The all-new, second-generation Jaguar XF breaks cover and ,as part of its maker’s renaissance, it has its sights aimed aggressively at the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Does the aluminium beauty have what it takes? Motoring Research‘s Tim Pitt gets behind the wheel…
Without doubt, 2015 has so far been a very busy year for Jaguar. With the launch of the all-new XE entry-level model, expanding into new market sectors with the F-Pace, running up a new range of engines from an equally shiny factory – and, to top it all, a new aluminium platform that will be spun across the range. So you’d be forgiven for not really noticing the arrival of the second-generation XF.
But here it is – and very impressive it is, too, given that as recently as the turn of the millennium, the idea of a new Jaguar appearing more often than once in a blue moon, would have seemed like heresy. The XF is all-new – more closely related to the XE than its predecessor – and it needs to be good to continue the work its 2007 forebear started. The new XF’s body is built largely from aluminium to save weight, and new Ingenium diesel engines look set to deliver big gains in fuel efficiency.
There are four engines from launch: 160bhp or 177bhp 2.0-litre diesel, the 297bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel and 375bhp 3.0-litre V6 petrol. The 2.0-litre diesels come with six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearboxes; the 3.0-litre engines are auto-only. The entry-level diesel is the expected to be the best-selling variant, particularly for company car drivers, and certainly delivers promising numbers – 0-60mph in 8.2 seconds and 70.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 104g/km.
At the upper end of the scale, the 380hp supercharged XF S storms to 60mph in just 5.1 seconds and returns 34.0mpg and 198g/km (£265 car tax). Buyers can choose from four trim levels: Prestige, R-Sport, Portfolio and S. All come with Jaguar’s InControl Touch media system, with an 8in touchscreen, navigation and voice control. Optional InControl Touch Pro arrives later this year, with a larger 10.3in screen and ‘virtual’ instrument display. XF prices start at £32,300 for the 2.0d 163 Prestige, rising to £35,100 for the mid-range 2.0d 180 R-Sport. The range-topping 3.0 V6 S is £49,945.
The new XF is a sports saloon in the mould of the BMW 5-Series, and as such, its ride is on the firm side, especially at low speeds around town. The V6 we tried had optional adaptive dampers and was noticeably better in this regard, although still a little stiff on huge 20in alloys and rubber-band tyres. Fortunately, the trade-off for a little wiggle and jiggle is secure and confidence-inspiring handling. The XF turns in eagerly, its standard torque vectoring system subtly braking the inside wheels to really tug you around tight corners.
The steering is direct and full of feedback, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox adapts seamlessly to your driving style. Only a rather spongy brake pedal lets the side down. Frustratingly, the predicted bestseller – the 163hp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel – wasn’t available to drive at the launch. However, we did try the 180hp version, which costs between £500 and £900 more to buy (depending on spec) and is only slightly less efficient. The new engine is an impressive all-rounder: smooth, refined and decently quick (0-60mph takes 7.5 seconds). It’s all you really need. Just don’t drive it back-to-back with the 3.0-litre V6.
Ah, yes, the V6. This flagship 380hp lump is lifted straight from the F-Type and transforms the XF into something very far from ‘old man’. Kick-down is downright savage with the gearbox in Sport mode, and the whine of the supercharger as this luxurious saloon gathers its skirts and charges for the horizon is addictive stuff. We also sampled the – somewhat more sensible – XF 3.0-litre diesel, which occupies the middle-ground between these two extremes. Its muscular low-rev torque makes it feel almost as quick as the petrol V6 in normal driving, but you’ll pay a hefty price – nearly £11k more than the most expensive 2.0-litre diesel.
The outgoing XF didn’t just ditch the soft suspension of Jaguars past. It also swapped trad walnut-n-leather for an interior more akin to a trendy wine bar. Aluminium detailing and cool blue lighting were the order of the day. The new XF keeps the rotating air vents and rotary gear selector of its predecessor, but the rest is all new. A low seating position and wide centre console make the driver feel cocooned inside the car, while the sporty, three-spoke steering wheel feels great.
There’s good news for passengers, too. Rear legroom is up by 15mm, while headroom has increased by up to 27mm. Spend a little more and you can even treat the kids to heated rear seats and four-zone climate control. Most XFs have conventional dials, but a 12.3in virtual display is available, in conjunction with the new InControl Touch Pro media system.
We tried a developmental version of this set-up, which isn’t available until the end of 2015. It’s bold, bright and very user-friendly, with iPad-style swipe and ‘pinch to zoom’ functionality on the central touchscreen. However, we were less enamoured with the virtual dials, which are harder to read than the old-fashioned physical type. The XF comes with all the safety kit you’d expect, including automatic emergency braking. However, Jaguar has followed the German brands’ lead elsewhere, relegating many of the most desirable features to the options list.
Full-LED headlights, a laser head-up display, adaptive cruise control, auto parking and a ground-shaking 17-speaker Meridian sound system are all available, if your pockets are deep enough.
Jaguar’s 15 years of expertise with aluminium has certainly paid off. Not only is the XF 2.0d 163 the lightest car in its class by 80kg (equivalent to ditching an adult passenger), it also boasts the lowest CO2 emissions of any non-hybrid model – at 104g/km. That’s great news for company car drivers and means just £20 annual car tax at 2015 rates. Claimed fuel economy of 70.6mpg is not to be sniffed at either.
The XF isn’t cheap to buy, though. Its starting price of £32,300 is around £1500 more than an equivalent BMW 5-Series. However, residual values are forecast to be among the best in class and, according to Jaguar, that reduces whole-life running costs for the 2.0d to less than the Germans. One question mark with the new XF is reliability. The marque has fared well in recent JD Power surveys, which focus on newer cars. However, the – more in-depth and comprehensive – Which? Car Survey points to longer-term reliability issues across the existing Jaguar range.
The new XF isn’t a game-changer like its predecessor, but it doesn’t need to be. It builds on the strengths of the outgoing car, with added ‘grace, space and pace’. Oh, and a large dollop of extra efficiency, too. If you’re looking for the last word in luxury, you’ll be better served by a Mercedes E-Class. The XF is unashamedly a sports saloon, and it rewards keen drivers with a chassis that matches the best BMW can muster.
Nonetheless, all its main competitors are very competent cars that we’d happily drive every day. Much of your choice essentially comes down to design – and here the XF excels. Removing our objective road-test hats for a moment, the XF is comfortably the best-looking car in this segment. It’s sleek and elegant, with a low-slung silhouette that hints at sportiness within. The fact that it looks very similar to the smaller XE hardly seems to matter – identikit cars have done Audi and Land Rover no harm.
- See the original review on Motoring Research’s website – our thanks to long-time friend of AROnline, Richard Aucock.