standard 320-watt Alpine audio system provides excellent sound, but we discovered the optional 440-watt 13-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Dolby surround system to be first rate. If you enjoy state-of-the-art sounds emitting from your speakers, it’s worth the $1,875 option price on the Premium Luxury edition. It comes standard on the XF’s pricier supercharged model.

It’s not just on the inside where the new Jag sparkles with fresh and innovative styling. The exterior styling is extraordinary as well. Jaguar designers have penned a modern luxury car not in the likeness of the well-worn Jaguar lines carried by the previous S-Type, but more in the form of modern luxury perhaps most closely resembling the Lexus GS or better yet a fanciful Aston-Martin.

Yet no one will mistake this sedan for a Lexus. The lines flow upward from a oval chrome mesh grille that resembles a 1968 XJ — so they say — through a sculpted hood and into a rear decklid adorned with the Jaguar “leaper” emblem, a long chrome strip and narrow Aston Martin-looking taillamps. The styling is highlighted by front air-dam chrome inserts and vertical side vents behind the front wheels. It’s a 180-degree styling turn from the current S-Type yet it works as a definitive Jaguar and it resembles to our eyes what a modern luxury sedan should look like in the second decade of the 21st Century.

But for all this exterior eye candy and interior ambiance, the car would be lost without a great driving disposition. And here, too, the mid-sized Jaguar lives up to expectations.

The new Jaguar comes in three trim levels — Luxury starting at $49,975, Premium Luxury beginning at $55,975 and Supercharged starting at $62,975. The Luxury and Premium Luxury trim levels get Jaguar’s carryover 4.2-liter V-8 generating 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. For massive performance, opt for the supercharged version which dispenses 420 horsepower. Both engine variants are mated to six-speed automatic transmissions. Automotive gossip has it that Jaguar is developing a high-performance XFR edition with 5-liters and as much as 500 horsepower. Wouldn’t that be fun?

We found the performance of the 300-horsepower engine satisfying, and going fast in a hurry with smooth almost imperceptible shifts was no problem. Jaguar says the naturally aspired V-8 will move the two-ton XF from 0 to 60 in just a tick over six seconds. If you opt for the bigger engine, Jaguar says expect 0-to-60 times of around five seconds.

Noteworthy was the transmission’s instantaneous downshifts when called upon to do so. It’s refreshing because we’ve been in too many luxury performance cars that display that agonizing delay when seeking a lower gear. If spirited driving is part of your lifestyle, the manual paddle shifters are flawless.

The variable-ratio power steering is near perfect. Feedback is good and the newest Jag acquitted itself quite nicely in the corners while offering a supple ride on all hard surfaces. Jaguar engineers have done a commendable job in balancing a luxury ride with sports-sedan handling. 
We spent a little time in the back seat and found leg room adequate and head room good, at least for people under six-feet. Like the front, rear passengers are pampered with chairs that should keep them comfortable on long journeys.

If the generous 18-cubic-foot trunk is not big enough, the split rear seat back can be folded forward, a unique feature for a luxury car.

As you would expect, standard equipment abounds. Things like leather upholstery, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, keyless ignition and full power accessories are offered across the lineup. Safety includes antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints, and front side airbags and side-curtain airbags.

Anteing up the six grand for the Premium Luxury edition brings 19-inch wheels, 16-way power front seats and navigation with backup camera.

The Supercharged trim level adds 20-inch wheels, active suspension, cooled front seats and xenon headlights.

Our test Premium Luxury edition came with a couple of options including the superb audio system and heated steering wheel. Bottom line was $59,125.

Like a fine wine or the feel of a leather bound first edition or the comfort of your favorite chair the new XF not only has superb performance credentials, it has the unique link to truly personal enjoyment that delivers a great sense of satisfaction. 
There are numerous outstanding vehicles in the mid-sized luxury segment including the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Infiniti M45, Mercedes E-Class and Lexus GS 460. Jaguar, despite not having an all-wheel drive option, has created a sedan that raises the segment’s luxury bar.


Base price, $49,975; as driven, $59,125
Engine: 4.2-liter V-8
Horsepower: 300 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 310 foot-pounds @ 4,100 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 114.5 inches
Length: 195.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,017 pounds
Turning circle: 37.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 17.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.4 gallons (premium)
EPA rating:  25 highway, 16 city
0-60: 6.2 seconds (manufacturer)
Also consider: BMW 5-Series, Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class

The Good

• Solid performance from V-8 engines
• Neat interior touches, easy to use switchgear
• Exterior styling that incorporates Jaguar tradition with modern elements

The Bad

• Three-quarter visibility to the rear blocked by wide C pillar

The Ugly

• No all-wheel drive option