It’s been a little while since the Jaguar XF sneaked onto the marketplace, but it’s already established itself as a credible alternative to the German opposition in the executive car sector.
How does the higher-powered turbodiesel in V6 form stand up to a long week behind the wheel?
Jaguar’s range is expanding agreeably – and, although the F-Pace and XE have both stolen the limelight recently, the 2015 XF is a vitally-important kingpin to the company’s future success. The all-new aluminium platform that underpins the range is fundamental to the XF, and helps explain why it hit the market less than a year after the XE did. Such things would never have been possible in the Jaguar of old.
The XF’s body might look like a gentle, and slightly timid evolution of the old model but it’s now built largely from aluminium to lower weight, and the new four-cylinder Ingenium diesel engines (straight-sixes to follow), which help define its character, all deliver more impressive numbers than those produced by their Ford-based predecessors.
We’re sampling the the 296bhp 3.0-litre TDV6 S (its Ingenium replacement will be a straight-six), which is not set to be a big seller in the range – that honour goes to the 2.0-litre diesels which come with either six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes. Our press car comes in at £49,995 but is generously optioned to a whopping £59,180. Some of the toys that you can possibly do without are the cabin pre-heat, laser head-up display and soft-closing doors, but the rest of the package is more than class competitive. In that, it seems Jaguar has learned from the Germans – equip it well, but give user-choosers the option of ladling in far more equipment than they need.
Visually, it’s hard to fault the XF. Yes, after the impact of the original car, this one’s rather generic-looking. However, in S form, with the optional black pack, it looks purposeful, and the 20in wheels do a great job of filling the arches and accentuating the subtle overall design. In comparison with its rivals, especially from Audi and BMW, it feels pitched at the right level, even if some old-school Jaguar fans might lament the passing of more traditional design cues.
On the road, its ride is on the firm side, especially at low speeds around town, although it’s never anything other than impeccably damped. The V6S is fitted with optional adaptive dampers and that’s probably a big factor in the car’s impressive body control. As for the handling, there really is ample grip and keen turn-in, which is a good thing in a car with some much power, torque and a gearbox that’s as responsive as this. You never forget it’s a big car, but it’s still impressively wieldy.
Like the XE we recently sampled, the XF’s steering is direct and full of feedback – clearly much work has been done here to ensure you’re never left feeling shortchanged in terms of feel. The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox adapts seamlessly to your driving style, is impressively smooth shifting and responsive if you drop into manual mode to change on the paddle shifters.
As for performance, it really isn’t lacking at all – acceleration is smooth, instantaneous and linear in its response. Yes, it’s a diesel, so you’ll not enjoy it for its smooth, gravelly soundtrack, but you will have a ball thanks to easily accessed power – and 35mpg real-world fuel consumption. Jaguar claims a 0-60mph time of 5.8 seconds, tops it with a limited maximum speed of 155mph, and the Government-combined fuel consumption is 51.4mpg. Drive it in the way it deserves to be, and that will drop much closer to our ‘real world’ figure. The tax man will not like it as much as you – you get all that grace and pace with a 144g/km emissions figure.
Inside, it’s as you’d expect, following on from the old XF’s design themes. The new XF keeps the rotating air vents and rotary gear selector of its predecessor, but the rest is all new, following on from the XE in much of its thinking. A very responsive touchscreen has been thrown in for good measure.
The driving position is low and snug, while the wide centre console cocoons you agreeably – and, yes, there’s a heated steering wheel. Quality is good, with much care paid to dashboard surfaces – it’s just that some of the controls in the centre console aren’t quite as visible as you’d like. That is a case of nit-picking, though. Overall, you won’t be left feeling shortchanged in the slightest for choosing British instead of German.
There’s good news for passengers, too. Rear legroom is up by 15mm, while headroom has increased by up to 27mm, so it’s roomy and accessible. The boot is capacious and well-shaped as well. Spend a little more and you can even treat the kids to heated rear seats and four-zone climate control.
The new XF isn’t a Jaguar gamechanger like its predecessor was back in 2007. But, then, it doesn’t need to be. What it does is evolve that car effectively, while shifting on to an all-new platform, and endowing it with new drivetrains. The new XF builds on the strengths of the outgoing car, but without any of those ‘oh, it’s good, considering…’ moments. Overall, especially in our Black-trimmed model, you’d consider this a DERV-sipping sports saloon – and we’d happily take it over the benchmark BMW 5-Series.
At this level, the feel-good factor plays hard – and it’s here the XF does well. It’s a handsome beast on its big wheels and, in white, it’s sleek and elegant, with a low-slung silhouette that accentuates its sporting credentials. Whether we would think the same of a lower-powered 2.0-litre turbodiesel on smaller wheels is open to debate… probably not. So, the XF is a class-leading product out of the box, and one we’d happily recommend without reservation. It doesn’t turn the dial in its sector, but what it does do is help cement the British motor industry’s place at the automotive top table.
It’s also not bad to live with, either!