Jaguar XF — The definition of premium class

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The Jaguar XF, introduced as a 2009 model, has become one of our favorite mid-sized luxury sports sedans. And to make things even more delicious for 2010, the gorgeous Jag comes in three flavors. Pick your engine size and options and discover the joy of driving a modern British luxury sedan. It doesn’t matter which direction you take, you will be the winner.

Here are the choices for 2010:

• The standard XF featuring a 4.2-liter V-8 making a very energetic 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. It starts at $52,000.

• The Premium with a new 5.0-liter V-8 generating 385 horsepower. It takes the place of the 2009 Supercharged edition, which made 420 horsepower from a supercharged 4.2-liter V-8. The difference, other than horsepower, is the Premium carries a base price of $57,000. Last year’s Supercharged had a base of $64,475.

• The XFR performance champ featuring a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 making a neck-snapping 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. It goes out the door for a cool 80 grand.

We have been following the XF since it was a sketch first shown to us in the UK, then as the C-XF concept that met rave reviews at auto shows followed by the production reveal at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September of 2007 and then at the media launch and drive in December of 2007 giving us a chance to experience what we thought was possibly Jaguar’s most stunning car since the E-Type introduced decades earlier. For us the XF was love at first sight and at every sight since.

We again drove XF last year, taking a seven-day thrill ride in a 2010 XFR during the summer and just recently finishing up seven delightful days in a 2010 Premium.

While the base 2009 XF was a real eye opener because it was our first experience in Jaguar’s new direction and the 2010 XFR gave us some neck-snapping takeoffs and we had tons of fun having left several wannabe boy racers in the dust. But in the end we liked best of all the Premium edition of this raving beauty. It offers nearly 400 horsepower (which should be enough for anybody who doesn’t enter competition events) and a good mix of luxury features for just five grand more than the base, but a whopping 23 grand less than the R model. In any guise the XF is a delight; but budget wise the
Premium hits the sweet spot.

Slide into the plush driver’s seat and push the pulsating red starter button. Magical things occur.

A large gear selector knob rises from a flush position out of the center console. The large round knob is 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 and the center stack controls. The illumination at night is breathtaking.

A touch screen interface operates audio, navigation, climate and driver settings taking the place of the irksome joystick controller knobs found on many high-end 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.

The first few blocks out 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 seconds we had the right time displayed. Try that your first time out with the BMW iDrive.

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 edition. It comes standard on the R 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 with a whispered hint of classic Jaguars past.

The lines flow upward from a oval chrome mesh grille that resembles a 1968 XJ — so they say — through sculpted hood and into a rear decklid adorned with the Jaguar “leaper” emblem, a long chromed 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 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 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.
Performance as measured by 0-to-60 times for comparison purposes ranges from 6 seconds for the 300-horsepower engine, 5.7 seconds for the 385 horsepower engine, and 4.5 seconds for the 510 horsepower R edition.

The revisions that have come with the new Premium edition are significant. The new 5.0-liter V-8 is energetic at all speeds. And the six-speed automatic is intelligent and provides just-right shifts, both up and down.

But there’s no question the R edition is the thrill-seeker with the ability to finish off a quarter mile in 12.5 seconds at about 114 miles per hour. And note too that its $80,000 price tag includes all the options in the Jaguar catalog.

Our just-tested Premium came with two options, the Portfolio Package that includes heated and cooled front seats, special stitching in the seats, electric rear window sun blind, and 20 inch wheels for $4,000; and the must-have (for us who love great sound) the Bowers and Wilkins sound system for $1,875. That brought the bottom line to $62,875.

Unlike the premium luxury competition Jaguar doesn’t have the breadth of a large line-up, but it has the inside line on beauty, a great racing heritage and an elegance that is unequaled.

If you are looking for a mid-sized premium luxury sedan that definitely makes a design statement and is fun to drive in whatever edition, then the XF could likely be your cup of tea. We like it with or without scones.

Essentials (Premium Edition):
Base price: $52,000; as driven, $62,875
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Horsepower: 385 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 380 foot-pounds @ 3,500 rpm
Drive: rear wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 114.5 inches
Length: 195.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,067 pounds
Turning circle: 37.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 17.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.4 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 23 mpg highway, 16 mpg city
0-60: 5.7 seconds (Edmunds)
Also consider: Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Lincoln MKS

The Good:
• Powerful V-8 performance
• Stylish interior
• Stunning good looks

The Bad:
• No all-wheel drive option

The Ugly:
• Maybe too many high-tech gadgets